A fairy tale retelling with grit and gizmos, Wendy Spinale’s debut novel Everland, has a little bit of everything to interest young readers. With a dystopian-apocalyptic background, steam punk elements, and loads of action and adventure, there is little breathing room.
Envisioned to be a trilogy, the first novel in the series introduces readers to protagonists Gwen, Hook, and Pete. All are teens who are trying to survive in Everland: a bombed out, German pirate-invaded, virus-stricken London, where only the children remain.
“We are trying to survive, and this is not a childhood game or make-believe. This is real life. It’s time to grow up.”
When Gwen Darling’s younger sister is taken captive by Hook, she vows to rescue her.
“Visions of our early childhood wash over me like an unexpected storm on a clear day. Dozens of stinging raindrops, each carrying a memory, invade my thoughts. Nights of sneaking from my bed and into hers to tell her stories of fairies, pirates, and mermaids. Pinkie-sworn promises to never grow up. Promises I couldn’t keep.”
This mission is the whole premise of the novel and the movement behind Gwen and Pete’s alliance.
““How can I trust you?” I ask Pete.
“What more is left here for you but faith?” Pete says, extending a hand to me from the open window.”
Even though Pete is a principle character, the point of view alternates between Gwen and Hook, with nifty heading notifications to prepare readers of the intended outlook. The novel starts off strong with rhythmic writing and engaging world building, then comes to a head less then half-way through the book. While Gwen’s perspective embarks on charming, it begins to miss its mark as the characters (note more than one), become less believable as their theatrics render more to a play-write rather than a novel. And then there is Hook–Hook’s angle never truly “hooks” readers, this may have something to do with his manic depressive continuity blurring the progression. Even though characters may lack plausibility, readers are compensated with a heavily packed action and adventure story.
Although there are many instances in the violence department (please see violence content review), the author does a spanking job in administering these occurrences in an age appropriate manner so that even an older grade school reader could tolerate (depending on their maturity). If they can handle Suzanne Collins, Hunger Games, then they would be able to handle this book.
Looking for more fairy tale retellings? Here are some suggestions,
A Long, Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles#1) by Marissa Meyer
Spelled by Betsy Schow
Shadow of the Wolf by Tim Hall
Or, maybe steam punk floats you boat (so to speak),
The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker & Holmes #1) by Colleen Gleason
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
The Falconer by Elizabeth May
Airman by Eoin Colfer
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic
Profanity/Language: 2 scatological words. Note: Characters are said to use or be thinking of profanities on a few occasions. The British slang bloody, blimey etc. are used a few times but not tallied.
Violence/Gore: Implication of parent(s) death; report of mass death; slight description of character’s wound; report of heavy casualties due to country invasion; brief description of corpses rotting and smelling; character notes cuts and scars on body; brief mention of parent removing a body part as punishment towards child (this incident is mentioned a few times); extended scene (about 1 paragraph) report of deaths by virus and fighting; character remembers incident of child abuse, examines resulted wound; character examines injured hands; character grabs another character with force; character threatens another character while holding a weapon (2x); character kicks another character; reports of bombs, character assumes parent(s) are dead; report of pet dying; implication of murder (2x); character falls causing minor injury, blood mentioned; character witnesses female corpse being dragged roughly away by characters in positions of power, they joke rudely about female’s undergarments; property destruction; characters aim weapons at one another (2x); extended scene (about 2 pages) characters are pursued by characters who are firing weapons; character is threatened with violent torture; character threatens to kill another character; creepy scene in which character encounters a corpse; character elbows another character (somewhat comical); characters struggle with one another (somewhat comical); character angrily pushes another character, tries slapping them; character violently pushes character, holds weapon to their throat; characters discuss flesh eating virus, character is said to be infected and dying; character has thoughts of harming another character; character punches object in anger; extended scene (about 1 page) characters punch one another causing a brawl, mention of blood and injuries; threat issued (2x); playful smack; children place bets on competitors in fight match, competitors punch and kick; brief description of character’s sores from flesh eating virus; character aims weapon at other character; character shoves another character in frustration; character reports injuries and death he/she has witnessed; brief report of how virus effects males and females differently; character grabs another character angrily (2x); report of death; report of children affected by virus being disposed of by cremation; character shoves another character aside; characters play fight; character shoves finger in character’s face and chest; in mischief character’s hair is pulled, they are shoved (2x); character is threatened with banishment, which implies certain death; in mischief, character spins another character around and shoves them; implication of violence, children prepare themselves with weapons; character shoves another character out of their way; extended scene (about 1 page) characters play fight and wrestle; report of character’s parents passing away in accident; report of child competing in illegal fight matches, account of injuries; report of character’s sibling receiving injuries and later dying; report of mass death and injured children; character wishes to strike another character; property destruction; characters aim weapons at one another; character throws object in the hopes of hitting another character; character threatens another character with violence; scary scene characters witness a character being bitten by an animal, then dragged away, most likely to be eaten; character sets off explosion; playful elbow; characters destroy property; character calls another character’s escape plan “suicide”; extended scene (about 1 page) characters threaten one another while holding weapons; extended scene (about 2 pages) characters use weapons to inflict injury on one another, mild blood and gore; character grabs another character by the throat, choking them; extended scene (about 1 page) report of character enduring child abuse at the hands of a parent; character sets room on fire; report of parent(s) death, possible murder at the hand of spouse; character recounts being abused as a child by their parent (2x); character recounts being shot at; character recounts receiving injuries accidentally as a child; character receives head wound; character tends to character’s bleeding injury; character threatens to kill another character; accounts of earlier violent incidents are referred to a few times though out the novel; characters attack one another, blood reported; characters prepare for fight by arming themselves with weapons; character orders that another character be put to death (2x) and building burned; character makes the assumption that their parent was murdered; extended scene (about 1 page) character aims weapon at character, character is shoved down, weapon drawn on them; character slaps another character on the cheek in jest; building set on fire; character angrily grabs another character shoving them; extended scene (about ¼ page) character is forcibly branded with hot iron; small child feebly hits larger teen, children are put in chains, and taken against their will; object thrown at character; character grabs another character angrily, ready to kill them; threat of violence; character admits to violent acts, even murder; extended scene (about ½ page) object kicked at character inflicting injury, blood mentioned, non detailed scene of violent death; threat to kill; injured/infected hand mentioned; character grabs character roughly, knocks over objects in anger; extended scene (about 1 page) character threatens to kill character, then threatens one of their loved ones; character draws weapon on character, discuss biological weapon, past violence; teen male admires adult female, pulls female close to him in a threatening manner; mention of injuries from virus, blood reported; character pushes another character away; teen implies that they were previously incarcerated; character admires character’s weapon (flirtatious); character draws weapon for protection; building set on fire; children are taken prisoner; character is grabbed forcibly; characters ready their weapons prepared to attack, tackle character with weapons drawn; belief that parent/spouse is dead; character grips another character roughly; character lunges for another character (2x), character is slapped and pushed down, receiving injury, blood mentioned; mention of bloody injury; character kicks another character; characters draw weapons ready to use them on one another; extended scene (about 2 pages) threat issued to character, gun placed to character’s head, character threatens to harm themselves, character is tackled, characters struggle, character stabbed (minor blood and gore, fate unknown, character kicks their captor trying to escape; character threatens to harm character’s loved one; character cuts themselves, blood mentioned; smaller character feebly hits larger character; character precariously teeters above large hungry animals; character slaps another character; extended scene (about ½/ page) child is taken against will, threatened with being eaten by animals; extended scene (about ½ page) bullets sprayed in character’s direction, character is hit causing injury; character touches character’s face in a threatening manner; character grasps another character in anger; character is pushed down and threatened with torture; explosions heard (2x); extended scene (about 1 page) character lunges at character cutting them and issuing threats; character is threatened with violence and death (2x); character is grabbed, gun pointed at head; character slaps another character; character violently severs character’s extremity, blood and gore mentioned, injured character is said to wither in pain; character runs on field filled with dead and wounded bodies.
Sex/Nudity: Many incidents of male(s) and female(s) touching/holding one another, these incidents are not romantic or sexual in nature; character witnesses female corpse being dragged roughly away by characters in positions of power, they joke rudely about female’s undergarments; joke about kiss; character assumes female is fond of male; young males and teen males become excited to see female teen; character is informed their gender is on the brink of extinction and they need their help (may entail sexual implication); assumption young girl may be held in captivity in hope of her conceiving; embrace between male and female, failed hand-holding attempt; male character is said to be bare chested; female admires male’s body, finds him attractive; the word “hook up” is used; brief report of how virus affects males and females differently; male characters are said to be making shallow comment about females in general; male and female embrace; male and female are accused of making “kissy face” with one another; character places hand on character’s elbow; male and female are teased that they are having a lovers quarrel; character accuses another character of liking someone in a romantic fashion; female character is referred to as a vixen; male and female hold hands (4x); male and female are in close proximity to one another; male character kisses female character’s hand; young male calls teen female beautiful, informs them that they can smell “lovey-dovey” pheromones; character is attracted to another character; character catches another character cradling them; male and female hold hands; female kisses her own fingers and places them on male’s wound; teen male admires adult female, pulls female close to him in a threatening manner; characters wink at one another flirtatiously; character rests hand on character’s chest, their lips are close, but not touching; character becomes jealous of another character as he/she thinks they may be a love rival (mentioned a few times); character admires character’s weapon (flirtatious); brief flirtatious exchange; male kisses female on head, female believes/wants male to kiss her (2x); male blows a kiss flirtatiously; flirtatious wink; male and female embrace (2x); female character is referred to as male character’s girlfriend; male character wraps hands around female’s waist; male calls female beautiful; extended scene (about ½ page) characters touch each others’ faces, embrace, and kiss somewhat descriptively.
Mature Subject Matter:
Mass death, death of (a) loved one(s)/orphan, colossal city destruction/bombing/fire, war/invasion, biological/chemical weapon/virus, looting, kidnapping, survival, children fighting, child abuse.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Character smells rum; character smokes cigar (unknown age); mention nightcap being offered to children; teen smokes cigarette (2x); teen drinks alcohol; children drink beer.