“I would give Unhooked 4 out of 5 aces,** for an intoxicating plot, a renamed version of Killian Jones, and being set in Neverland. One ace demoted for the soul-devouring and Olivia.”
“Neverland retellings usually just aren’t my thing. Unhooked, however, was so dark and entrancing that I was completely captivated. I left the book impressed by the world-building and the romantic build-up. If it hadn’t been for a twerpy, prosaic main character and a conclusion that felt like it was on fast-forward mode, I would have loved the book a bit more. As it stands, I give Unhooked 3 of 5 aces.”
**Why are we using aces? Yeah, good question. The thing is, we actually wrote this post last summer (editing procrastination issues lol) and at the time, we were both on a Lunar Chronicles high. So we decided to use “aces” as a rating tool (instead of something prosaic like “stars”), because, well, you know how Thornes says “Aces!” all the time? This making sense now?
Gwen has a crackpot for a mother. Said mumsy has been dragging poor, suffering Gwen around the globe for years—and darling Gwen has had to put up with living in horrid places such as Prague, and Central America. Now, as Gwen and her mum prepare to move to London, Gwen’s chum Olivia decides to tag along to help them move in. (Side note: Olivia actually had the potential to become an interesting character, but annoyingly, she spent the majority of the book moping around in a pink dress and losing her pants—but we’ll get to that later.)
Gwen’s new home—a decrepit London flat—seems to be okay, until Cracked Mumsy spots a strange fairy mural painted in the attic and promptly freaks out. Gwen tells her mum to sleep downstairs—she and Olivia will sleep in the attic. After being warned never to turn off one of the attic’s lights, Gwen exercises her right to stupidity by…guess what? Oh, that’s right, she turns off the light, gets kidnapped by dark fairies (called the “Dark Ones” …and they claim this author isn’t a Oncer…), and dumped into Neverland. The nerve of this girl!
After a dramatic fight scene, Gwen is rescued from the Dark Ones by Killian Jones…excuse us, by Rowan. Rowan has a pirate ship, gold-speckled eyes, a mysterious past, an Irish accent—basically everything a girl could ever want. Too bad he’s not good enough for Gwen. After all, he’s a pirate. A villain. So the two of them do the obvious thing and completely ignore all the chemistry just bursting between them. Instead, they fight about a bunch of stuff that doesn’t even matter. Suffice to say, Gwen learns that she’s in Neverland, Peter Pan is evil, she’s possibly the Chosen One, she has a great destiny et cetera.
At this point Gwen randomly remembers that Olivia was kidnapped along with her, and is now missing. She demands that Rowan let her off his stinking ship so she can go find her friend. Rowan refuses. (Wait, he REFUSED Gwen?! The whole world DOESN’T revolve around Gwen?! Shocking.) Gwen too is shocked, so she teams up with an alluring Peter Pan, who promises to get her and Olivia home. Yep, all this time, Olivia has been living it up with Pan and his feral lost boys. Sadly, Olivia has been brainwashed by Pan and is now a complete jerk. And now, as no one is caring for her every need anymore, Gwen becomes rapidly unsatisfied with…everything. (There’s really no pleasing this girl).
After a few boring chapters of Pan acting like a priggish ex-boyfriend, Rowan breaks in to rescue Gwen from Peter’s clutches. And fails. Needless to say, the rescue-attempt includes lots of death, (well, death as in everyone just sort of shatters like a dropped teacup). During this battle, even though Gwen witnesses firsthand Pan killing a young boy, she still has doubts about going back with Rowan. Well, right up until she walks in on Peter devouring Oliva’s soul.
Gwen enlists the help of Tinker Bell Fiona to rescue Will (one of Rowan’s crew) and Rowan (these two have been captured by Pan, fyi.) Obviously Gwen needs to get away from Pan after watching him seduce her bestie…and so Rowan is important again. So Gwen rescues the boys…sort of. Naturally Will is killed during the escape, allowing for Gwen and Rowan to have a melodramatic smooching scene (aka Rowan is sad his friend died—poor baby—and Gwen can comfort him with love.)
Post-smooching, Fiona helps Olivia and Rowan wake the mysterious Queen of Neverland, who tries to kill them all. Gwen and Rowan escape, and kill Pan, but not before Olivia dies, who also manages to stab the Queen and kill her. Here of course Gwen has the usual heroine moment where she is offered rule over Neverland…. and declines. She henceforth kidnaps an injured Rowan, uses fairy magic to get back to her own world, makes up with her mother, and travels with Rowan to a graveyard where he cries over his brother’s grave.
The End. (If you think that last paragraph of our summary was rushed, try reading the book. The climax/falling action suffered from some serious pacing problems.)
Hermione: Unhooked is definitely what you’d consider “Dark Fantasy.” The novel really took an interesting take on Neverland. There was SO MUCH POTENTIAL for the story…I just wish a lot of things had been executed differently.
Clara: Like OLIVIA AND GWEN. Gwen annoyed me because she was used as a vessel for Rowan’s story, even though she was supposed to be the main character. She just seemed too prosaically “YA-heroine” to be believable. And Oliva didn’t have a character at ALL. She was basically the only secondary character in the book, and you knew NOTHING about her. This is what I consider one of Unhooked’s biggest flaws; the lack of secondary characters.
Hermione: AGREED. I almost feel like the author had just finished watching an episode of Once Upon A Time and then decided she wanted to go and write some Captain Hook fanfic. So she created Rowan, and then just stuck in a bunch of other characters to compliment him. Like you said, Gwen was badly done. Half of her decisions and actions in the book made no sense and were barely relatable. What saved her was that she was a very tenacious and sarcastic character.
Clara: I just can’t get over it, precious!!! A book with no secondary characters is like chalk without a black board. You have your leads, but without a believable backdrop of secondary characters, the story just doesn’t work. But ROWAN!! So legit. The only thing that bothered me about him is that I felt like the author tried too hard to emphasize how dark and troubled he was.
Hermione: Oui mademoiselle! I mean, yes, Rowan was unoriginal, but he was for the most part well-written. Most of the main characters were well-written, even if they weren’t well developed. Peter Pan for one…he made an interesting, psychopathic villain. The lost boys were nicely depicted as blood-lusting, stabby adolescents instead of these cute, teddy-bear clutching, innocent youngsters. THANK GOODNESS we were spared that trope. Motherless boys are great and all…. but can get very annoying.
Clara: Motherless boys are annoying!!!!!! How DARE you. Just imagine a sad group of little boys crying… And you actually PREFERED these lost boys?! Evil little sociopaths who thought death was a GAME!!!! You disgust me Hermione, truly. And I much prefer the Peter and the Starcatchers Peter, who was actually a CUTE LITTLE GINGER ENGLISH BOY WHO REMINDS ME OF FRED AND GEORGE WHO DIIIIED. *sobbing into a nose rag* Well, only Fred died, buuut George lost an ear, soooo… okay back to Unhooked.
Hermione: Whoooaaa lady, take a chill pill. All I’m saying is that Unhooked took a unique take on the typical Peter Pan story, and I found that interesting. Though I was excessively creeped out by that one part where Peter and Olivia were in the midst of the dance-with-no-pants and then Pan started EATING HER SOUL. Disturbing much? Ooh, and one more point I feel we should touch on: PACING. The exposition was a bit slow and hard to get into. I understand why it was written that way, and that there was a lot of information that had to be gotten across to the readers, but some of that information could have been stretched out over the story. Gwen’s relationship with her mum, for one, was crammed into the first couple pages and then not developed as much as it could have been. And then the book’s ending…whew, slow down Secretariat!
Clara: I know. The climax was well written, and then… basically the author crammed like another two chapters’ worth of story into one short one and an epilogue. And the entire epilogue is just Rowan moaning over his brother’s grave. And his brother has been dead how long? Get over it bro.
Hermione: Rowan seriously acted like an ungrateful twit at the end of the book! “Thanks for saving my life Gwen, but next time just leave me to die.” WHAT? What?? I thought you loved Gwen, Rowan—come on! Alright, I’m going to change pace a bit here. Right now you might be thinking, “Okay, sounds like this book was basically trash and rotten pineapples. Why should I even bother to read it?? Why was it even published???” Fear not, peasants. Unhooked had a lot of great moments. Seriously, who doesn’t like to read about pirates?? The story had so so SO MUCH POTENTIAL (I know I said this already but it demands to be repeated). If nothing else, the book will inspire you to sit your butt down and whip out a fantasy novel of your own.
Clara: KILLLIANNNN WAHH I NEEDS YOU>:)
Hermione: Very eloquent, Clara. So yes, we’d recommend this novel to fans of Once Upon A Time, fantasy lovers in general, and anyone who has ever wanted to go to Neverland.
Have you ever read Unhooked? What did you think?? If not, what’s your favorite Neverland retelling? And how do you feel about Killian Jones😉? So comment now or we’ll have the Ministry sic dementors on you!
|Graphic Violence||Frequent violence, but not overly graphic|
|Sex||One heavily implied moment|
|Disturbing Elements||Dark fantasy content—soul-devouring/ dark fairies|