Review: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

Title Hook’s Revenge
Author Heidi Schulz
Published September 16th, 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
Pages 304 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre & Keywords Fantasy, Fairytale, Re-Telling, Adventure
Part of a Series? Yes (Book 1 in the Hook’s Revenge series)
Source & Format Received an advance reader copy from the publisher for review (Thanks Disney-Hyperion!), eBook
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

Captain Hook’s feisty daughter hits the high seas to avenge her father’s death at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile in Heidi Schulz’s spirited middle-grade debut.

Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she’s sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn’s hopes of following in her father’s fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.

So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn’t hesitate – here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she’d bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, she’s tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.

The crocodile’s clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz’s debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?

“There have always been pirates. Why, even as far back as Eve, on the day she was considering whether or not to eat that apple, a pirate was most certainly planning to sail in and take it from her.”

If there’s one thing that twelve-year-old Jocelyn Hook has always dreamt of becoming, it’s a pirate. It does run in her blood, after all. Although she has never met him, Jocelyn’s father is none other than the infamous and bloodthirsty Captain James Hook, a macabre legacy that she takes no end of delight in recounting to others at every available opportunity. For a young girl in Georgian England, however, the pirate’s life is anything but easy (or accessible). After singing one too many bawdy sea shanties and scaring away one too many governesses, her grandfather has had enough and sends Jocelyn to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School For Young Ladies, an institution filled with students more machiavellian and dangerous than even the fiercest buccaneer. Drowning in a world of corsets, curtsies and an endless string of lessons on proper, ‘ladylike’ behaviour aimed at a girl with an interest in being anything but, Jocelyn chafes against the rigid restrictions placed against her and dreams of being swept away to a life of adventure and daring with only the sea to guide her. So, when a letter suddenly arrives informing her of Captain Hook’s untimely death at the hands (or should I say jaws?) of the Neverland Crocodile, it appears as though Jocelyn’s ship has finally, and quite literally, come in. Now, with the help of the ever-faithful Smee and a motley crew of pirates with little experience but no end of imagination, Jocelyn must travel to Neverland, avenge her father’s death, and save her best friend Roger from the clutches of the Lost Boys and that pesky Peter Pan. A pirate’s work is never done.

“I expect that you’d like to know about the most famous of all pirates, Captain James Hook. As I am the world’s foremost expert on him, naturally you turned to me. Children come to me all the time, begging to hear what I know. I graciously seat them in a circle around me, lean in, and whisper, “Not a chance.”
I don’t like children all that much.”

Arrr! Shiver me timbers! Avast, me hearties, and feast ye spyglass on this swashbuckling adventure worth its weight in gold doubloons. Okay. I’ll save the pirate lingo for International Talk Like A Pirate Day, however sorely I‘m tempted to write the entire review this way. Such is the power of Schulz’s work, however, that you can’t help but be swept away into the exciting, imaginative world that the author has created. Perfect for even the most skeptical landlubber, Hook’s Revenge is a magical re-telling filled with adventure, wit, and a great deal of heart that breathes new life into a beloved classic and, much like the original story on which it is based, promises to charm, delight, and entertain generations of readers for many years to come.

“Jocelyn also made great strides with her mastery of French. Miss Eliza was most certainly pleased, though I imagine she would have preferred Jocelyn memorize phrases such as Mais oui, J’ai en effet trouvé le Camembert délicieux (“Why yes, I did find the Camembert delicious”) instead of Pardonnez-moi, mais il semble que j’ai coincé ma fourchette á poisson dans votre oeil (“Pardon me, but it seems that I have lodged my fish fork in your eye”). Still, it could not be denied that progress was being made.

Twelve-year-old Jocelyn Hook is the protagonist I always dreamt of encountering as a child. Quiet, tidy, orderly and rule abiding, I loved nothing more than to live secondhand through the rambunctious, rebellious lives of the characters I read about, never quite able to draw up the courage to act as they did. Much to my surprise and delight, as a twenty-six-year-old woman I suddenly found myself experiencing the same sort of vicarious thrill again as I read about Jocelyn’s adventures. Smart, stubborn, headstrong and unafraid of a challenge, Jocelyn is everything I continue to wish I could be, even as an adult. I was proud to watch as Jocelyn faced her fears, detractors and naysayers and followed not the path determined for her, but rather forged by her own hand in an admirable display of wit, bravery and confidence. Jocelyn challenges traditional gender and societal norms of the period at every turn, unafraid to be different in a society that would prefer she be anything but. And I wouldn’t have her any other way. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a true heroine, in every possible sense, interpretation and definition of the word.

“Next, what is the purpose of your visit? Plunder? Murder? Revenge?”
Jocelyn glared at the man. “Principally revenge, though I am keeping my options open.”
“Have you anything to declare?”
“Yes. I declare these asinine questions to be a waste of time.”

As in the case of any re-telling, the author is faced with the unenviable task of making beloved, familiar characters her own and imagining them in an entirely new way. Thankfully, Heidi Schulz has proven herself to be more than up to this task. A number of familiar faces make appearances in this story including (but not limited to) Captain Hook, Smee, Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys. With a deft hand and a sharp eye for detail, Schulz adds new depth to these now-recognizable figures, with new quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them leap off the page. Best of all, however, is the author’s treatment of Peter Pan. Never having been a fan of the character as a little girl, I revelled in Schulz’s portrayal of Pan as the spoiled, self-centred, egotistical perpetual child we all know and hate. (Me? Biased? Never.) No matter what your feelings about the character, it’s undeniably fun to watch as the author takes the qualities for which Peter was once celebrated and uses them to make him an object of exaggerated ridicule instead. The evil Neverland crocodile has been slain? Well, Peter Pan must be responsible! He is the hero, after all. Never mind the fact that he was nowhere nearby when the confrontation occurred. Unsurprisingly, Schulz’s unique secondary characters of her own creation are equally, if not more, delightful, loveable and endearing. We have Roger, Jocelyn’s adventurous, steadfast, kind-hearted best friend, who encourages and stands by her during some of her darkest moments. Even better is Jocelyn’s eccentric band of pirates who are more well acquainted with supper clubs than swordplay. What they lack in practical experience they more than make up for in personality and imagination, however. We have Blind Bart, for whom two eyepatches are always better than one and sight is an unnecessary attribute for a lookout. Bart is also plagued with a rather inconvenient fear of the sea. Thankfully, because of his choice in eyewear he can’t see it, which means it also can’t see him. Obviously. Finally, we have One-Armed Jack, a beleaguered man unfortunately afflicted with the use of all his appendages, however sorely he might wish otherwise. There is no end to the colourful characters that populate this fun and magical story and I can’t wait for readers to become better acquainted with them all firsthand. The only thing to be plundered and pillaged will be your heart.

“Some fool once said that it is always darkest before the dawn. I contend that it is far darker in the dead of night, particularly if you happen to be trapped in a cave. Even more so if you are unconscious. Now that’s dark.”

Told from the perspective of an unnamed, cantankerous, omniscient narrator identified only as the foremost authority on Captain Hook, Jocelyn’s story is recounted as though being told to a group of children in a more informal, conversational style that was vaguely reminiscent of the great work of Roald Dahl. This choice of style allows the author to perfectly capture the fun and magic of oral storytelling and allows the narrator to intersperse the story with his own witty asides and anecdotes, such as “…The girl knew that somewhere down there, amidst all the wonder, a terrible beast was waiting. Reminds me a bit of my first wedding day.” or “Nothing lasts forever. Just ask any of my ex-wives.” Suffice it to say you’re lucky that this review isn’t composed entirely of my favourite passages, because this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I can’t count the number of times I highlighted quotes, laughed aloud or read entire passages to someone sitting nearby because I was so desperate to share the wit and wonder of the author’s writing with someone else. Schulz’s narrative voice is sharp, lively, droll and charming with a capital C. Nestled amongst pages of lost boys and mermaids, cannibals and fairies is an equally compelling, and equally important, message for young readers about the importance of remaining true to and believing in oneself. Time and time again Jocelyn faces an immense amount of pressure from external forces, be it from her grandfather, the finishing school, her crew of pirates, and even the late Captain James Hook himself, to behave in a certain manner or accomplish a certain task. It is ultimately up to Jocelyn, however, to determine which path is the correct one for her, and to have enough courage and confidence to accomplish all she sets out to do.

“Weigh anchor, boys!” Jocelyn called out to her crew. “We’re off on another adventure.”
But that, you beetle-headed boob, is a story for another day.”

This is middle grade fiction at its best. Clever, riotous, fast-paced and bewitching with an imaginative premise, a cast of sincere, loveable characters and a message both profound and deeply felt, Hook’s Revenge is a book I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to even the most reluctant of middle grade readers. So pillage and plunder the nearest bookstore, library or even your best friend’s bookcase, if you have to. They’ll understand. It’s for a good cause. Simply ask yourself this: What would Jocelyn Hook do? (Blogger does not actually endorse acts of plunder and pillaging.)

Please Note: All quotations included in this review have been taken from an advance reader copy and therefore might be subject to change.

Overall Rating

Still not sure this is the right book for you? Why not listen to what some other bloggers had to say about it?

● Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books wrote Hook’s Revenge is a darling tale, filled with lovable characters, a series of (un)fortunate events and a heartwarming lesson to be learned.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Stephanie @ Views From The Tesseract wrote “Heidi Schulz displays a dazzling talent for storytelling and character, and readers will be clamoring for more of this pirate lass in no time!” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Lexie @ Poisoned Rationality wrote “This book was wonderful. Give it to any aspiring pirate captain you may know, though be careful that they don’t then try to run away to be a feared pirate…” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

One Response

  1. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed Hook’s Revenge as much as I did, Jen! It’s such a delightful MG read, and I think Schulz definitely succeeded in taking the characters + elements from Peter Pan and making them her own. Plus, I was so in love with the “oral” storytelling style too – it’s such a refreshing change!
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Hi! I’m Jen! I’m a thirty-something introvert who loves nothing more than the cozy comfort of home and snuggling my two rescue cats, Pepper and Pancakes. I also enjoy running, jigsaw puzzles, baking and everything Disney. Few things bring me more joy than helping a reader find the right book for them!