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Seven Wherewithal Way: Over the Mountains and Through the Desert

By Samantha-Ellen Bound

Reviewed by Helen Gearing

Samantha-Ellen Bound’s highly original debut novel, What the Raven Saw (shortlisted for the Adelaide Festival Literature Award), planted her firmly on the Australian kidlit scene in 2013 and her latest middle-grade series, Seven Wherewithal Way, is also full of quirk and adventure. The cover illustrations and design by award-winning artist Flavia Sorrentino are exquisite, with each title in the series featuring a different realm – and promising adventure galore.
In Books One and Two, eleven-year-old Celeste and her little sister Esme are whisked off to Seven Wherewithal Way, the magical home of their cousin Ferd and a gateway to many other realms. In between babysitting Esme – who is headstrong and full of attitude – Celeste faces a dizzying cast of folklore creatures as she helps save her cousin, and all The Realms, from a powerful creature who is orchestrating a violent rebellion.
In Book Three, Celeste and Esme are summoned to a new realm by The Order (a peacekeeping inter-realm organisation) who disapprove of Ferd’s unconventional approach to resisting the rebellion. When the sisters are taken hostage, Celeste must escape, rescue a friend, and navigate her evolving relationship with her sister, who is demanding more independence. And as the rebellion’s reach extends, Celeste must use her sharp intuition to decide who to trust, especially in relation to using her new powers – because this time it’s not just The Realms at stake, but everyone Celeste cares about.
Over the Mountains and Through the Desert is filled with new and fascinating creatures borrowed from Japanese and African folklore. Celeste meets terrifying rokurokubi (human-like creatures whose heads can detach and fly after their victims), a powerful ningyo (fish-woman) who rules the ocean and demands unwavering fealty from all sea life, and a gentle kirin (a creature with the body of a deer, tail of an ox and a single horn) who can only communicate by quoting poetry.
Bound writes lyrically, and amongst the fast-paced action there is plenty of humour and sophisticated world building. Readers nine and older who are fans of Percy Jackson will devour this magical portal fantasy, although I recommend starting at Book One as there is a large cast of characters to navigate.
Affirm Press 2024
1942 Amsterdam Ave NY (212) 862-3680

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