Peter Pan’s Villain Explores Life After Neverland in New Fantasy Novel Hooked

Peter Pan’s Villain Explores Life After Neverland in New Fantasy Novel Hooked

After spending several lifetimes playing foil to Peter Pan, Captain Hook finally finds a way out of Neverland and into the real world — where unfortunately life doesn’t get much easier. A.C. Wise, author of Wendy, Darling, explores the villainous pirate’s strange twists of fate in Hooked, a new fantasy novel arriving next year. Gizmodo is thrilled to reveal the cover and an excerpt.

First up, here’s a synopsis that hints at the challenges both mundane and magical that Captain Hook faces in the surprisingly perilous outside world.

Once invited, always welcome.

Once invited, never free.

Captain James Hook, the immortal pirate of Neverland, has died a thousand times. Drowned, stabbed by Peter Pan’s sword, eaten by the beast swimming below the depths, yet James was resurrected every time by one boy’s dark imagination. Until he found a door in the sky, an escape. And he took the chance no matter the cost.

Now in London twenty-two years later, James passes his days with opium to suppress his ghosts. But in a moment of weakness, he reaches back through his dreams to Neverland and something slips through the open door between worlds. Peter Pan’s beast has been waiting a long time for Captain Hook and now it’s intent on revenge.

But a chance encounter leads James to another survivor of Neverland. Wendy Darling, now a grown woman, is the only one who knows how dark a shadow Neverland casts, no matter how far you run. To vanquish Pan’s monster once and for all, Hook must play the villain one last time…

And here’s the full cover reveal.

Image: Titan Books
Image: Titan Books

Finally, here’s the excerpt — it gives you a vivid idea of why Hook was ready to stop fighting Peter Pan and leave Neverland for good.

His sword – wicked and curved, sharp as a smile – slashes empty air where the boy stood a moment before. Pan leaps, spinning, a foot, then two, above the tossing deck.

“You missed again!” Pan sticks his tongue out. “Poor old Hook.”

The boy lands, dancing a nimble circle as if the boards were not slick underfoot. He waves his sword, not even trying to strike Hook, his movements all flash and show.

A child. Only a child. An infuriating one, but a mere child nonetheless. How is it that he continues to elude every member of Hook’s crew, besting them all not once, but dozens of times? Or perhaps it is a hundred by now. Or more.

The fact that he cannot place the number is an unsettling one. Hook swings again, slashing away the question. But it continues to squat, like a shadow at the corner of his eye, refusing to be vanquished. Much like Pan himself.

If he allowed himself to think on it, he would have to admit that there are more gaps in his knowledge than just this one. As though parts of his mind that are shrouded, borders beyond which he cannot cross, like the sea bounding this island. He has a ship at his command. It stands to reason he could simply sail away, as far and as fast as he wishes, and yet always he returns, and even the thought of doing so refuses to stay in his mind.

Similarly, his memories constantly slither away from him until he forgets even the forgetting of them. Vague impressions remain, like ghosts, or silhouettes cast against a scrim in a lantern show. If he tries to bring the memories into focus…

Light flashes from Pan’s blade, sudden and terribly bright. It strikes Hook’s eyes, as sharp as a blow, bringing searing pain. He staggers back, raising his arm to drag it across his face. Pan’s taunting voice comes again.

“Scaredy pirate! Scaredy Captain Hook.”

Anger seethes, sudden and hot, breaking to the surface and making him careless. Hook drops his arm and slashes, an ugly sweeping motion. Sloppy, when he knows better, coming nowhere near to striking Pan. Not that it matters. Each blow could be expertly timed to slip beneath his enemy’s guard, and they still wouldn’t land. In all the dozen – hundred? – times he’s fought Pan, he’s never so much as scratched the boy’s skin.

Hook clenches his jaw. Damn elegance and skill. All he wants is one cut. A spurt of bright blood. He wants Pan’s eyes to widen in fear, hear his mewling cry that Hook isn’t playing fair, that he is always supposed to win.

He presses the attack with wild, chopping blows, gaining ground, but still not hitting the boy. Hook focuses on the blade, on losing himself in the motion of the fight. It’s the only satisfaction he’s likely to get, driving himself to the point of exhaustion and letting drink and smoke do the rest when the fight is done.

He bares his teeth, slashing and slashing, not giving Pan a moment to recover. Pan’s back strikes the rail, and Hook grins, ready to bring his sword down upon the boy’s shoulder. At just that moment, a wave swamps the deck, sweeping Hook’s feet from beneath him. The ship and the sky change places for an instant before he crashes to the boards, blinking saltwater from his eyes. Pan’s laughter rings loud and clear as a bell, a sound like a wetted finger dragged across the rim of a glass.

How must he look through the boy’s eyes? Drenched. Dark curls plastered to his skin. His clothing, heavy velvet and ruffled silk, absurd and utterly vain, weighing him down. Worse than a drowned rat. A clown. A fool.

“Captain!” A hand grasps his arm to pull him up, and Hook roughly pushes the man away.

His crew must pity him, if they don’t outright think him a buffoon. What sort of pirate cannot defeat a simple child?

“Pan!” He shouts the name, and it hangs in the air, echoed by a cock’s crow.

He drags himself to his feet and stands swaying on the deck. Pan hangs in the air before him, the sun bright behind him so that Hook can’t look at him directly. The boy is a hole against the light, a sharp-edged silhouette pinned upon the air.

And Hook is tired. He is soaked to the bone. All he wants is dry clothing, smoke filling his lungs, and rest. His shoulders slump, the answer to his question crawling from the fog-shrouded places in his mind to crouch before him, grinning and terrible. He has fought Pan thousands of times, and every time he has lost. Every time, he has drowned.

The deck rolls and he braces himself as the boy flies a crowing circle, nowhere and everywhere at once.

“You’ll never best me, Hook! Perhaps I’ll cut off your other hand and feed it to the beast as well!”

A chill seep through him. He remembers – now, when there’s nothing to be done about it – what comes next. Teeth and scales and terrible jaws. He remembers dying.

Blood roars in Hook’s ears. He whirls in the direction of the piping voice, bringing his blade around. Pan’s sword is there, blocking his, knocking it aside. Hook’s sword clatters to the deck, and the point of Pan’s blade touches one of the buttons gleaming on his velvet coat. A mere inch, and Pan could drive the blade straight through his heart.

“Do it. Do it then.” Hook speaks low, barely moving his lips, a desperate, angry wish.

Excerpt from Hooked by A.C. Wise reprinted by permission. Copyright Titan Books.

Hooked by A.C. Wise will be released July 12, 2022; you can pre-order a copy here or here.

Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.

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