May 8th, 2016

crazy eyes.

Review: Everland by Wendy Spinale

by Wendy Spinale

Sixteen-year-old Gwen Darling has protected her brother and sister ever since their parents were killed when bombs were dropped on London and a horrific plague unleashed. Each day they scavenge the ruined city and try to avoid the German soldiers who call themselves the Marauders. Under the command of Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer, the Mauraders kidnap survivors and use them for desperate experiments to find the cure to the plague that claimed the lives of most adults and will eventually kill everyone else. When they take Gwen's sister, she is determined to get her back. As she sets out to pursue the soldiers, she stumbles across a boy named Pete who leads a gang of children in defiance of the Captain and his men. Pete agrees to team up with Gwen to recover her sister after realizing that she has something he needs very badly to save his family of lost boys.

I really enjoyed this steampunk spin on J. M. Barrie's classic Peter Pan. It's a darker, grittier story set in a dystopian London that has been re-named Everland. Instead of a magical island accessible through pixie dust flights, Everland is a bombed-out shell cut off from communication from the rest of the world. Anyone who was there when illness broke out died or are now unable to leave, and it's unknown what the fate of the rest of the world has been. It's also unclear just when this story is meant to take place. The fact that the German empire has invaded England makes me think it's set right around World War I, a popular era for steampunk stories, but Gwen acts so contemporary and modern that I thought she might be in the not-so-distant future. The complete lack of any version of Internet or cell phones makes me throw the story back into the past, but maybe it's just an alternate world that doesn't quite line up with anything.

Some characters remain very recognizable. Bella may no longer be a fairy, but she zips through the air thanks to steam-powered wings. Gwen and her siblings share the closeness of the original Darling children, though Gwen is far more active than her Edwardian counterpart. Individual Lost Boys may only get a few pages of story time, but their personalities shine in even brief appearances. But other characters are dramatically different. Captain Hook has transformed into a prince of the German Empire. Instead of a grown man, he's just another boy roughly the same age as Peter Pan. I have to admit that I didn't care for some of the changes to his background and story, but the core of Hook, that callous and bloodthirsty nature mixed with a frustrated childishness, is definitely at the heart of this character.

One little change that I really liked was a change to Tiger Lily's ethnicity. Instead of a Native American, she's been recast as South Asian. After all, we're in London, not a fantasy island in the sky. It makes far more sense that Lily wears a sari, not buckskins and feathers, as she leads the Lost Boys through London's secret underground tunnels.

Everland has some great plot twists and leaves the ending open for a sequel. (In fact, the author has confirmed that the book is the first in a proposed trilogy.) I love the world that Wendy Spinale has created and I'm looking forward to seeing where Gwen, Pete, and the Lost Boys go next.

4 out of 5 stars

To read more about Everland, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the in:
2015: Before Tomorrowland by Jeff Jensen, Brad Bird, Damon Lindelof, and Jonathan Case
2014: Bracelet of Bones (The Viking Sagas #1) by Kevin Crossley-Holland
2013: Crystal Bones (Faelin Chronicles #1) by C. Aubrey Hall
2012: Fashionista Piranha on hiatus until May 24th
2011: In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
2010: The Big Book of Gross Stuff by Bart King
2009: Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson