Book Review: Hook’s Tale by John Leonard Pielmeier [Audiobook]

 
 
James Cook III runs away from Eton after an incident, gets conscripted into the British Navy by a press gang at the age of 14, and ends up in Neverland. His time there, and everything he learns about his past, changes him. He claims Barrie's tale is incorrect, so this is the story of his life, as told by himself.

Book Cover - Hook's Tale by John Leonard Pielmeier
Title: Hook's Tale: Being the Account of an Unjustly Villainized Pirate Written by Himself
Publisher:
Pages: 289
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher
 

Review:

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.

*Rating: 3.5 Stars // Read Date: 2020 // Format: Audiobook*

 
 

Book Blurb

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.

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  1. Ethan

    Peter Pan was always a favorite of mine growing up, so I’m always a sucker for anything centered around that story. That being said, I think I would really struggle with the pace of this one. Pan is a fantastic adventure, so it is almost required to move quickly.

  2. Greg

    “This was a more sympathetic, compassionate version of the man than what you find in the original story.” Interesting! I confess I’ve never read the original, but I’m curious enough that I might one of these days haha. And whenever I see retellings or retakes like this I’m always curious. I guess the idea of Neverland appeals to me so that may be part of it.

    I always like author notes that add something to the book as well. Sounds awesome.