This is the fourth Peter retelling I’ve read that focuses on Captain Hook, and so far, it’s the closest to the canon set forth by JM Barrie in regards to Hook, yet also a story that diverted from the canon in many ways, mostly in regards to the plot of Barrie’s novel, as the author put a lot of his own spin on things. This version of the story was a little less dark in terms of violence and cruelty, but a little darker in terms of realistic tragedy and sadness.
You’ll find all the important characters you know and (maybe) love here—James, Peter, Tink, Tiger Lily, Smee, the Darlings, even the tick-tocking crocodile. Although, one interesting thing about this retelling is that Peter was hardly in it. For the little bit that he was in it though, the author captured his childishness and innocence, while mostly leaving out his terrifying behaviors. And James’s relationship with the crocodile he raised from an egg was very cute; I really enjoyed that little twist on the original.
There were also some new characters, and I really enjoyed that the author created such a detailed backstory about James and his family. That was my favorite thing in the book. It added a lot of depth, some interesting relationships, and some surprising moments.
This portrayal of James himself was interesting because his character growth was really a journey with ups and downs, and the author did a great job of making James’s reactions and changes realistic and believable. He made James sympathetic, but not too perfect. He had growth that was both negative and positive. He developed some cruelness over time and kind of did become a villain, but he also didn’t, for lack of a better way of explaining without spoilers. This was a more sympathetic, compassionate version of the man than what you find in the original story.
In fact, I found everything about this story to be realistic and believable (you know, aside from magic sand and never growing old and whatnot). The way events unfolded and all the characters’ actions and reactions made sense. I also thought it was clever to situate Neverland inside the Bermuda Triangle to explain away its strangeness.
My complaint about this book, however, is that was slow. And since James was telling the reader a story, there was, well, a lot of telling, at times, rather than showing.
I’m always leery of audiobooks narrated by the author, but this was actually good. It sounded natural and emotive. Voices for different characters weren’t that different, but there was just enough difference to avoid confusion. The voices suited the characters. The female voices didn’t exactly sound feminine, but they weren’t so bad as to bother me, and there wasn’t much female dialogue anyway. The entire book was in a British accent that sounded good to me, though I don’t know if the author/narrator is British or not since he sounded American in the author’s note.
Overall, despite being a bit slow, I enjoyed the balance of canon and unique the author found with this story, as well as the realism, detailed backstory, and character growth given to one of my favorite literary characters. In the author’s note at the end, he talks about his love for JM Barrie and the story of Peter Pan, and you can feel that love in this book.
Anyone who likes Captain Hook origin stories, character backstory, slow-paced stories, and character growth.