Title: The Whatnot
Author: Stefan Bachmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There she stood, one small girl in front of twelve great globes.
I believe if you can manage to imagine the gravity of this line solely, regardless of whether you’ve either book of the duology, I’ll have the unquestionable freedom to bet my imaginary third arm against your real left one that you’ll like this story as much as, if not more than, I did. Even if you can’t, you might like it. I’m no astrologist or numerologist, or psychologist(though I am planning to be study it shits and giggles, and because my sister got a very costly and rare book on psychology for cheap cost at a book fare last year, and also I don’t want to study chem/bio the following year).
Reading The Whatnot, I was reminded of how deluded I can be sometimes, thinking that childhood memories are full of bubblegum and precious shoes, that just because the good ones are favored over the bad times doesn’t mean the latter didn’t exist, that simply because a cover hints at a fun book, it won’t always deliver.
No, I have never had to leave my family behind and stray far in a strange and wild land amidst stranger and wilder creatures; and no, I never did have to look under every rock and in all niches, pay in bruises and pride for my little sibling; and a definite no goes to roaming is solitude, which can be harsh enough without the added torment of the late 19th century Englishmen and faery around. But this dear story also tells of desperation, hope and well, how far one’ll go and lie to maintain a semblance of hope, for oneself and otherwise.
The three characters to The Whatnot each follow a thread of lonely sorrow.
Albeit he’s the newest to our tale, it didn’t take a lot for Pikey to break the forth wall with me. He’s a street kid who lost his eye to a faery and lives beneath a chemist’s shop. There’s a lot of customary dolor in his life, but all he wants is to get away from wretched England and wretched faery and have a few of them caramel apples. His narration was oh so sad, and there’s a point in the latter half where he wishes Hettie had been his sister too(for his own reasons) and it had me wishing for a paperback I could clutch and shake! Pikey’s stolen eye remains in the Old Country where dear Hettie finds and so he can occasionally get a glimpse of her, which connects two distinct worlds so disparate that even their times aren’t synchronized and also makes him invaluable to Bartholomew, which follows…
While he’s still an integral part of the story and doesn’t exactly play a cameo, Barthy appears at around the 50% mark. Years have passed since he managed to saved the world but lost his sister, and now he’s a teenager. He’s still adhering to the vow he made at the end of The Peculiar and seeking ways into the Old Country to bring back Hettie; he’s left his mother and has been adopted by Mr Jelliby for the funds and support and gates he opens to assist in Barthy’s quest. We don’t have his perspective until a very short piece during the climax of the story, however, his feels and the person he’s become aren’t difficult to get a hold of.
OH this lovely girl, how she grows! She is pathetic at times, she grows bolder, she is dismayed and she is courageous, and at one point, she wishes for the old days when she had been abducted and was different and, at the very least, special enough to be abducted, as opposed to the current time when she’s scorned and petted and kept on a leash. Her intractable belief that Barthy will come back, that he’ll save her one day keeps her going even whilst she’s incarcerated in an absurd and frenzied faery house, circumventing pity piskies and the Belusites.
And I have this quote I have been waiting to use, although I’ve forgotten where I got(some help):
We hope, dream, regret, yearn, and engage in all sorts of behavior good and bad that reveals the inner workings of our spirits. Nothing more than that should be needed to qualify as alive.
There is darkness to Bachman’s story, belied by his clean prose and unhealthily fun cover(I have major peeves). Not only for his characters and putting aside their emotional egressions, this tale has a miscible alchemy of the erratic and fiendish nature of ours, and the unapparent things we take for granted. Or so it appears to me.
In the plot section, the Whatnot follows the formula set in the previous installment. There’s unrelated mishaps in the beginning leading to future events, which involve seeking missing sister and saving the world. While The Peculiar set about introducing and acclimating us with the steampunk, alternate London of 1850’s, the second book takes us deep into the heart of the original faery realm, their ways of the old and the changed ones, rendering the traditional image of faeries and their violent, implausible and extremely fickle personalities, while still not creating entirely immovable, emotionless creatures as faeries have been depicted elsewhere.
Bachman’s debut novel didn’t give him an indelible place in tbr list, but The Whatnot managed that and more. This is not the best series out there, in fact I can name some awesome MG books right off the top of my head(A FACE LIKE GLASS|WHEN YOU REACH ME), but I still am glad, for myself, that I didn’t miss out on it.
Bubbles of gratitude to Harpercollins for giving me a free review copy. Because they’re hollow and pretty so my thanks will be conserved even while I appear very magnanimous in the stead of a miser.