Author: Wendy Spinale
Star Rating: 3/5
Genre: YA Alternate History/Fantasy
In an alternate world that mirrors our own, the corrupt queen of Germany has bombed England to rubble in an attempt at domination. As the bombs fell, a biogenic laboratory is destroyed. The destruction unleashes a terrible plague across England. The plague ravaged the adult populace, leaving behind the resistant children to fend for themselves in a war-ravaged steampunk necropolis.
Gwen, Joanna, and Mikey Darling have struggled to find food and safe shelter in London's streets, but they have had the benefit of each other's company. That is, until Joanna is kidnapped by the infamous Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer. Gwen knows Captain Hook has taken the surviving children for experimentation. She also knows these children are never seen again.
Hook is desperately searching for the cure, so that he and his crew can return home in good health. Also searching for the cure, are Pete and his underground city of Lost Boys, whose resistance to the virus is rapidly waning. Gwen calls upon Pete for aid in her sister's rescue. Gwen's sudden appearance in both Hook and the Lost Boys' lives may prove to be more than they all bargained for.
One genre I want to read more from is steampunk sci-fi. I have loved every instance of it (books, fashion, video games, movies...) that I've experienced to date, but I still have only sampled the vast world that is steampunk. This book was picked up specifically for its setting. It certainly contained steampunk elements, but there wasn't quite as much of it in the plot's front lines as I wanted. That being said, this was the first book in a trilogy. I have a feeling the sequels will offer far more steampunk bliss. Little as it was, I did really enjoy what the book had to offer. I will continue to dabble in this genre as much as possible. (Please leave recommendations!)
Another huge aspect of this book is in its status as a fairytale retelling. I'm not saying I dislike retellings. I am saying I don't typically enjoy the ones I happen to pick up as much as I'd like. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Peter Pan retellings have over-saturated the retelling market for a very long time, and I've enjoyed few of them personally. I genuinely thought everything that could be done, has been done. I was wrong. This novel was incredibly unique. It's a fairly loose retelling of Peter Pan, but fundamentally rooted in the story enough that I think I'd be able to guess the inspiration without the telltale character names. The story was still original enough that it wasn't entirely predictable. I really appreciated the author's work in making this story truly her own.
I think it's important to address the writing style here. Not only is this YA, but it reads like rather juvenile YA. I think it could easily be considered Middle Grade fiction, if not for a small concept Gwen faces during the story. I don't think the author intended the book to read like a middle grade. This book is one of those cases where the author is an absolutely superb storyteller, but maybe lacks a little in knowing how to write well for a specific audience. I don't typically find this off-putting in a book when I enjoy the story, but I feel the disclaimer is necessary on the chance you may be turned off by this. Actually, I found the juvenile writing made this book quite the page turner. I powered through this story within one relaxing morning.
I'm sure this is quite obvious to deduce knowing the simplicity of the writing, but the characters were not fleshed out very well. The book suffers from over-narration to drive home emotional ties between characters. It especially suffers from insta-love on several occasions. This would typically cause me to lower the rating of a book, because it drives me up the wall. In this instance, it almost added to the fast-paced nature of the story. I suppose, in the moment, something light and fluffy was just what I needed.
I will say, I'm not entirely comfortable with Germany's portrayal in the book. Hook's battalion appears very reminiscent of the Nazi's of WWII, and the post-bombed London is described equally reminiscent to the destruction caused by the German army at this time. While I acknowledge this very real and terrible piece of history, I do not think it was the best choice for this novel. You get the feeling this timeline happens sometime in our world's future, on an alternate timeline. (However, I'm not sure what the author intended.) Writing a book exposing the atrocities committed by Nazis is one thing, demonizing a country that has tried to atone for these deeds for generations is entirely another thing. I'm not sure the author intended to do so, but this was my impression while reading. I've lived a cozy and safe life relatively speaking, so my opinions on this matter aren't as important as a more affected party. However, I am not comfortable expressing my feelings of this book without mentioning my discomfort at German portrayal in this world.
Though Everland is by no means a literary masterpiece, and I often had to suspend disbelief for the plot to work, I did quite enjoy this reading experience. I loved exploring steampunk further, and am happy to have found a retelling I enjoyed. I have not yet decided if I will continue on with the series, so stay tuned for updates in the future!