The Story: Hook’s Revenge, by Heidi Schulz, is the first of two books featuring the same setting and characters. Here, we’re introduced to Jocelyn Hook, the one and only daughter of the famed and feared Captain James Hook. Jocelyn really would prefer a pirate’s life but her ward wants to turn her into a proper young lady. But Jocelyn won’t stand for it. In her quest to defeat the reptile menace that killed her father, Jocelyn heads to Neverland to settle the score. But it turns out that a pirate’s life is more than she bargained for.
My Take: For starters, how cool is this cover? It just screams fun to me, which was part of the reason why I picked it up. The other reason was that I thought the premise sounded interesting: what if Captain Hook had a daughter who turned out to be a pirate, too? Normally, stories based on pre-existing ideas and characters don’t appeal to me, but Hook’s Revenge was a pleasant surprise.
Jocelyn Hook is a fun, spunky heroine, and while she’s not entirely original in terms of personality, she is memorable and holds her own. She knows what she wants to do in life and has the brains to back up her plans. Granted, and to the author’s credit, she doesn’t come across as too smart or too mature for her age, so she’s convincing as a young girl but definitely not the average young girl next door. She’s all cute and innocent to your face but becomes a smart, cheeky, sneaky little lass when your back is turned. (Just wait until she gets her mitts on her sword – then she’ll show you who’s boss!)
The other characters, some of which are taken from Peter Pan, are also fun and fit in with the story’s light-hearted tone. Another aspect I liked was seeing Peter Pan, who makes a few appearances here, cast in a semi-villainous role. Considering that Jocelyn’s father battled Pan, it makes sense that the boy who wouldn’t grow up would be pit against Hook’s offspring. The dynamic here between Jocelyn and Peter works and is perfectly believable as it avoids being either too saccharine and too hostile.
Plot-wise, the novel is easy to follow, and while it’s not utterly predictable, the way everything flows together is probably what you’d expect. The early chapters, which relate Jocelyn’s time at a young girl’s finishing school, are the slowest portions in that the general environs stay fairly static. Granted, this allows for Jocelyn’s character to be developed as well as establish her relationship with the boy Roger, but I was kind of wanting to get on with the pirates and away from the snooty schoolgirls.
Speaking of pirates, naturally we meet up with Mr. Smee, who is glad to round up some pirate folk for Jocelyn’s voyage to avenge her father’s death. These minor characters are bit cartoonish but that’s perfectly forgivable. Likewise, we learn a secret about the origin of this low-level crew that is worth not being spoiled. If you’re a pirate fiction purest, you probably won’t like this book. But rest assured there is still plenty of scurvy behavior, from grog drinking to drunk singing to even loud belching. These gents are kid-friendly but still get into skirmishes, granted it never ends with blood and guts spilled on deck.
Also, I was surprised that the novel didn’t end on a cliffhanger, paving the way for the next book. The closer I got to the end, I kept mentally begging, “Oh, please don’t end like this. Please finish the story!” And it actually does finish. This book can stand on its own, so there are no annoying denouements that leave you hanging until the next book comes out. Sometimes I don’t understand why books need to be part of a series or trilogy and I miss stand-alone novels. So for that, I appreciated the fact that Hook’s Revenge is its own tale and you don’t have to rush to read the second book as this one has 99% closure of its story.
To be fair, Hook’s Revenge is probably a better fit for independent readers than adults. It isn’t one of those annoyingly sappy kids books, but I just sense the writing style and overall story would appeal more to older kid readers. Overall though, this is a light-hearted read that is easy to invest your time and interest in.
Language – None.
Violence – There are fight scenes as well as some tense moments but they’re infrequent and certainly not graphic. Probably the toughest scenes, emotionally-speaking, are when Jocelyn encounters the ghost of a loved one. While it’s intended to tug the heartstrings (and it does), very young readers might get scared simply because it involves a ghost or may think deceased loved ones could communicate to them in the same fashion. But such children might be too young to even want to read this book.
Sexual Material – None. There is a singular reference to the moment when Jocelyn’s mother discovered she was pregnant but a mere mention is all this book makes. Likewise, Jocelyn’s nighttime meetings with Roger are viewed in a less than innocent light by some characters but nothing even remotely suggestive occurs between Jocelyn and Roger.
Hook’s Revenge is a feather-weight read that is entertaining for kids and adults, though I sense kids might enjoy it a little more. The novel benefits from a fun main character who is easy to root for as well as a good pace to the plot. Though die-hard pirate fans might deem these Neverland scurvy dogs a little too safe, the majority of readers will like this as a light read. Overall, this was a departure from my usual fare and I was glad I picked it up as it stayed true to its cover’s promise of being a colorful romp.