Title: Seven Wherewithal Way
Author: Samantha-Ellen Bound
Publisher: Affirm Press
Published: 28th September 2021
Synopsis: Ferdinand fell out of the sky on the hottest day of the year, while Celeste and Esmerelda Barden were on the front porch eating ice-cream.
Celeste is having the worst summer ever. Her parents are off on an adventure and she’s stuck at Gran’s house with her annoying little sister, Esme, and strict instructions to be responsible. Or, as Esme says, boring. So when their eccentric cousin Ferd crash-lands a flying bus in the yard, what choice does Celeste have but to follow Ferd back home to Seven Wherewithal Way?
Wherewithal – Ferd’s house, and the gateway to the many Realms unreachable from Earth – is bursting with magic and mystery and otherworldly creatures. It’s Celeste’s favourite place in any world. But when something tries to break in through the portal in the pantry – the door to the mystical Realm of Forests – Celeste learns that both Wherewithal and her beloved cousin are under threat. If Celeste wants to save her cousin, their home, its inhabitants and possibly even all the Realms, she is going to have to find her adventurous side. Fast.
Full of heart-in-your-mouth action, unforgettable characters and folklore-inspired magic that feels both fresh and familiar, Seven Wherewithal Way is the unputdownable first book in an epic portal fantasy series.
Seven Wherewithal Way is the exciting first book in a new portal fantasy series, where the portal from our world to the magical world is a flying bus called Bonnie. When cousin Ferd crashes Bonnie into Celeste and Esme’s garden whilst they’re eating ice-cream, Esme and Celeste follow him back to Wherewithal Way, and a world of gateways to different faerie realms – and Celeste loves it. It is when she learns these realms, portals and her cousin are under threat that she thrusts herself into an epic battle and adventure to stop the intruder and save Wherewithal Way and its wondrous portals from imminent danger – the question is, can she become adventurous enough to do it?
Seven Wherewithal Way is a book that has been on my shelf for many months, and I have finally managed to read it and I was hooked from the opening line to the end, because it is one of those thrilling, edge of your seat fantasy stories where everything makes sense and at the same time, seems chaotic – but that’s what I as a reader like in a good fantasy novel. A little bit of chaos so that it seems like things might not make sense until all the dots are connected, and that’s what I feel Samantha-Ellen Bound has done in Seven Wherewithal Way.
I’ve read so many portal fantasy stories, and what I find interesting is how each author addresses the portal. Whether it is a rabbit hole, a wardrobe, a train, or a bus and then a pantry cupboard as is done in this book, each one is delivered in a unique way. I think that is the most important thing – the way the author delivers their portal and gets their characters through it. As I have read a lot, there are often only so many ways a portal can manifest, so the uniqueness may not be in what the portal is, but how it is used. I can’t wait to see how other portals work in this series as each book comes out.
Celeste and Esme had an interesting sibling relationship, at times kind and at other times, fraught with the usual annoyances that siblings have with each other, which will make their arguments and collaboration relatable to people with siblings and provide an insight into sibling relationships for only children. The reality of this relationship, when coupled with the fantasy world, the numerous mythological and fairy tale figures from a range of traditions, as well as the magical world and battle the siblings enter enriches the story and allows readers to go on a journey and have fun as well as finding something relatable in the book that they are reading. Books like this are magical in so many ways, I find. It gives us a chance to process what we’re feeling whilst going on a magical journey in a fantasy world that exists so powerfully in our imaginations as readers.
As a book for middle grade to young adult readers, it definitely sits comfortably at the confident reader end of the scale, and I think can be enjoyed by readers of all ages from about ten and older. I loved that it had a definitive ending yet also leads into a sequel, so we have something good to look forward to for Celeste, Ferd, Bonnie the bus, and Esme. This is definitely a book I will be hanging onto and reading again at some stage, I hope. It has everything I love in a good fantasy novel, and I think we’re in a golden age of Australian kids, middle grade and young adult fiction – there are so many good books out there that I would love to read them all, and I love reading kids’ books like this because they are so joyous and fun, and even if they deal with heavy and dark issues, they do so in an accessible way, that makes readers feel safe and nurtured. The world of Wherewithal is somewhere I would love to go, and can’t wait for the second book so I can return.