At the end of The Peculiar (2012), Bachmann’s debut, the evil faery Mr. Lickerish had used half-faery Bartholomew’s little sister, Hettie, as a Door to open the way between England and the Old Country; here is what happens next.
Years have passed in England, and humans are winning the country back from the faeries. One-eyed orphan Pikey (his other was stolen one night, a clouded, useless orb left in its place) ekes out a meager existence in London’s underbelly. When a faery returns a favor with an astonishing gem, he tries to pawn it and, predictably, ends up in deep trouble. Meanwhile, Hettie struggles to survive in the Old Country, where just a few days have passed. Captured by the lady Piscaltine and kept as her pet Whatnot, Hettie waits in terror for Bartholomew to rescue her. The story alternates between the Old Country and England, between twig-haired Hettie and Pikey; somehow, he can see her through his clouded eye, which makes him very valuable to Bartholomew, who rescues him from jail for its sake. Bachmann unleashes his boundless imagination in his descriptions of the Old Country, whose rules and landscape are capricious and ever-changing. Hettie’s terror is well-justified. Detail upon baroque detail piles up as Bartholomew and Pikey race to find Hettie, the war between humans and faeries inevitably catching them up in it—as does friendship.
It’s a bleak and breathless read, one that will have readers hoping for a peaceful outcome as fervently as its characters do. (Fantasy. 10-15)