Everland: A Review

Everland by Wendy SpinaleLondon is in ruins, blitzed by German bombs and riddled with deadly disease. The Horologia virus never spares anyone for long.

Gwen has managed to survive but supplies are running out and it’s becoming harder to hide herself and her younger siblings, Joanna and Mikey, from the enemy soldiers, known as Marauders, who are occupying the city.

Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer–Hook–leads the Marauders and scours the city for a cure to the Horologia virus. The Marauders abduct children for experiments but none have returned.

When Joanna is taken, Gwen is desperate to get her back. Ill-prepared for a rescue mission on her own, Gwen is soon taken in by Pete, a reckless boy who leads a gang of Lost Boys hidden in London’s underground tunnels. With help from Pete and his sidekick Bella, Gwen hopes she can save her sister before time runs out in Everland (2016) by Wendy Spinale.

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Everland is Spinale’s debut novel and the start of a new series.

If you haven’t guessed yet, Everland is a steampunk retelling of Peter Pan. Spinale blends a gritty, wartorn London with steam-powered technology in this action-packed tale. Limited world building helps explain the bare bones of the story including the motives behind Germany’s invasion and Hook’s role in it. However less immediate details are absent making this novel feel strangely timeless and lacking a sense of place despite Spinale’s detailed descriptions.

This novel is narrated by Gwen with chapters from Hook interspersed throughout. Gwen’s narration is sharp and brisk as she struggles to keep herself and her siblings safe. Hook’s narration is strikingly similar though darker in tone.

Although Gwen is around sixteen, she reads much younger. The novel itself is peppered with predictable plot twists and heavy handed foreshadowing although fast-paced action helps to distract from these issues.

Readers approaching this novel as a retelling will enjoy seeing the ways Spinale reinvents familiar events and characters from the original text including clever steampunk elements. Unfortunately, in staying so close to the source material, this novel often misses opportunities to push a familiar story into truly new directions. Everland will appeal most to readers with a strong fondness for the original Peter Pan as well as steampunk fans.

Possible Pairings: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Winterspell by Claire Legrand, Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell, Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, Never, Never by Brianna Shrum, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

The Caged Graves: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Caged Graves by Dianne K. SalerniWith the Civil War just recently ended and life returning to normal, Verity Boone leaves behind the only family she has ever known in Worcester, Pennsylvania to return to her birthplace of Catawissa in 1867. While she is leaving behind urban convenience and dear relatives, Verity is eager to see her father and her old family home.

She is also keen to meet Nate, the man who courted her and proposed through letters, for the first time face-to-face.

When Verity arrives in Catawissa nothing is quite what she expected. The Boone house is rundown and neglected. Her father is unsure how to reconcile the two-year-old daughter he sent away upon his wife’s death with the seventeen-year-old woman who returned from Worcester. Even her father’s housekeeper is distant.

Worse, Nate is not what Verity expected from his letters. Faced with the reality of agreeing to marry a practical stranger, Verity wonders if coming back to Catawissa was a terrible mistake.

Verity’s misgivings multiply when she first visits the Catawissa cemetery. There she finds two graves encased in iron cages just outside the cemetery walls–buried in unconsecrated ground. Locals have any number of explanations: witchcraft, grave robbers, even rumors of hidden treasure. Verity knows these outlandish stories must be hiding a darker truth and she is determined to discover Catawissa’s secrets. As Verity tries to unearth the truth about the caged graves and Catawissa’s troubled past, she also begins to understand her own place in the town and among her own family in The Caged Graves (2013) by Dianne K. Salerni.

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The Caged Graves was inspired by two real caged graves the author saw in Catawissa. Nothing is known about the purpose of the cages but their presence inspired this novel.

The Caged Graves is a spooky, gripping read. It does not, however, include any supernatural or paranormal elements despite what the jacket summary might suggest. This book is a straightforward historical mystery. And it’s delightful.

Verity is a determined, likable heroine in a thoroughly engrossing story. Salerni’s writing is evocative of the period and well-paced as tension builds throughout the story. All of the characters in the story are well-developed and add to the story in their own way. Verity and Nate’s uneasy courtship was a particularly nice story element. I was also thrilled to see Verity’s reconnecting with her father become such a large part of the story.

With so many (lovely) historical fantasies hitting the market it was nice to find The Caged Graves was a purer historical read. The mystery element sneaks into the story as the focus shifts from Verity adjusting to Catawissa life to Verity investigating the graves. Although the resolution was a bit rushed, the ending the of the story came together logically with a very gratifying twist. The Caged Graves is a pleasant read sure to leave readers happy and eager to research the era (and the real caged graves) as soon as the story is finished.

Possible Pairings: Frost by Marianna Baer, Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare