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Hooked (As It Were)

A.C. Wise is best known for her short stories, but she made quite a splash with her first novel, Wendy Darling. With her next book, Hooked, she has cemented herself as a novelist of the first rank. She brings elegance and charm to her spooky and terrifying work.

Hooked is one of those books that both masters and transcends genre. It is terrifying and moving to devotees of the horror genre as well as serious readers of literary fiction. Not that horror readers aren’t serious, but they have the expectations that genre creates. Hooked tidily takes care of all that with prose so beautiful and rich, characters so heartbreakingly realized, and a plot so compelling that it will satisfy lovers of romance, mystery, and thrillers, as well.

And if you don’t care a fig about genre, you’ll still love this book.

The great and powerful Captain Hook has escaped Neverland with the help of his companion, Samuel, the ship’s surgeon. He remains, however, a part of Neverland, one foot in, and finds he is still hunted by his perennial foe, even in his new life.

Pan’s hunting beast. In Neverland, he felt it always, moving beneath the world’s skin. He’d been aware of it wherever on the island it was, just as it was always aware of him. But he’d come to London, he’d escaped.

Yet now all the beast has to do is turn its eyes like rotten coins upon him and it will know him.

Hook and the beast are wrapped together in a pathos as tight as the death grip that spins him down into the water to drown, over and over, and as unrelenting as Hook’s opium addiction. Wise does not preach about good and evil, though. The dance between the hunter and protagonist is more about obsession and growing old than it is about saving the world.

In Wendy, Darling, Neverland was the playground of the eternal dreamer. The leak of Neverland into our world is a nightmare from which Wendy, her brother, her daughter, and the title character cannot awaken. They must confront the darkness that hunts them.

Overlaying it all, is Hook’s fear and naked need for love and connection. The love story that weaves through the terror feels real and true. It’ll make you cry, or at least, want to.

I hope this book sells a bazillion copies. Almost as good, though, is that Ms. Wise has announced the television rights to Wendy, Darling and Hooked have been optioned. Here’s to hoping their screen incarnation will be as thrilling and as moving as the books have been.


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