Spinale Spins Epic Wonder with UMBERLAND

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Umberland by Wendy Spinale

In EVERLAND, Wendy Spinale took readers through a mind-magnet of a tale with a steampunk rendition of the legend of Peter Pan. It involved a virus that wiped out most of the adults, set upon the world by the Bloodred Queen and her devoted son, Captain Hans Otto Oswald Kretschmer (or "Hook"). After the bombing of London, Pete and his Lost Boys, along with the seemingly immune Gwen and her siblings, left the Everland province with what they thought was a cure for the horrible Horologia virus.

It was a case where the cure was worse than the disease.

Now taking refuge in Northumberland, under the protection of the Dutchess Alyssa, Pete and his crew face a revolt from the youth citizens who find that the side effects of the cure are too painful to bear; blisters that form along the fingers and hand, as well as others. Some of them answer the call of Princess Katt, the sister to the ailing Queen of England for whom Alyssa is filling in. Katt offers the suffering access to the Poison Garden, overseen by Maddox Hadder, a potions master who offers them a pain-free way out of their suffering.

Alyssa and Maddox are going to have to make an alliance, however, as Pete's best medic, Doc, finds more information on the ingredients that made the Horologia virus -- an extract from a certain poison apple, which supposedly no longer exists. But Maddox is a master of all poisonous plants, and he knows where one can be found -- if Alyssa wants to leave Northumberland behind and descend into a wonderland of madness.

Alyssa and Maddox aren't the only ones seeking the poison apple, however. Captain Hook and his stepbrother, Jack, are also in pursuit of the item, at the behest of the Bloodred Queen. It seems the coldhearted monarch finds herself in need of the cure to the Horologia virus -- not just so that she can control its distribution and have the world subservient to her, but also to cure herself.

The problem with getting to the apple tree isn't finding it. They both know exactly where it is. It's in the center of a deadly maze, the entire purpose of which is to confound, confuse, and kill. Entering from different sides, Maddox and Alyssa, and Hook and Jack, will have to deal with deadly traps, poisons that rob one of reason, and even a very bloodthirsty septet of dwarfs.

It's a fascinating clockwork twist on some familiar themes that will take readers down a rabbit hole of adventure. I can't wait to see what's next!

4.5 / 5.0