What if Captain Hook isn’t the true villain of Peter Pan? What if Peter and Hook’s identities in the original story are simply a misunderstanding? Is there more to their relationship than the children’s book gives us? Can Hook be redeemed? Can he love and be loved? These are some of the questions that Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen attempts to answer. Sadly, the potential for an interesting role reversal is wasted.
First, it has to be said that it was very difficult for me to get through this book. I wanted to put it down many times, but the premise had hope that it would grab me and I hate not finishing a book. Somehow the narrative is so dull. It is written from Hook’s perspective which you would think would make it interesting. He’s a pirate! A villain! What I expected was to get deep into Hook’s character and be able to feel something for the “bad guy.” What I got was a tired, overly sentimental, and wordy man. Hook’s tiredness made some sense at least. He has been in Neverland for a couple hundred years and he battles with Peter every few days. He watches his men die around him while he is immortal. In the end he is really only there for Peter’s amusement. I expected more fire and anger from Hook. This Hook has no teeth or claws. He isn’t morally gray. Jensen gives us Hook’s backstory, but it isn’t engaging or surprising and the way she includes so many flashbacks in the first half of the novel is tedious at best and confusing at worst.
So how does she portray Peter as the villain? Peter is just a mean little kid. He acts like a spoiled brat. (I did kind of get this vibe from the original too at least.) Neverland is his, what he says is law and every other creature submits to his will or else he will kill them or in the case of the natives- ruin their crops and livestock enough to effectively kill them. Why is Peter such a tyrant? No idea. Because he can be? His great losses are often alluded to as the cause of his unrest. He brings children to Neverland, but they always grow up and leave him. So he’s lonely and sad and takes it out on everyone else? Peter’s character is so flat. Children can be cruel, but Peter takes cruelty to a new level with little logical reasoning for it. It is hard to feel anything but annoyance and anger toward Peter. It is much more interesting to have a villain with some depth.
Jensen introduces a new main character in the mix. Stella is Hook’s romantic interest and is part of his redemption arc. She has the potential to be a rough or even strong female, but she and Hook both crumble when they are together. She doesn’t even have to “tame” Hook. He already feels like a broken man, but even then it hardly feels like she is putting him back together. Stella feels a lot like the “chosen one” trope. All the people of Neverland embrace her, she’s part of some great prophecy, and she’s the only one who can save Hook. Despite the theme of Hook changing I never saw it. It doesn’t seem like he was that bad of a person before he came to Neverland and he certainly wasn’t evil in any part of the book. Stella changing him felt pointless and though she had a glimmer of depth when she first showed up, she had little to no development by the end.
Seeing a more fleshed out version of Neverland was fun, but this book could have been so much more. The flashbacks in the first half could have been organized differently to tell Hook’s past in a clearer or more interesting way. The action finally steps up in the second half of the book, but Hook’s thoughts ramble too much. There are also too many pointless scenes where Hook is traveling back and forth places. The book could have been cut down and not much would be missed. Though the ending is nice any remaining questions are summed up by a fairy shrugging and saying “it’s magic.” With so much missed potential to explore a long time villain and such a disappointing story I can’t recommend this one.