by Christina Henry
Published on July 4, 2017 by Berkley Books
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a familiar story with a dark hook—a tale about Peter Pan and the friend who became his nemesis, a nemesis who may not be the blackhearted villain Peter says he is…
There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.
Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter's idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.
Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.
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I’ve never liked Peter Pan.
It’s one of those stories that just didn’t capture my attention and no matter how it’s spun, Peter strikes me as an awful little boy. So I was very excited to read of Captain Hook’s origins, fully expecting Peter to be the villain and I wasn’t disappointed.
The book opens with Jamie (Hook before he was Hook) as “second-in-command” of Peter’s boys as they run rampant across the island. But things are changing. Jamie is changing. And that change packed a punch. Despite the writing style not grabbing my attention for some time, Jamie did. Jamie, the boy who cares for everyone else before himself, who wants to see the best in the boys, in Peter, and who is disappointed time and again. My heart went out to him.
Though the story is told from Jamie’s perspective, it still provided insight into each of the other boys as, one by one, they reached their limits. This book is not for the faint of heart and features a lot of violence toward and involving children. Henry didn’t hold back on that front and every detail is blasted across the pages. The more Jamie realizes that Peter isn’t the boy he thought he was, the more gruesome the story becomes.
Especially the big reveal near the end. I felt like I should have expected it, given the way the story was leading up to it, but WHAM it hit me like a semi flying down the highway. I hadn’t realized how attached I became to the characters until that moment. It had been a subtle thing, the pull on the heartstrings as Jamie began to lose everything he loved, to become the so-called villain of Peter’s island.
I think Henry excelled here to capture the story as some might remember it but also put a horrific spin on it. Though I found the pacing to be a bit sluggish at times, it soon picked up into the shock-and-awe horror I’ve come to expect from this author.
To be quite honest, I’m not sure how I got through this book. The sheer amount of gore, especially toward the second half of the book, and with children (yes, I know, it’s Peter Pan Take 2 but doesn’t make it easier to handle)… It made me uncomfortable. And perhaps that was the point, because Jamie was realizing it too and you could feel the shift in his thoughts, his actions. It was all very well done. Just… bloody.
Overall, a horrific origin story for the infamous Captain Hook, but I wouldn’t say he’s really the villain anymore. If the violence doesn’t bother you, then I’d certainly recommend this book. Good writing. Well-developed characters. A darker Peter Pan re-telling, I’ve never read.