Review: Seven Wherewithal Way by Samatha-Ellen Bound

on LoveOzKidLit, Middle Grade, Australian
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Seven Wherewithal Way by Samantha-Ellen Bound
Published by Affirm Press
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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 by Samatha-Ellen Bound is the first book in a current middle-grade fantasy series published by independent Australian publisher Affirm Press.

The story begins in our world, with sisters Celeste and Esme bickering in the hot summer heat (relatable). This sets the tone of their relationship dynamic for the duration of the book, Celeste the older, responsible (boring) one, and Esme, the impulsive younger one. Both are resentful of the other and desperate for adventure.

Adventure arrives suddenly, with the latest appearance of their cousin Ferdinand who whisks them off on a flying bus to Wherewithal Way, the gateway to the magical Realms where trouble is brewing.

Mysterious cousin with a flying bus, magical realms, possibly disastrous quest, what else could you need in a story?

After spending some time becoming reacquainted with the inhabitants of Wherewithal Way (helping the reader become acquainted with some realm history and world-building), the sisters are drawn into a more hands-on adventure.

Rocketing from one scrap to the next at a break-neck speed, it’s almost impossible to keep track of all the folklore-inspired creatures and incidents that occur. This strongly adds to the sense of the story as a chaotic adventure, but at points it did feel a little out of control. It didn’t really have a negative impact on the overall reading experience though. This is the author’s first fantasy, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this element is improved, whether to be more purposeful or to slow down a little.

The concept of the realms, the world-building, and the plot are extremely imaginative and very immersive. You can tell the author has done a lot of research to draw on for her own versions of magical lore and creatures. There are so many interesting characters, and I think she’s done a great job of creating a strong sense of the dynamics between characters and how that can differ. This really helps with connection to a range of characters, and I think is important given that they also have a lot of flaws.

In many parts of the story, neither sister is shown at their best, often bickering and begrudging the other’s experiences. They absolutely act their age. At times, this is a little grating and I think particularly to adult readers (who aren’t the target audience so not that relevant). However, as an eldest sister of a large family, I found the dynamic to be very real. I do hope there’s some more growth in that area in the rest of the series.

Ferdinand can also be very careless with them. I absolutely loved how the story didn’t shy away from the danger and irresponsible nature of children going on an adventure. However, I did find it quite difficult to read about some their response to Celeste’s mistakes, particularly at the end. I do strongly believe young readers should be afforded the respect of characters who do not get things right, and explore complex emotions, so I wouldn’t necessarily say it shouldn’t have been included. It was just a bit distressing (which is ok, books can make you feel things).

At around 400 pages, this book is packed to the brim with fantastical adventure, magic, chaos but also fraught emotions and complicated characters. I would probably recommend for the older end of middle grade, depending on the kid.

If you enjoy Diana Wynne Jones or Jessica Townsend, this is a good book to pick up.