Every fairytale villain from The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West to Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts seems to have an origin story these days — so why not give Peter Pan’s nemesis Captain Hook a chance?
In Christina Henry’s new novel, Lost Boy, we get a different view of both the hook-handed pirate and Peter himself, who Henry paints as a sociopathic leader keeping his band of Lost Boys imprisoned on the island of Neverland.
In advance of Lost Boy’s release, EW presents the exclusive first look at the book’s cover, and a peek inside at the Hook-narrated tale. Check them out below.
Lost Boy will be published on July 18, 2017.
Excerpt from Lost Boy by Christina Henry
Peter hopped down from the window, landing lightly on his feet despite the height. Sometimes I thought that Peter couldn’t be hurt, and that was why he didn’t bother so much when others were, for he couldn’t understand their pain. And Peter was bound to the island in some way that the others weren’t. He understood the land, and it understood him. That was why I had grown a bit and Peter hadn’t.
It was the island that kept us all young, though some of us wouldn’t stay that way. Some of the boys, for reasons none of us could comprehend, grew up like normal. It didn’t happen too often, for Peter was pretty good at choosing the right sort of character for the island, and I think that had something to do with it, the desire to stay a boy and do boy things for always.
But when Peter noticed the boy turning into a man, that boy was cast out, no looking back, no second chances. Those boys ended up in the pirate camp if they made it across the island alive, and became unrecognizable bearded faces, no longer our little friends.
I reckoned I’d been about eight, same as Nod and Fog, when Peter found me. I’d be long dead if I’d stayed in the Other Place, for one or two hundred seasons had passed. I wasn’t sure exactly how many because it’s easy to lose track if you don’t pay attention. I looked about twelve, a few years older than I was when I arrived.
Nod and Fog, too, had grown a bit. Peter had started out eleven, and had stayed eleven. There wasn’t a part of him not exactly the same as it had been when he took me from the Other Place so long ago, his first friend and companion.
Sometimes I worried, just a little, that I would grow up and be sent to the pirate camp. Peter always cuffed my ear when I said things like this.
“You’ll never grow up, you fool. I brought you here so you wouldn’t.”
But I was getting a little older just the same, and Nod and Fog too. We lost too many of the other boys to tell if only the three of us felt the minute creep of age. Sometimes at night, when the nightmare clung to me, I wondered if Peter’s assurances that I would never grow up were only assurances that I would die before such a thing happened. I wondered if that were better, to die before I became something withered and grey and not wanted.
Our leader crouched on the ground with a stick and drew a quick map of the island, and then a detail of the pirate camp. Our tree was in the very center of the forest and in the very center of the island. The forest cut through the middle of a mountain range on the east side. It crossed the whole middle of the island and emptied out to the ocean on the east side, and a sheltered lagoon on the west.
In the northwest part were the plains in which the Many-Eyed lived. We didn’t go there if we could help it.
If you went straight south from our tree, you would run into the crocodile pond and then the swamp. The swamp became a green marshy place that met the ocean.
The southwest corner of the island was mostly big sand dunes, giant things that took a long time to climb up and then down again. Past the dunes was a sandy beach, the only one where we could safely play and collect coconuts. On the northern side of this beach, hidden by the forest that wrapped around it, was the mermaid lagoon.
The pirates had staked out the beach on the north end of the island, near the cove just where the border of the plains and the mountains met. There was no beach on the east side at all, only sheer rock face from the mountains and a towering cliff where the forest ran up to the sea.
The boys crowded around Peter. I had no need to. I knew the island by heart, better than anyone except Peter. I’d been over every root and rock and plant, crept around every wild thing, seen all the mermaids a hundred times over and pulled away from the snap of a crocodile’s jaws more than once. I didn’t like having a raid so soon, but I knew my part if one was to happen.
Charlie stayed with me, one of his little hands safely buried inside mine. He stuck his other thumb in his mouth, not interested in the map or what might happen next.
I sighed softly. What would I do with Charlie in a raid? It was a certainty that he wouldn’t be able to defend himself, and I half suspected Peter of devising this trip just to get rid of the smaller boy.
Most of the new boys seemed unsure as they collected around Peter, except for a big one called Nip. He was almost as tall as me, and I was easily the tallest boy there. Nip had the look of a boy who liked to be the strongest and the fastest, and he’d been eyeing me since he’d arrived. I knew Nip would pick a fight soon. I just hoped I wouldn’t have to do Nip serious harm when it happened.
There wasn’t any malice about this; I didn’t wish the boy any more harm than he wished me. But I was the best fighter. Peter knew it. All the boys who’d been around longer knew it. Even the pirates knew it, and that’s why they tried their damnedest to kill me every time there was a raid. I’d learned not to take it to heart.
The pirate camp was about a two-day walk from the tree, depending on how fast you could hurry along a pack of boys, and though Peter made it sound like an adventure to the new boys, I knew well enough that there was as much work as play. There would be supplies to gather and carry. The Many-Eyed patrolled through the plains we had to cross. To top it off, the pirates might not even be in port. This time of year they were often away raiding themselves, stealing gold from galleons at sea and crying girls from cities they burned.
To my way of thinking this was not a smart idea. Not only did I have Charlie to worry over, but the new boys were untried. We didn’t even know whether half of them could fight at all, much less against grown men who made their living by the blade.
And Del might not make it. I could already imagine the boy sicking out puddles of blood on the way, blood that would attract the Many-Eyed to us when we took the path that bordered their lands. It was risky plan, probably wasteful. Even saying that all the boys made it to the pirate camp, it was unlikely all would make it back. We never did come back with same numbers that we left with.
I let Charlie go with a reassuring grin. The little one gave me a half smile in return when I told him to stay where he was put. I sidled around to Peter, who energetically slashed at the ground, making marks to indicate who would go where in the pirate camp. I had to try, though nothing was likely to come of it.
“I don’t think—” I began under my breath.
“Don’t think,” Peter said sharply.
Some of the boys snickered, and I narrowed my eyes at each face in the circle. One by one their gazes fell away, except Nip, who stared insolently at me until I growled. Nip dropped his eyes to the ground, a red flush climbing his cheeks. I answered to no one but Peter, and the sooner the new ones learned that, the better.
“I know what you want,” Peter said, his green eyes bright and intent on his drawing. “Stop babying.”
“It’s not babying to wait till they’re ready,” I said.
“Stop babying,” Peter repeated.
And that was that. Peter had spoken, and we would all do as he wished. It was his island. He had invited us there, had promised us we would be young and happy forever.
So we were. Unless we got sick, or died, or were taken by the pirates. And it was of no nevermind to Peter if we did. The boys were just playmates to help him pass the time, though none of them knew this. They all thought they were special in his eyes, while the only one who was special was me. Peter had picked me first, had kept me at his right hand for so many years. But even I had no power to make Peter do what he did not want.
Peter wanted a raid. We would have a raid.