I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry
Published by Berkley on July 4 2017
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
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The nitty-gritty: A dark retelling of Peter Pan, steeped in loss and heartbreak, with thrilling action and lots of surprises.
We were still children, for all that we thought we weren’t. We were in that in-between place, the twilight between childish things and grown-up things.
Childhood still held out a friendly hand to us, if we wanted to go back to it, while the unexplored country was ahead, beckoning us to come there and see what new pleasures were to be found.
I’m not usually a fast reader, but I literally DEVOURED this book in a 24-hour period! Most of us are familiar with the original story of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, who loved adventure and was mortal enemies with Captain James Hook. Christina Henry takes the familiar characters and gives everything a twist. In Lost Boy, Peter Pan is the villain and Hook—or Jamie as he’s known in this story—is the innocent, lured to the island with promises that he will stay young forever, promises that turn out to be nothing but prettily disguised lies. There are lots of Peter Pan retellings out there, and a fair amount of those tell the story of Hook, but this is going to be a hard one to beat.
The story is told by Jamie, who was lured away from home by a boy named Peter many, many years ago. Now Jamie lives with Peter and the other boys on an island, and he’s still the same age he was when he arrived, even though “one hundred and fifty seasons” have passed. Peter and his boys spend their days playing and going on adventures, including raiding the pirates in the nearby cove. But it isn’t all fun and games. Peter has an unhealthy love of blood sport, and has created an event called Battle, where boys can settle their disagreements in a “fight to the death” match, a sport that Peter loves to watch, but never participates in himself.
Jamie has taken on the role of protector of a very young boy named Charlie, taken from his mum on one of Peter’s excursions to the Other Place. One of the biggest threats on the island are the giant spider-like monsters called the Many-Eyed, who mostly keep to the forest, but on occasion venture too close to the boys. Peter has many rules, but the most important one is that no one is allowed to hurt or kill a Many-Eyed. Jamie has never understood this rule, until one day he is forced to break it in order to save Charlie.
In an instant, all their lives are changed. And even worse, Jamie realizes that Peter has been keeping secrets from him. And telling lies…
There is so much that I loved about this story! First, this is ALL about the characters and their motivations. Yes, the familiar trappings of Peter Pan are present, but they are mostly off-stage. We all know that Jamie will eventually become Captain Hook, and so pirates do play a part in this story. However, we never actually get to meet the pirates, or even take part in the raids. The reader only hears about these things after the fact, and I was actually OK with that. Likewise, there are mermaids in the story, and even Tinkerbell makes a quick appearance, but these elements are only discussed in an off-hand way. Some readers may wish that the pirates and mermaids were bigger parts of the story, but then it wouldn’t have been THIS story.
Instead, Henry focuses on her characters, especially Peter and Jamie, who are as opposite as can be. Peter is a wonderfully drawn character with psychopathic tendencies, a boy whose sole happiness lies in the amount of mischief and mayhem he can create. He is by turns cruel and charismatic, dangerous and happy-go-lucky, petulant and cunning. He has spent his life on the island literally kidnapping young boys and bringing them back to serve as entertainment. This is at times a bloody and violent tale, and Peter revels in that violence. When a boy dies, he simply shrugs his shoulders and sets out to the Other Place to find a new boy. He terrified me, and I hated him, so kudos to the author for making me feel that way!
On the other side of the coin is Jamie, who feels protective of the other boys and has learned how to read Peter’s various mood swings. In other words, he keeps the peace, which is especially hard as he’s starting to see past the shiny veneer Peter wears and into his true heart. Jamie is a particularly effective fighter, especially when it comes to the pirates. He’s even come up with a signature “move” whenever he beats one of the pirates in a skirmish, a story element that delighted me, since it cleverly ties into story behind Hook’s missing hand (and also relates to the book cover).
I wasn’t surprised to find the theme of childhood and growing up part of Lost Boy, since this is, after all, a Peter Pan story. Henry did a great job of showing us the carefree moments of childhood, the irresistible idea of staying a child forever, and then tempering that idea with the realities of growing up and having to shoulder responsibility. I loved when Jamie realizes that indeed he is growing up (although very slowly). He sometimes feels his bones stretch, and he even wakes up one day with stubble on his chin. Henry even explains to some extent why the boys don’t grow any older, and so when Jamie starts to change it was both heartbreaking and inevitable.
And because this story is character driven, there are lots of emotional moments. In a very short number of pages, Henry manages to make the reader care deeply for the “lost boys.” In fact, I felt bad for every creature that had to deal with Peter, even the monstrous ones! My only negative is that the last part of Lost Boy felt rushed. Henry introduces a new character named Sal late in the story—a character with some very cool surprises—and I honestly wanted more. But by the end, Henry has brought us full circle to the familiar beginning of the original tale, and for me, it felt just right.
For any reader who loves great storytelling, this dark tale is a highly additive treat.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof, and may differ in the final version of the book.