Monday, December 16, 2013

The Whatnot Review

My husband bought me The Peculiar last year as a surprise Christmas present and I completely loved it, despite being a bit suspicious of how good it could possibly be since a teenager wrote it. However, as I wrote in my recap of the previous book, Stefan Bachmann is a wealth of talent and I sincerely hope he keeps writing.

Bachmann dives back into his alternate London with Arthur Jelliby at a party celebrating the upcoming war with the faeries. The action quickly switches to Hettie, off in the Old Country with the faery butler, and a new character, a street urchin known as Pikey Thomas, who lives in London. Hettie's brother, Bartholomew takes the back seat in this adventure, showing up about 30% into the book and leading Pikey in an attempt to rescue Hettie. Arthur Jelliby, one of the protagonists in the first book makes only the most minor of appearances here. Most of the book follows Pikey, whose eye was stolen some time before by a fairy. Instead of a human eye, he has a grey eyeball that sometimes catches glimpses of the Old Country. When Hettie, in the Old Country herself, picks up a pretty necklace from which hangs something that looks like a human eye, a connection is established between the two. Bartholomew needs Pikey's help in getting into the Old Country to rescue Hettie and he is also comforted by the occasional glimpses of Hettie that Pikey sees.

Hettie, meanwhile, gets taken in by a fairy noble, who seeks to make the little girl's life miserable. She wants Hettie to be her Whatnot, or living toy of a sort. The girl doesn't realize how long she has been gone. There are references to her having been missing for years, but the exact amount of time is unclear. Hettie is smart, stubborn and resourceful so despite the twists and turns that her storyline takes, it's clear that she's a survivor, who is willing to sacrifice herself if need be. It seems that between the books, Bartholomew became the ward of Jelliby and spent all of his time and money searching for his sister. Bath, where the majority of the action took place, is barely mentioned, while even London takes a back seat. The Old Country is vividly described by Bachmann, especially the creepy, constantly changing manor house where Hettie lives for a time.

Eventually Pikey and Hettie's storylines converge, as London preps for a major war against the faeries that they've hated for so many years. Everything comes to a head as the faeries from the Old Country find a way into London. The ending is very satisfactory and wraps the plot up nicely, if a little quickly. I felt bad for the kids' mother, who seems to have no role in any of this. I wonder if Barth ever went home to check in on her. The Whatnot is billed as a companion to The Peculiar and seems to have wrapped up the plot nicely. I know Bachmann is writing a third book, but it's unclear if it will be connected to this world or not. All in all, this was a fast paced, enjoyable novel that lived up to the promise of the first.

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble

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