Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - FictionAlias Hook The Witch from the Sea
Everyone knows the story of Peter Pan, but what about Captain Hook? He’s just the dastardly leader of the pirates . . . or is he? As the opening scene says, “This book ends, as books must do, but there’s always more to the story.” (2) Alias Hook examines this fairy tale from the pirate captain’s perspective, and his tale is far different than one might suspect. It doesn’t end when Peter drives Hook into the water where the crocodile eats him. That would be too simple. We enter the story in the middle, when Peter and the Lost Boys have decimated the pirates. But while his men die after each final battle, Hook is caught in an endless loop. He dies and then is resurrected, which has been occurring for two centuries. He’s tired of fighting, of outliving his men. But such is the way of curses, one of which brought him to this dreamland “paradise” called the Neverland.
Life was not always so. Back when he was a young a lad in Bristol, England, James Benjamin Hookbridge had a mother and a father, an accountant who was decidedly not happy to find his son doing carpentry work. He must learn to be a gentleman, so James is sent to boarding school in 1688. There he makes friends with an older lad who doesn’t fit in. When bullies threaten him, though, he betrays his friend – the first step in the path that ultimately leads to his downfall as an adult. A wayward young man in 1702, he spends his time in the company of wastrel young nobles who gamble, drink, and visit brothels. Seven years later, he’s engaged to be wed, but lacks funds of his own to support a family. The fastest way to earn that money is to become a privateer and fight the French in the Caribbean. But best laid plans rarely work out as desired, and in 1712, he’s declared an outlaw, betrayed by his best friend and his fiancée, and on the run. Since they say he’s a pirate, he becomes one. James Hookbridge ceases to exist, and the nefarious Hook is born.
Each time a crew dies, a new one appears from the Lost Boys who have returned to the Neverland because, as adults, they have lost all hope of surviving in the real world. But this time around, dreams visit Hook while he sleeps and slowly they awaken something that he has long thought was dead . . . hope. Then he finds what should not be in the Neverland – a grown woman – and from that day onward nothing is as it has been.
Stella Parrish hasn’t a clue as to why she’s in the Neverland or who summoned her here. She had wanted to come, but Peter expressly forbade it. Now, if he learns she’s arrived, her life will be forfeit. Not that she’s wanted aboard Captain Hook’s Jolie Rouge. His men fear women and they’d just as soon be rid of her, but who’s daring enough to go against Hook’s wishes? He plans to keep her secreted away, at least until he figures out who she is, why she’s come, and how he can use her to end this eternal war with Peter Pan.
Alias Hook isn’t the first book I’ve read or reviewed that tells the story of Captain Hook, but never have any of the characters sprung to life as vividly as they do here. It’s also a story written for adults, rather than children. Jensen deftly wields her pen to craft a compelling story of hopelessness and hope, rage and regret, love and redemption. The one message that remains constant throughout is the one for which the story of Peter Pan is best known: if only you believe. But as happens in real life, believing is hard to do, especially if you’re an adult. The Neverland and all the creatures that populate this world remain true to the original parameters that J. M. Barrie created, while the historical information on pirates is plausibly portrayed. Jensen does a superb job of answering unanswered questions, of filling in the blanks, seamlessly weaving the known with the unknown. The result is a soul-searching, gut-wrenching, heart-warming tale where the villain becomes a three-dimensional hero that the reader roots for while booing the bully that Peter Pan is. Alias Hook is a voyage to a bygone time where imagination and surprise offer readers a tremendous journey they will fondly remember long after the book ends. Or as Parrish likes to say, “Absobloodylutely!”
By Lisa Jensen
Beagle Bay Books, 2001, ISBN 0-9679591-5-2
Far from the glamorous and romanticized portrait often found in pirate tales, The Witch from the Sea provides a glimpse into the world of sea robbers almost a hundred years after the Golden Age of Piracy. Ms. Jensen deftly shows the monotony and dangers of living outside the law, especially at a time when society no longer condoned privateering and was intent on running to ground all pirates. She breathes life into her characters, making them human beings tortured by their pasts, accepting of their present, and hopeful for the future even though they know death – in battle, from sickness, or at the end of a hangman’s noose – await most of them. This is a bluntly told tale that spares no one from the truth, yet readers will enjoy Tory’s adventure and romance as she and her fellow pirates deal with the changing world in which they live.
Originally reviewed for Ivy Quill Reviews
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