5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
Forget what you know about Neverland, and what you know about the story of Peter Pan.
Opening with a scene of carnage, akin to nothing like we know from J.M. Barrie’s tale, Alias Hook takes the traditional story of Peter Pan and turns it on its head. It’s not a retelling as such, but an extension of the original from a different point of view. For starters, it’s set about forty years after Wendy, John and Michael have left Neverland. It’s also told from the point of view of the infamous Captain Hook.
From the very beginning Hook feels like a real person, albeit a rather unfortunate one, whose mistakes have led him to where he is now. He’s nothing like the nasty pirate captain we know, but instead he is resigned to this eternal life that never moves forward. A well-rounded and deep character, we learn more of his history as the book goes on, thanks to chapters set in London, Bristol and Jamaica – these also serve to remind us that perhaps Hook, or James as he should really be known, is not the villain here.
In fact, the most villainous character was Peter himself. Constantly taunting Hook, commanding his boys to kill Hook’s men whilst he himself watches and laughs, killing Hook again and again with glee, Peter is a malicious and spiteful little brat that you feel absolutely no sympathy for. He is a coward (a codfish!), attacking and taunting when and where he knows Hook is weakest. Lisa Jensen has brilliantly reversed the roles, and as a reader you really begin to feel for Hook, whilst hating Peter – who is quite frankly a little bit creepy.
Everything changes in Hook’s life when a grown woman suddenly appears in Neverland. Stella has no idea how she got there, or why she is there, but her very presence changes Hook’s outlook. Their relationship had its odd moments, but there was a scene where they were discussing swearing – ‘God’s wounds’ and the like being very offensive in Hook’s day, Stella explains modern (or rather 1950s) swearing whilst claiming that it’s no longer inventive – that I really enjoyed. I have to say that was one of my favourite scenes, with its contrast between the two time periods, and these two people from such different eras bonding over something like cuss words!
As you’ve probably guessed by now, this is definitely an adult retelling – Hook wonders through the forest and finds fairies having orgies, indulging in drugs and generally doing the sort of things you might see in town on a typical Friday night… But this sudden shift of the traditional tale from children to adults allows for so much more; it opens up a chance for a real exploration of the darker elements of Neverland, a land built from the imagination of children, yet very adult in appearance.
Although the story is quite slow-paced, with a lot of reminiscing, and not particularly hugely eventful, it really drew me in with its solid character building and play on a well-loved story. It was a really interesting perspective, filled with all the familiar denizens of Neverland. Unfortunately the conclusion, whilst satisfying, wasn’t quite what I wanted – but not all fairytales have that perfect, happy ending.