hook’s tale: being an account of an unjust villainized pirate written by himself
author : john leonard pielmeier
pages : [hardcover] 288
favorite characters : tiger lily & james
A rollicking debut novel from award-winning playwright and screenwriter John Pielmeier reimagines the childhood of the much maligned Captain Hook: his quest for buried treasure, his friendship with Peter Pan, and the story behind the swashbuckling world of Neverland.
Long defamed as a vicious pirate, Captain James Cook (a.k.a Hook) was in fact a dazzling wordsmith who left behind a vibrant, wildly entertaining, and entirely truthful memoir. His chronicle offers a counter narrative to the works of J.M. Barrie, a “dour Scotsman” whose spurious accounts got it all wrong. Now, award-winning playwright John Pielmeier is proud to present this crucial historic artifact in its entirety for the first time.
Cook’s story begins in London, where he lives with his widowed mother. At thirteen, he runs away from home, but is kidnapped and pressed into naval service as an unlikely cabin boy. Soon he discovers a treasure map that leads to a mysterious archipelago called the “Never-Isles” from which there appears to be no escape. In the course of his adventures he meets the pirates Smee and Starkey, falls in love with the enchanting Tiger Lily, adopts an oddly affectionate crocodile, and befriends a charming boy named Peter—who teaches him to fly. He battles monsters, fights in mutinies, swims with mermaids, and eventually learns both the sad and terrible tale of his mother’s life and the true story of his father’s disappearance.
Like Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, Hook’s Tale offers a radical new version of a classic story, bringing readers into a much richer, darker, and enchanting version of Neverland than ever before. The characters that our hero meets—including the terrible Doctor Uriah Slinque and a little girl named Wendy—lead him to the most difficult decision of his life: whether to submit to the temptation of eternal youth, or to embrace the responsibilities of maturity and the inevitability of his own mortality. His choice, like his story, is not what you might expect.
I received a copy of Hook’s Tale from the publisher for review in exchange for my honest opinion.
If you know me at all, you know I have a love for Peter Pan that will never grow up. Also, that I tell terrible jokes. If you don’t know me, then you know fairy tale retellings have only been growing in popularity–not all of them good. Hook’s Tales is one of those books you would say isn’t good. It’s great.
Hook’s Tale is narrated by the man himself, or rather, the real version of the villain. James Cook is rather offended by the nickname, though having a hook for a hand is quite useful. I absolutely loved that this book plays with the idea that Cook told his story to the author of the original Peter Pan play, who of course got all of the details horribly wrong. Hook wasn’t quite a villain, and Peter wasn’t quite innocent, and that ticking crocodile wasn’t quite out to devour him, either.
James Cook travels to Neverland quite accidentally, and the story begins with Cook as a child, with both hands intact, around Peter’s age. I loved that we were allowed this dynamic interaction between classic hero and villain, because the roles are often switched between the two of them. Cook can be sensible, and cunning, and brave, whereas Peter can also be these things, as well as vindictive, and cruel, and childish. Sometimes a deadly combination.
Throughout Hook’s Tales, Cook returns to England several times through a route he discovers for himself, that inevitably lead to the events of the classic story that everyone knows well. However, thingsstill aren’t quite the way they are told in that narrative. Cook is out to set the truth down, once and for all, about what happened in Neverland and the role he played in this story.
I loved it, I devoured it, and I want more of it even though I know there can’t be any more of it. Cook was a fascinating character and his book is written in journal entries, giving the reader a perfect view into his mindset in this world. He experiences fantastical things, like flying and fairies and mermaids, as well as tragic things, like the loss of innocence and death. There, written for anyone to see, is his truth, a contradiction to whatever else history will know of him.
This book is perfect for fans of the original because there are so many references to it that are renewed here in the way the plot twists. Basically, take everything you thought you knew about Peter Pan and prepare to leave it all behind for Cook’s version of events. Keeping a sharp eye out, you’ll read all of the classic elements of the original.
The text reads like a curious mix between historical fantasy and fairy tale, because it’s written to be just lingering at the edge of belief. Cook travels from a real place, in a real time period, to this fantastical Neverland. And who’s to say this island doesn’t exist, somewhere, waiting to be found? That Cook’s side of the story isn’t the real one?
I can’t recommend this book enough. Fans will fly through the pages, particularly if they head toward the second star on the right and go straight on to morning.
I had to at least get one more joke in there.
As a person who reads fairy tale retellings above all else, and Peter Panbooks very often, Hook’s Tale stands out as a fantastically written, wonderfully reimagined story I’ll read over and over again.