Alias Hook – Lisa Jensen

About the Book

“Every child knows how the story ends. The wicked pirate captain is flung overboard, caught in the jaws of the monster crocodile who drags him down to a watery grave. But it was not yet my time to die. It’s my fate to be trapped here forever, in a nightmare of childhood fancy, with that infernal, eternal boy.”

Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.

With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their neverending game. Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen is a beautifully and romantically written adult fairy tale

368 pages (hardcover)
Published on July 8, 2014
Published by Thomas Dunne Books
Author’s webpage 

This book was provided for me to review by the publisher.

The thing about fairytale retellings is, I am a total sucker for them. Also, when I was little, I was absolutely addicted to Peter Pan. Ask anyone. I watched the Peter Pan play with Mary Martin until the tape broke. My best friend and I used to try to fly for hours. We’d argue over who got to be the “good” Peter Pan and the “bad” Peter Pan. Peter Pan was my childhood lifeblood. Peter Pan was the absolute shit.

Smash those two facts together, and you’ll understand why I jumped on this book as soon as I saw it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been this excited to read a book in a long time.

Oddly enough, with all of that being said, I didn’t go into this one with high hopes. I had minimal hopes. While I’m pretty addicted to fairytale retellings, I’m generally really disappointed by them, so I go into them not expecting much.

Alias Hook does a fantastic job at turning the tale of Peter Pan on its head. Jensen tells the story from Hook’s point of view, and he ends up being very different than who I expected him to be. For example, Hook is very sympathetic, and Peter is the kind of villain that made me wonder why I was ever obsessed with him as a child.

The story is told in two parts. Part of the book is telling how Hook got to be where (and who) he is – basically, his past. The other part of the book is detailing the current situation. The two timelines are very easy to discern, and the background information is instrumental in helping readers understand the complex situation that is Neverland.

Peter Pan isn’t who you’d expect him to be. He’s a spoiled little brat, and he’s so realistic with that (perhaps a little overblown at times) that I had to step back and ask myself why I ever thought a perpetual child was a cute character. Why didn’t I realize before that being a child forever would, well, twist you? In contrast, Hook is obviously tortured. He is very emotionally complex, and his own inner turmoil was riveting and very realistic.

Readers will find varying levels of believability in the characters, depending on the situations they are in. For example, Peter Pan is very violent sometimes, and I found that a little hard to believe. Yes, he’s a child, but I don’t know many children who are into blood sports. Then again, I don’t know any perpetual children, either. On the other hand, Hook sometimes slipped so far into his own depression and emotional angst that I had a hard time believing that his crew had any real faith in him. Then, we have Stella, who seemed to accept her new lot in life way too easily, and with far too few true emotional adjustments.

The plot is rather addicting, if parts of it are rather predictable, and other parts are drawn on a little too long. It’s hard to put down a book that tells such an emotionally jarring story of character’s I’ve loved throughout my life. Furthermore, regardless of whether or not I was experiencing a plot hiccup, the raw emotions and depth really forced me to rethink a tale that dominated so many countless hours of my childhood (much to the chagrin of my siblings).

That’s probably where the true gem of Alias Hook is. It’s hard to put this book down. Jensen managed to take a tale we are all very familiar with, and make it thoughtful and compelling. There is plenty of action, but the real drama is in the relationships (both personal and interpersonal), and their slow, dramatic, and realistic unfoldings. Jensen made me rethink Peter Pan, and that’s something I never in a million years thought would happen. I felt true pity for Hook. Stella was a nice touch, and the relationships that develop, the trails that are overcome, kept me hooked.

Furthermore, Jensen’s writing is absolutely superb. It is impossible to find fault with her prose. Flowing, lyrical, powerful,  and never a word wasted.

The verdict.

Alias Hook surprised me. Is it perfect? No, but it is powerful, and it will make you look at the stories you heard as a child in a different way. I call that a success. Powerful prose, jarring emotions, and characters that are not what you expect, Alias Hook has me wanting more. Please, Jensen, work your mastery on another fairytale for me.


4/5 stars


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