I went into Everland not knowing what to expect. I saw steampunk wings on a cover, heard it was a Peter Pan retelling but Steampunk, and that was enough to get me in the door. It turns out it’s more of a “twisted fairy tale” which I found out afterward is a genre in and of itself. Some of the Peter Pan elements were there. You had Hook and the Lost Boys and crocodiles and the like, but it really was its own story. It’s got much more unique elements than it has retelling, so be aware of the going in. I find that a good thing personally.
London has been hit by some devastating weapon/virus that has turned it into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The way they talk made the time period tough to pin down, but it seems like it was a WWI-WWII era type of event. At first I thought it was more Victorian than that, but there’s some technology and the way they talk that wouldn’t have fit for that time period. There’s no reference to Nazis or anything like that, it’s got its own timeline and own villains, including Hook’s mother who is a distant queen in Germany who apparently has been spearheading these assaults.
All the adults are dead, a trope we’ve seen before. And this one also has all the girls dead or dying, girls are a very rare thing in London. We have Wendy, who’s been renamed Gwen, taking care of her little brother and sister. They’ve been orphaned and Gwen is trying to just keep them safe – until they come across Peter and Bella (Tinkerbell, but just a standard girl with some wings steam-tech) who set them off on an adventure as Wendy’s sister Joanna is kidnapped by Hook. Wendy vows to do anything to get them back.
Over the course of the book we learn about the Lost Boys, where they hide, how they’ve survived and their dilemas, and a lot more about the virus. I was actually about to not buy the world because of a couple of things that get explained around 2/3 through the book in a little bit of a twist that I won’t spoil. It really makes the world work so if your’e having trouble with the disease and all that from suspension of disbelief point, it helps there.
I did have a little trouble in suspension of disbelief with the kids survival, especially the character Doc, with how much he was able to do, develop medicines etc. Seemed a little much for the age group, but this is aimed at middle grade who probably view later teenagers as their elders. A minor thing we can ignore.
Gwen was done great character wise. This is in first person present and actually there are chapters from Hook’s perspective, still first person present. Spinale (the author) does a great job of differentiating between these two perspectives and an A+ on characterization from that front. It makes the book worth reading.
The action really picks up toward the end, the pacing is absolutely execellent as well. There are some points where it’s just a little hard to suspend disbelief as it all picks up, but if you can get past that and just have fun, this makes for a good dystopia and good twisted fairy tale effort. The steampunk elements are pretty light other than some reference to zeppelins and a couple other things. I could have used a bit more worldbuilding across the board on that front to really get a feel for the differences for what’s going on. Some nice use of historical art and landmarks though make this worthwhile, especially for letting your kids read.
Overall, a fun and light outing, even in such a dystopian world. If you like Peter Pan, you’ll get a kick out of how Spinale twisted things, and if you enjoy dystopian YA, you’ll probably love this book.