Saturday, July 5, 2014

REVIEW: Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

3.5 out of 5 Stars

Original Publication Year: 2014 (July 8th)
Genre(s): Fantasy
Series: NA
Awards: None
Format: Advanced Reader Copy from Net Galley provided in return for a fair review
Narrated By: NA

Recommended subtitle: “There is no creature on earth more cruel than a boy.” Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

I ADORE a good alternative perspective story particularly those of well-loved tales.  The one example of this that immediately springs to mind is, of course, Gregory Maguire’s Wicked which tells the Wizard of Oz story from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West.  This type of approach seeks to suggest to the reader how much our perception of the world is dependent on the lens through which we see it and that black and white is very rarely the predominant color scheme.  Alias Hook is born from this tradition and aims to explore the world of Peter Pan through the eyes of the infamous Captain Hook. 

As might be expected Neverland and Pan take on a more sinister aspect when seen from Captain Hook’s aka James’ perspective.  He’s been trapped in the Neverland, unable to die or escape, by a spell whose origin is unknown.  He imagines that he is being kept there by Peter as a glorified toy; after all what boy wouldn’t want a real live crew of pirates to play with?  The truth of James’ curse goes much deeper than that though and when a woman, Stella Parrish, appears in the Neverland against all of Peter’s rules against grown up women, the search for why she is there also reveals James’ role in the Neverland.

I have mostly really good things to say about the book.  It took an idea I love and mostly did a really great job with it.  The writing is beautiful, especially the imagery, which paints a vivid picture of the Neverland and its denizens.  For example this description of the fairy queen is sensual and brings her to life:

“Her body is entirely visible within, skin so smooth and rounded she gleams in the light, nipples sparkling on creamy breasts, like fine confections tipped in silver dust. Arcane symbols painted in royal purple decorate one exposed shoulder and trail down to swirl suggestively round one breast.  Her pale hair is not blonde but bright, waves of it shimmering all around her in a spectrum of colors too brilliant to register on mortal eyes. Her own vivid eyes are shifting echoes of the moonlight, circled in violet and shadowed in green. She’s like an effigy of spun sugar and ice, fragile as breath, but for the primordial power of her presence.”

While this is not a book that will likely appeal to people who really love the character of Peter Pan, Jensen takes some pains to not completely demonize him and it is clear by the end of the book that he is almost as much a prisoner as James is:

“He never grows up.  The children of the world need a champion to stand up to the grown-ups and win – even if it’s only in a dream.  That is the bargain he made for his eternal youth, once upon a time, a little motherless child full of outrage at the unfair grown-up world.  That is the price of his rule in this place of dreams.”  - Fairy Piper explaining Peter’s history

This is, however, Hook’s story and in its way it is just as slanted in its viewpoint as any story from one perspective.  Which brings me to one of my criticisms which is a slight one.  The character of Stella Parrish was pretty fascinating and I would have liked not only to know more about her but also to have seen James and the Neverland through her eyes.  I think I understand why this wasn’t the approach taken – this is meant to be Hook’s story – but it would have added a layer to the story that I would have found very interesting.  My only other criticism is that I felt that the last ¼ of the book got a tad overly sentimental but I also thought it ended well.

Final Verdict:  Considering the challenge that she took on, I think Lisa Jensen did a great job portraying the imperfect, but not evil, character of Hook and also in fleshing out details of the Neverland.  An excellent read for anybody who enjoys hearing the villain’s side of the story.

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