The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
is one of my all-time favorite books ever, even though I just read it last year. A wise, witty modern children's story with everything from Wonderland to Oz to Narnia stuffed between its pages by a grinning author, it has Catherynne Valente's trademark wordy bling, but at a level kids can enjoy as much as adults. It's a book to fall in love with books by.
I was thrilled that Valente plans to do an entire series of Fairyland
books, but I opened the cover of The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
with trepidation, for it had every danger of being a disappointment. Would September's new adventures in Fairyland be as clever and heart-stopping and full of quotable quotes as the first?Yes.
“For though, as we have said, all children are heartless, this is not precisely true of teenagers. Teenage hearts are raw and new, fast and fierce, and they do not know their own strength. Neither do they know reason or restraint, and if you want to know the truth, a goodly number of grown-up hearts never learn it.”
September has been longing to return to Fairyland ever since she returned to her Nebraska farmhouse, where her mother works in an aircraft factory while her father is off at war. So when the Black Wind and the Red Wind bounce across the cornfields in a rowboat, this time September not only hears the call to Adventure, but she goes chasing after it eagerly.
When she falls to Fairyland, though, she finds that all is not right there. The events of the previous book are not simply history as is so often the case in children's books: when September lost her shadow, it became its own person.
September winced. She did not want to ask. She knew already. "Who is Halloween?" she whispered.
Shadow-Ell uncoiled his neck and turned in a circle, dancing a strange umbral dance. "Halloween, the Hollow Queen, Princess of Doing What You Please, and Night's Best Girl." The Wyverary stopped. "Why, she's you, September. The shadow the Glashtyn took down below. She says when the parties are, and how to ride them true."
September's shadow has become the Hollow Queen, ruler of Fairyland-Below, and Fairyland-Below is stealing the shadows of Fairyland above. And September, who is now thirteen, a teenager with a very new heart, has begun learning important lessons about Consequences and Not Always Getting Your Way and, in this case, Cleaning Up Your Messes.The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
is full of not just character growth for September, but for Fairyland. All of September's old friends are back, but they haven't stayed the same either. We meet new characters who are as delightful and fearsome and frolicsome as the original cast. But this time September's moments of introspect are sometimes as poignant as her confrontations.
Her heart was bruised by the kiss, smashed and surprised and unsettled by it. September thought kisses were all nice, sweet things asked for gently and given gladly. It had happened so fast and sharp it had taken her breath. Perhaps she had done it wrong, somehow. She put the kiss away firmly to think about later. Instead, she smiled at him and pulled a carefree mask over her face.
And in this brief incident, in which Saturday, the shadow of her
Saturday, the blue-skinned Marid boy she loved so, kisses her without her say-so, September challenges hundreds of years of fairy tale tropes and children's stories — no, it is not okay for someone to kiss you without asking, and though she reacts as a girl is expected to react, by smiling and pretending it is nothing, it's not
nothing and eventually September will have her say.
Fairyland-Below has twists and surprises and moments of wonder and sharp moments of betrayal. September has to start growing up - testing that raw new heart - and sometimes that means getting hurt. It means forgiving enemies and learning that sometimes your friends are not your friends.
Halloween, September's shadow, is not just a reprise of the Marquesse from the last book. Halloween is her own person, with her own Wants, and September can't simply defeat her, because she is
These are wonderful books and you should read them. I don't care how old you are.