Hooked is the new sequel novel to last year’s Wendy, Darling, which told the tale of an adult Wendy Darling and her life after Neverland, and what happened when Peter Pan kidnaps her daughter. Now we catch up with infamous pirate Captain James Hook, who managed to escape the clutches of Neverland decades before.
Hooked tells the story of James Hook, the man who fought against Peter Pan for decades in the mystical world of Neverland. Whilst other stories would have you believe that Hook was nothing but a villain, this story takes a different approach. We discovered in the first book in this series that Pan was more than simply a boy who couldn’t grow up, and was in fact a monster himself; and here we discover more of his monstrous acts as we meet an older James Hook living in 1930’s London.
Hook is an old, broken man. He walks with a limp, using a cane to get around, his missing hand has been replaced by a wooden prosthesis (his famous hook long since gone), and he scrapes by where he can, living in poor conditions and fighting the nightmares of his past with opium. He has escaped from Neverland, but Neverland hasn’t let him live in peace since. He’s a man with too many ghosts in his closet, too much pain to carry on his own. He’s not the monster that Pan made him out to be, but another victim of the real monster behind Neverland.
When something terrible escapes from Neverland and starts stalking Hook, the bodies begin to mount up across London, including the roommate of Jane, Wendy’s daughter. It appears that anyone who has been to Neverland may be being stalked by this monster, and only by working together can they hope to find a solution. Now, Wendy and her daughter have to put their misgivings aside and work with the infamous Hook in order to survive.
I really enjoyed Wendy, Darling, and thought that its dive into what happened to the character after leaving Neverland was interesting and at times heartbreaking, and as such, I was intrigued to see that same treatment be given the Captain Hook. And it very much does feel like a similar treatment, as this book follows some similar patterns and themes as the previous novel in the series.
The book begins by introducing us to our protagonist after they have left Neverland, showing us the life that they’ve managed to build for themselves. We get flashbacks to previous times in their life, showing both their time in Neverland, and their past after leaving before this point in time. The two characters who get this focus across the two books, Wendy and Hook, go through some ordeals after leaving Neverland. Wendy was locked in a mental asylum, Hook goes through drug withdrawal and addiction. Both of them have a queer romance in their lives. Both of them struggle to get over their time in Neverland. And both of them end up facing the prospect of returning in order to face their past.
I’m not entirely sure if I like this repeat of the formula or not. There are aspects to Hook’s story that I really like, particularly his romance with the man who helped him escape Neverland, but it does feel as if A.C. Wise is following a similar story pattern even if the details have been altered. And whilst that’s fine for the first half of the book because we’re getting to spend time with Hook and get to know him better, by the latter half of the novel it felt like too similar a retread. Some slight spoilers, but when the characters end up going to Neverland the quality really seemed to drop for me. I was really enjoying seeing this small group having to work on this strange, magical problem in the real world, but going back to Neverland to beat the villain felt like a retread of the first book in a less entertaining way.
That being said, there are things that I enjoyed about the book. It was nice to catch up with Wendy and Jane again almost a decade after the last book, getting to see how things had changed for them over the years. Jane had clearly been affected by her experience, and grown into a headstrong and independent woman, and seeing how the events of the previous book had shaped her was a nice touch. Though there is one character that was an important part of Wendy’s life who seems to have disappeared with no mention here, that I was sightly disappointed in.
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There’s some good queer representation here, like with the first book. James Hook has a same sex romantic relationship before the events of this book, and is clearly still deeply in love with the man years later. Considering that Hook was more than a hundred years old, thanks to his time in Neverland, and that he was living in the 1930s once he escaped, it’s a pleasant surprise to see gay romance in a book set in that period. With queer romance often being removed from historic tales, it’s wonderful to see this series embracing these stories and putting them at the forefront.
A.C. Wise has delivered a decent sequel to the last novel, but one that falls a bit short of being quite as enjoyable. Thanks to an ending that I felt dropped in quality and became quite repetitive of the first book, Hooked ended up feeling like two very different stories combined together, and not always with the best results.
Hooked is out now from Titan Books.