Hook & Jill: Neverland as never before - Andrea Jones

Beauty, Blood and Peter Pan

by Satyros Phil Brucato, Witches & Pagans Magazine

August 22, 2011

Hook & Jill

Andrea Jones
Reginetta Press, 2009

Peter Pan is a dick.

Despite green-stockinged Disney confections, Sandy Duncan on strings and the creepy conceits of stunted man-children, “Pan” (as he’s called by his nemesis Captain Hook [in the 1991 movie Hook] is a reckless homicidal sociopath whose behavior can generously be described as callous. Like so many of our most durable pop-cultural creations (Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Alice in Wonderland and so forth), Peter Pan arose from things unspoken in proper Victorian society, yet speaks eloquently a century or so after his creator’s death. And one of the reasons behind Pan’s eloquence is that “adventure” is an inherently selfish – yet irrepressibly essential – pursuit.

For Pan’s creator J.M. Barrie, adventure was a boy’s game. His “Wendy Darling” was a pale stand-in for feminine propriety, a mommy figure bracketed by the primal allure of Tiger Lily and the bitchiness of Tinker Bell. It was boys, not girls, who had adventures in Barrie’s Neverland…and yet, despite his perhaps-too-fond regard for real-life boys, it’s the real-life girls who have gravitated (so to speak) toward Barrie’s creation in recent years. From the teen-cusp sensuality of P.J. Hogan’s film Peter Pan (2003) to S.J. Tucker’s “Wendy Trilogy” song-cycle and its spin-off fan club, The Lost Girls Pirate Academy (2004 and onward), Wendy has stepped center-stage. Proving that girls, too, can have adventures, these recent adaptations have turned the Tale of the Boy Who Never Grew Up into swashbuckling female rites-of-passage.

Enter Andrea Jones. Inspired by the Hogan film version (which turned “Red-Handed Jack” into “Red-Handed Jill,” a change that also inspired S.J. Tucker), Jones has re-woven the Peter Pan saga into a lush fable of dangerous maturation. In Hook & Jill, Peter Pan is a brute – a childish killer with whom Wendy becomes disillusioned. Craving a worthy partner, she enters a bloody dance with Hook and his crew. In the process, Wendy engages the deepest levels of the Neverland myth, attains precarious heights and depths, and ultimately transforms in unthinkable ways.

Deliciously sensual and delightfully Pagan, Hook & Jill is a literary reinvention in the tradition of Wicked. More an epic than a swashbuckling yarn, the book soars artfully from darkness to illumination. An initiate to adult mysteries, Jill undertakes both submission and command. This isn’t an idle comparison, either; certain encounters between Hook and Jill have the dizzying interplay of a BDSM power exchange. Jones isn’t writing light fantasy, here. Her blood flows rich and her passions run raw.

Hook & Jill works on diverse levels: it’s fantasy adventure, sinister romance, occult transfiguration, fetishistic fable and far, far more. Jones displays a delicious gift for sensual prose, and her connection to Wendy’s world has the intimate connection of a wedding-night bruise. In her hands, Hook becomes a charismatic mentor – a world-class Top who may finally meet his match. While Peter Pan’s petulance grows tedious and ultimately abusive, his nemesis reveals how fascinating…and dangerous…a grown-up man can be.

Yet Hook & Jill is more than a young girl’s transition into womanhood. Jones delves into the changeable nature of Neverland itself, fleshing out characters who had previously existed as ciphers or stereotypes. Perhaps the greatest beneficiaries of this expansion are Smee and Lily; formerly the comic relief and ethnic slur of Peter Pan tales, these characters attain deep significance in Hook & Jill. Smee becomes perhaps the most human character in the book, a skilled and sometimes ominous man “as strong and sweet as rum.” Unlike the bumbling coward of most Peter Pan adventures, this Smee is the ideal First Mate, able to lash a man bloody and then stitch him back up for duty in the morning. Lily, now an outcast earth-mother shunned for loving too freely, is the steadying figure who bridges tribes, worlds and identities. These two characters – lovers as well as counterparts – form the foundation of the tale. While other figures flit and battle recklessly, Smee and Lily guide them toward fulfillment and away from disaster.

Jones’ tale has a ritual significance as well, a quality highlighted by the chapter titles: “Taming the Beast,” “The Open Door,” “Passion Play,” “Rites and Rituals.” Each title has symbolic as well as literal resonance, and like the Greater Trumps of a literary Tarot, they mark the progress of initiation. Colors, settings, garments and the lack thereof – all carry occult overtones. The average reader may note a mystic chord struck within Jones’ words; a Pagan one will recognize their deeper resonance. Hook & Jill is an exquisite symphony. Beyond its obvious appeal, it holds layers within layers of rich design.

The richness (and occasional ripeness) of Jones’ design provides greatest flaw in Hook & Jill. At times, her fondness for Victorian prose and conscious ritual overwhelm the story. Some characters speak woodenly, or act in overly prescribed fashion – a trait most notable in the “Rites and Rituals” chapter. The climactic battle is confusing, too – a blur of shifting perspectives and unlikely actions that stumble over one another and lose the flow that Jones directs smoothly otherwise. Still, at its worst, Hook & Jill is light-years better than the cookie-cutter tramp-stamp yarns that dominate our fantasy fiction marketplace. For Pagan and non-Pagan readers alike, Hook & Jill is a masterwork of enduring power.

Hook & Jill – Four-and-Three-Quarter Broomsticks

 

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