James Hookbridge has been cursed to an eternity of waging war against sharp-toothed boys in the Neverland. Wholly weary of it, he has but one desire left to him, and that is for Death to find and take him at His earliest convenience. For a permanent ceasefire; the game board cleared and put away; to never again see a flock of boys winging towards his ship, manned by a hapless crew of former Lost Boys who’ve returned to the Neverland after the grown-up real world chewed them up and spat them out.
After hundreds of years of watching Pan’s pack slaughter his revolving crew, never able to change the outcome of the battle or simply sail away, Hook believes he has well and truly atoned for past sins. When he finds a fully-grown woman in the forest, something Pan would never allow, he mistakes her for an angel of death, thinking his time has finally, blessedly come.
Stella Parrish, a former Wendy, suffered heavy losses in the real world she returned to after her stint in the Neverland came to its inevitable end. Heart-deep in sadness, Stella follows an insistent pull, like something or someone needs her and is tugging on the line that connects them, and manages to find her way back to that fabled land built on childish dreams. Once there, she stumbles into the path of a band of pirates, led by none other than the fearsome Captain Hook. Stella soon discovers beneath the plumed hat and tired bluster a warm, intelligent man, who learns from the prideful mistakes he still makes; a man who has long since paid for his crimes and earned a happy ending of his own.
In Alias Hook, Jensen paints Hook in a softer shade of Byronic hero. He doesn’t entirely fit the mold: when we meet him his arrogance has been ground down to dust, any rebelliousness he once felt strikes in lightning flashes he mostly ignores, and he struggles with both the light and dark nature of his humanity. He’s become a caricature of his worst self, and he knows it, playing up the role when necessary while hating himself for doing it. In short order you find yourself wanting to wrap him up in one of his foppish, wildly out-of-fashion coats to keep him safe and well out of Pan’s reach.
Hook’s first person narration is the standout here, but his isn’t the only compelling character: Stella is right up there, and for me so was Jesse, one of Hook’s doomed crew members. Another appealing aspect of the novel is Jensen’s spin on the island’s inhabitants–the mermaids, the fairies, the Indian tribe. They are both familiar and not, and if Jensen wanted to write novels focusing on each faction found in the Neverland, well, you’d hear not a single word of complaint from me. Bring on the full-fledged origin stories, I say!
If you’re a fan of Juliet Marillier, Robin McKinley, Tanith Lee, Patricia McKillip or Angela Carter, give Alias Hook a try. If you enjoy lush, descriptive writing, atmospheric world-building, and characters who sink a grappling hook into your heart, this just might be the book for you. For others like me, who devour all things Peter Pan related (including Colin O’Donoghue’s Captain Hook on ABC’s Once Upon a Time) and crave another readalike more closely tied to Barrie’s original, I’d suggest Jodi Lynn Anderson’s excellent young adult novel, Tiger Lily.