Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX 76244-0425
Books for Adults - Fiction
Everything you think you know about me is a lie. (2)
Perhaps not everything, but the Scottish playwright doesn’t seem to have gotten a lot right, so sharing his own story finally sets the record aright. We know him as Captain Hook – a name he does use – but he is dubbed James Cook upon his birth in the Year of our Lord 1860. (’Tis the year his father is lost at sea.) Gifted with a love of reading, James discovers a true treasure amongst the many books in his father’s library: A History of the Voyages of Captain James Cook. (The illustrious one better known to history, of whom James’s father was a direct descendant.)
Life first goes awry when he’s sent by his grandsire to Eton College, where his father’s reputation proves insurmountable. Everything James attempts ends in failure, and his mates ridicule and taunt him to no end. Do they not have the gall to frame him for a prank in which he had no part? Rather than face being kicked out, James quits the school in the dark of night, intending to meet his father’s family once and for all. Alas, at fourteen, James isn’t privy to the ways of the world and the evil that lurks in the shadows, which is how he comes to find himself impressed into the Royal Navy and at sea the next morn.
But James makes the best of his situation – a good thing since he’s in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – and learns the art of sailing and fighting, as well as other tasks deemed fit for a cabin boy. An injury festers, which lands him in sick bay, and during his recuperation, he discovers a map hidden in his favorite book. (Of course the map shows an island and an “X”! What pirate tale would not?) Afore long the man who shanghaied him learns of this treasure map and demands James hand it over. Not knowing what else to do, James heeds the “request,” only to soon discover that the man and his mates have mutinied and James is now a pirate.
During the voyage to find the treasure island, a storm overtakes them and when the sky clears, can you guess what they find? Aye, matey, islands in a world where no one ever ages, latitude and longitude never change, the sun rises in the west, and no matter which direction they sail don’t they always end up where they started. The first island explored offers skeletons and eggs – the former they avoid, but the latter they have for breakfast. All except one, which James pockets. Now, you can be guessing what type of egg, and you’d be right. When it hatches, James names the wee crocodile “Daisy” and raises her as if she were his own child.
Being a young lad, James takes to exploring the island in hopes of finding the treasure. Instead, he meets Arthur Raleigh, a mate of his father who’s been living alone in a cave for fourteen years. Late one night, the need to know more about his dad lures James from his post as lookout. A fatal mistake to be sure since another ship’s crew sneaks aboard and a fight ensues. The pirates surely do win, but forsaking one’s duty has dire consequences for James. Or so he expects, but a boy who can fly saves the day and, during many adventures, they become friends. But there’s a dark side lurking inside Peter, which James glimpses when Peter steals his shadow, and despite their promises to always be fast friends, ’tis a pledge that is horribly shattered.
Like a sprinkling of fairy dust, this imaginative and riveting tale whisks readers back and forth between England and Never-Isle during the Victorian Era. All the elements readers expect to find because of J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan are seamlessly woven together into a vivid tapestry that is sometimes joyous, other times chilling, and nearly always unexpected. While some scenes involve children, this story is meant for adults. Addiction, greed, bullying, love, science, and fear play key roles in this story, but perhaps the most dire theme concerns payback. As James writes, “Revenge, dear reader, can be so focused it blinds one to consequences.” (254) A lesson James, and you dear reader, well learn in this imaginative tale of love, betrayal, and growing up.
Book review Copyright ©2017 by Cindy Vallar
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