Review: Hooked

I'm not usually a big fan of "Peter Pan" stories, but when I read the description for Hooked, I was, well, "hooked." This is the first book in a new series called Tales of Winberg by Annette K. Larsen. Though I was not previously familiar with her work, this story made me pretty curious about her other princess adventure tales. The series takes place in the same world as her previous series, Books of Dalthia, which also contains a number of fairy tale retellings. This book is an excellent princess story that contains everything a great fairy tale should, but I would not necessarily recommend it to fans of Peter Pan in particular, as it takes great liberties with its homage. Still, I have to give the author props for coming up with such a creative reimagining.

Hooked by Annette K. Larsen

Wendolyn spent most of her teenage years in hiding for fear that she would be discovered by the wicked captain her family tried to force her into marriage with. In order to hide her identity, she went by the nickname Cecily and took up work as a maid. She found her true home serving a kind-hearted princess named Marilee in a lovely castle and planned to remain there until the fateful day that Captain Huckley discovered her hiding place. I found it interesting how many princess-like elements this story contained despite the main character not being a princess herself. Like many princesses that came before her, Wendolyn is a noblewoman who feels confined by her high status and desires the freedom to choose her own path. The majority of the book is about her trying to escape from her arranged marriage, which is a common trope in princess tales.

Like all great fairy tales, Hooked is a love story at its core. During her time serving Princess Marilee, Wendolyn grows attached to Falstone, a castle guard who can't seem to keep his eyes off her. Falstone is an excellent hero who is skillfully trained in the art of fighting and is also very in tune with the emotions of those around him. He is a fine candidate to protect Wendolyn from Captain Huckley, which he does with composure and enthusiasm after she opens up to him about her plight. An equally excellent ally to Wendolyn is Princess Marilee, who sees her as more of a friend than a servant. Marilee is patient and understanding and is always there for Wendolyn when she needs her. An ongoing theme in this book is that families don't always come from blood or even from growing up together. Trust, love, and understanding are the true building blocks forming life-long bonds.

In the author's note at the end of Hooked, it was revealed that this book was originally planned as a "Sleeping Beauty" retelling before it switched to "Peter Pan." This answered a few questions I had since it never quite felt like a "Peter Pan" retelling. The aspect of Wendolyn not wanting to grow up because she didn't want to marry a criminal felt like a stretch, and most of the references to fairies and mermaids came from the stories she told the children who were living at the castle. The setting of Dalthia itself did not contain any magic or at least none that was revealed in this particular book. If I were to choose a fairy tale that shares the most similarities with this story, it would be "Bluebeard." Nevertheless, this book is a charming romance and a pleasant read.

Hooked is a wonderful introduction to Annette K. Larsen's work that made me curious about Princess Marilee and the other leading ladies in the prequel series, Books of Dalthia. I recommend her books to anyone who enjoys romance and adventure with just a touch of fairy tale inspiration. Wendolyn is a strong heroine who is easy to relate to and root for. The skillful narrative descriptions made me feel like I was with her every step of the way, sharing in her joy, despair, and everything in between. This was an excellent read that contained just the right amount of romance and adventure.

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