Book Review: Hook’s Tale by John Pielmeier

Book Review: Hook’s Tale by John Pielmeier

Title: Hook’s Tale: Being an Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself
Author: John Pielmeier
Publisher: Scribner
Hardcover: 288 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

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.

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.

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*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

I’m a sucker for Peter Pan retellings, so I was super excited to be approved for this book — I haven’t read any novels about Hook, so it’s a new, interesting take on the typical Peter Pan fairy tale.

I enjoyed learning about Hook’s backstory and general history; it was interesting to have the idea of an innocent Hook put into a 19th-century England. My favorite parts were being able to get a different perspective about his story in general, with the pirates and the crocodile; I especially enjoyed the conflicts with Hook’s father and how his father was the one who led him to Neverland in the first place. Seeing Neverland and Peter Pan himself viewed through a different perspective was also really fun. It’s not as dark as the TV show Once Upon a Time made the Peter Pan story, but it’s different, which is what I look for in retellings.

With that said, I do feel like the story is lacking *something.* The writing style wasn’t my favorite; it leaned too heavily on cliffhangers where Hook would say something foreboding about the future and then we’d get a chapter break.  While this is a fun technique when used sparingly, I feel like it happened almost every chapter break, which I was not a fan of. And while I understand it’s Hook’s memoir, I wish there were more about the overall Neverland legend and more story building in general rather than Hook’s reminiscences. There’s also a surprising amount of references to sex. While I understand he’s a teenage boy, I’m not sure what Hook having a wet dream or him obsessing over a mermaid with large boobs really added to the story. Instead of that, I wanted more adventure or maybe even just more worldbuilding regarding Neverland itself.

Regardless of the weaknesses, I think it’s an interesting book that some might enjoy. The ending is the strongest part of the book, and it was interesting to see how it was ultimately Hook’s responsibility for Peter finding the Darlings and for Peter’s general shenanigans in London. Overall, I thought it was interesting, but it wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be. Some of the more interesting things were glossed over and some uninteresting things were given way too much page time. Check it out if you’re intrigued, but it’s not a must-read.

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