Book Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

And now for something completely different.

Okay, not completely different, only sort of different. I’ve spent most of these blog posts writing/complaining about me and my life, and today I wanted to talk about something else. And, being me, the first thing that popped into my head was this book that I just finished:

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

This book is the sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (and yes, the anticipated third book will have a title just as long), and both books are, in short, amazing. Someone recently told me they sounded “Neil-Gaiman-y” and that’s a pretty apt description. Valente has the same sort of dark touch to her fantasy, without ever losing touch with the enchantment of it. If you love fairy tales with a twist, if your favorite narrator is the kind that engages the reader directly and is full of dry wit and has a Fondness for Capital Letters, if you like your fantasy to be fantastic and colorful and exciting and glorious, but still sometimes a little dark, then you will love these books.

Fairyland has it all: magic, witches (who only tell the future, everything else is done by other magical folk), a Wyverary (a Wyvern whose father was a Library), herds of bicycles (properly called velocipedes), a province where it is always Autumn, and Pandemonium, a constantly moving capital city that relocates according to the needs of narrative. It’s fantastic and whimsical and not a little dangerous and I totally fell in love with it. In this second book, you get to meet its shadow: Fairyland-Below.

When we left our heroine, September, at the end of the last book, she had just returned from her first adventure in Fairyland, having made some friends, defeated the tyrant Marquess, and lost her shadow. Now, a year later, September is eagerly anticipating her return to Fairlyland, where her friends will be wating for her and, of course, all will be well. She’ll have adventures and explore and not have to worry herself about Local Politicks. It will be a grand time.

But of course, nothing is ever so simple in Fairyland, and September’s shadow has been busy. She’s become Halloween, the Hollow Queen, ruler of Fairyland-Below, and is intent on doing anything she wants, and damn the consequences.

This is an excellent sequel in that it builds on the framework the previous book established, further developing characters we’ve already come to know and love–although, this being Fairyland-Below, where everything is slantwise and upside-down, the people there are not always quite what they seem. The book is darker and more serious in some ways than its predecessor, because September is growing up. She’s thirteen, and she’s beginning to develop a heart (in the first book, she, like most children, was Somewhat Heartless). She has to deal with the consequences of her actions and clean up the mess she–and her shadow–have caused in Fairyland, both Above and Below. September comes to Fairyland this time around thinking she knows how things work, since she’s been there before, but she quickly realizes that’s not the case. Even though she has friends with her, in some ways September is much more on her own during her Quest in this book, and it’s great to watch her deal with each twist the story throws at her, and roundly tell off anyone who tries to tell her that she can’t do things for herself.

Of course, even with all the darkness of Fairyland-Below, there’s plenty of enchantment and fun as well, with lots of new quirky characters and bits of Fairyland trivia. The ending is clever and unexpected and somewhat heartbreaking and utterly wonderful. In short, I loved this book just as much as the first one, and if you are even slightly interested in fantastic literature or fairy tales, you should read both immediately.

 

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