Since I drove up to visit my parents’ new house last weekend (and to catch up with my cat), I actually had a long enough drive for once to make progress in an audiobook (“thanks” to traffic, it ended up being much more progress than I expected). I think I bought this when it was an Audible deal of the day, and I am so glad I did. It was an enjoyable story, easy to listen to, though I do feel that the narrator’s voice sounded a bit too old for when he did the boys’ dialogue. The general narration was fine since it was Captain Hook telling the story, but I didn’t quite buy his Peter. Also, since I did audiobook, there is a chance I’m misspelling everyone’s names.
It also turns out that thanks to the internet there is no such thing as an original thought. I stuck with Once Upon a Time for most of its run, partially because I love fairy tales and fairy tale reimaginings, and partially because I was completely sold on hot Captain Hook, or Killian, a season 2 addition. Once Upon a Time ended up exploring the concept of an evil Peter Pan, and this novel similarly looks at the dark side behind the children’s story. This got me to thinking about other dark spins on fairy tales – while Neil Gaiman imagined Snow White as a vampire, it does seem like Peter Pan specifically attracts dark spins that re-frame him as a villain rather than putting him in an even darker setting. Before I could get too much farther into thinking about this topic, I discovered a Vox article exploring this very topic (I was trying to find a short story from Wendy’s perspective I thought I remembered reading – it may have actually been part of The Toast’s fairy tales gone dark series).
Jami has been on the island with Peter Pan for countless seasons but recently things feel like they have been changing. Or maybe it’s Jami that is changing after more than a hundred seasons. Jami is Peter’s second in command – he was the first boy Peter brought to the island, and he has survived that entire time even as other boys have come and gone (some grew up after all and joined the pirates, most died on adventures). Peter is always an 11 year old boy, though Jami has grown a bit in his time on the island, progressing from a 8 or 9 year old boy to a 12 year old boy. Jami is also the care giver of the island, being the one who brings order, manages and feeds the boys, and buries them when their time comes while Peter is the carefree leader who comes up with adventures – raiding the pirates, visiting the crocodile lagoon, and swimming with mermaids. However, Jami is a bit upset with Peter as the novel begins. Despite Jami’s protests, on his most recent trip to the other place for new boys, Peter brought five-year-old Charlie back with them, a boy much too young for the adventures of the island. As a result, Jami is spending more time taking care of Charlie, irritating Peter. He also brought back a boy named Nip, who Jami believes is too much of a bully for the island.
When a planned pirate raid runs into issues on the way to pirates’ camps, Jami and Peter have to take action to prevent a huge backlash with the Many-Eyed, monstrous inhabitants of the island. Unfortunately, Peter’s actions to hide the death from the Many-Eyed take things to a new level with the pirates, leading to an escalation in the long standing relationship between the pirates and the Lost Boys. The tragic repercussions make Jami reexamine his life on the island and what it means to be young forever.
I was completely hooked (unintentional!) on this one, and not only because Once Upon a Time predisposes me to like Captain Hook. Henry added elements I did not predict at all, and Jami’s transition from adoring friend to questioning follower and final evolution to life-long enemy was so well developed. It’s interesting how one impulsive decision of Peter’s (taking Charlie) led to a large enough shift in the Lost Boys that it completely unraveled a way of life that Jami had not questioned for over a hundred seasons. Everything here has a cause and effect, and it really is incredibly well plotted. Definitely recommend this one, and I’ll definitely be looking into more by Christina Henry.