Last year, I picked up a novel entitled Alice written by Christina Henry. It is a very dark re-imagining of the Alice in Wonderland story that was originally written by Lewis Carroll, and it ended up becoming one of my most-loved adult fantasy titles. I read its sequel, Red Queen, and knew that I had found a brand-new author to add to my favourites list.
This past Tuesday on the Fourth of July, Ms. Henry had a new novel hit the shelves called Lost Boy. Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley, I was able to read an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of this book a few weeks before the release. However, I decided to hold off on writing a review until I could read the finished product as well since I didn’t have to wait too terribly long to do so. My patience ended up rewarding me in ways that I couldn’t imagine at the time, as very shortly afterwards I was offered the opportunity to participate in an author interview with Ms. Henry.
So, I’m very proud to announce that in addition to a completely full and honest review, I shall also be sharing a short and delightful interview with Christina Henry in relation to her latest novel, Lost Boy.
Lost Boy – A Book Review
Lost Boy is a re-telling of the Peter Pan story that shares a dark and twisted tale about how Peter’s first and most-favourite Lost Boy grows up to become his nemesis, known simply as Captain Hook. Before the fighting and hatred, there once used to be a bond of friendship and trust. That was before the true colours of Peter Pan’s persona seeped out into the bluest oceans, staining them red with false stories and sugary lies.
There are so many elements of this novel that come together to create an astounding reading experience. When I first began this book, I found myself utterly mesmerised within mere moments of diving into it.
My favourite aspect is the writing. It’s remarkably smooth. There are so many lush details that go into the creation of Neverland, yet it never overwhelms you. It’s all polished and intricate while retaining an easy and simplistic execution that helps to compel you onwards with one flip of the page to the next. You can visualise the settings of the forests, the beaches, the living areas–all of it without realising that you are in fact reading a book. It all unfolds like a marvellously engrossing film within your imagination. The world-building utilises the perfect combination of subtlety and meticulous attention to its development. The design of Neverland feels warm and familiar, yet mystifyingly original with whimsical undertones amidst a backdrop of monsters, deadly pirates, and brilliantly twisted surprises.
The suspense is another facet that I found myself melting into. When you initially jump in, the tension feels very soft, like a gentle hum in the background. As the characters interact with one another and Peter’s persona begins to step out from the shadows, the tension then starts to tighten and the suspense gets thicker. It’s a masterfully measured dance that partners with the reader’s ability to empathise with an array of emotions. You get swept away in one character’s anger, or another character’s excitement, and sometimes you will feel so many different things all at once. This creates a foundation for one anxious and apprehensive layer after another until it builds to heightened level of anticipation for the climax, or the game changer. When it finally does arrive, it’s a shocking yet immensely satisfying feeling.
Speaking of the characters, I found quite a few of them to be very intriguing in nature. You have our narrator, the future Captain Hook, whom we get very intimately acquainted with. It’s intellectually enthralling to read about the inner struggles that he has, as well as the conflicts that rise within his own conscience. Everything that he contemplates, or is pushed to contemplate, is something that you can genuinely understand and justify in the same ways that he does. At certain points, you’re desperately rooting for a lot of these dark ideas to become reality. Becoming so invested in his plight and his pain really helped formulate an immersive affair. We do have a similar type of riveting engagement with Peter, and a couple of other folks in the book, however. There are also quite a few characters that we never really get a chance to know and understand. There’s a strong level of brutality within the pages of the novel that sometimes names come and go before we ever have the chance to build a bond with them. The only down side to this is that it lessens the affects of their deaths, if and when they arrive.
Lost Boy is psychologically addictive. There’s a labyrinthine examination of power struggles, narcissism, insecurities, this inherent fear of feeling like you’re unbelievably inferior in every way, sociopathic tendencies and how it affects the people around you. All of the qualities come together to construct an intellectually stimulating and intensely thought-provoking piece of literature. Fantasy that offers understated components of multi-dimensional character designs are my ultimate weakness, and Lost Boy is no exception.
There aren’t any flaws in the book, or at least I wouldn’t call them flaws. These are issues that I can see other readers possibly having and they mostly consist of violence and savagery involving children, a seemingly sluggish feel to plot progression, and just the intrinsically sinister portrayal of a character that most people love and adore. My main issue with the novel, and this is very much a personal thing, is that I would have loved a couple of chapters from Peter’s perspective. Being able to get a candid look into the psyche of someone like him would have just been a mind-blowingly spellbinding experience, I think. Nonetheless, not having it doesn’t detract from the overall plot, or storytelling, in any negative shape or form whatsoever.
In conclusion, Lost Boy is an impeccable example of why I absolutely love Christina Henry’s books. She was a magical way of sharing unique and visionary versions of stories that we all know and love, that continue to add multifaceted layers to familiar characters and atmospheres. They never feel like a separate or disconnected addition. They are always complementary and work to enhance the narratives that inspire them. All in all, if you are a fan of the Peter Pan fairy tale, and if you don’t mind a refreshingly individual and wicked spin on the classic, I highly recommend you check out this book!
4.75 red coats outta 5!
The Delightful Christina Henry – An Interview
In celebration of her newest book, Berkley Publishing Group provided me with the chance to ask Christina Henry some interview questions. Feeling delighted and tremendously honoured, I took this opportunity to learn about how she came up with the premise for Lost Boy, fairy tales, and her writing interests.
(BiblioNyan): Hello Ms. Henry, thank you for joining me for this interview. Please, tell us a little bit about yourself and background, if you don’t mind.
(Christina Henry): I am the author of ten books for Penguin Random House – the BLACK WINGS series, a seven-book series about Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle Beezle; the CHRONICLES OF ALICE duology, ALICE and RED QUEEN, which are very dark re-interpretations of the Alice in Wonderland stories; and LOST BOY, an origin story of Captain Hook from PETER PAN.
(BN): When you began writing, did you specifically set out to write dark fairy tale re-tellings?
(CH): No, my first series, BLACK WINGS, is an original urban fantasy series set in Chicago. My next book, THE MERMAID, is about P.T. Barnum and the Feejee Mermaid, except that the mermaid is real and not a hoax. I have another retelling I’d like to do, but they aren’t the only kinds of books I want to write.
(BN): I have noticed that your stories tend be very original and unique from their original counterparts. Do you ever worry about the feedback this may generate from readers and fans of the original stories?
(CH): As a writer you can’t worry about reader feedback. Every reader experiences a book in a different way and if you get caught up in possible responses it can be paralyzing. I have to just write the book I want to write and hope that it reaches the readers who will enjoy it.
(BN): Lost Boy, similarly to Alice, is a captivating stand-alone. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
(CH): There are no connections between LOST BOY and the ALICE duology. I’d like each book to be read as its own story.
(BN): Lost Boy is a story that revolves almost entirely around boys. What is the most difficult aspect about writing characters from the opposite sex?
(CH): As a writer you’re always going into an imaginative space for each character, creating someone who is completely new and different. Writing the opposite sex is not any different from writing a character who is the same sex as me – the important thing it to make sure your characters (male or female) are three-dimensional and real to the reader.
(BN): What was your hardest scene to write in your new novel?
(CH): I write chronologically and by hand, so I don’t really think of the book in terms of individual scenes but rather as a long spool unfurling. I don’t have difficulty writing individual scenes but I will admit that editing is not my favorite thing.
(BN): What did you enjoy the most with writing Lost Boy?
(CH): I always wanted to know why Captain Hook hated Peter Pan so much, so this book was my way of answering that question for myself.
(BN): Are there any current plans for a potential sequel to Lost Boy?
(CH): No, there will be no sequels to LOST BOY.
(BN): Are any of these stories that you have written, inspired by personal experiences or adventures?
(CH): In my first series, BLACK WINGS, many of Beezle’s favorite places to eat are also my favorite places.
(BN): What is your favourite fairy tale?
(CH): I’ve always been very fond of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” and in particular Robin McKinley’s retelling of this story.
(BN): Lastly, what is your favourite quote from your new book?
(CH): “Peter lies”.