Book Review: “Umberland” by Wendy Spinale

In the sequel to Everland, author Wendy Spinale takes us back to her steampunk alternate universe, where the world has been ravaged by a mysterious disease. Whereas Everland played with the classic story of Peter Pan, Umberland takes Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland as its inspiration. Joining Gwen and Pete on the continuation of their adventures is Duchess Alyssa, determined to save the realm after the Queen of England is brought down by the sickness, and Maddox Hatter, the enigmatic gardener she’s not sure she can trust. Alyssa and Maddox must find the center of a deadly maze to obtain the key ingredient for the cure – and the Bloodred Queen is looking for it too.

I always have a hard time getting into a book in a series that has changed protagonists from the previous installment, and this is no exception. Although Pete and Gwen are in this book, they mostly move in the background, and few other characters from Everland appear at all, except for Jack and his brother Hook. Unfortunately, I don’t think Umberland survives the transition well. Not only are we removed from the characters we’ve come to care about, the very plot undoes most of the work of the first book. You thought we cured that deadly disease? Just kidding, it’s deadlier than ever!

Alyssa never solidified into a concrete personality for me, and while Spinale has given Maddox a cool backstory, ultimately he’s just not that interesting either. On the bright side, the book cover is great, and Spinal continues to excel at depicting the gruesome reality of a world ravaged by disease – if only that world were populated by more interesting people! On the whole, the book felt tired, and I had a hard time paying attention. Here’s hoping Book 3 is more satisfying.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.