Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review: 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
Published: Feiwel & Friends, 2012
Series: Book 2 of Fairyland
Awards Nominated: Locus YA Award

The Book:

September has longed to return to Fairyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows—and their magic—to the world of Fairyland Below. This underworld has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September’s shadow. And Halloween does not want to give Fairyland’s shadows back.”

This, the 2nd Fairyland book, is the third novel I’ve read by Valente, though I have also read some of her short fiction. I would strongly recommend readers to begin this series with Book 1, The
Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making.

My Thoughts:

On this journey to Fairyland, September is no longer a mostly-heartless child, but instead has the painful new heart of an adolescent, with its confusing, intense feelings.  This causes the story to be slightly more mature, and also, in my opinion, gives it more of a feeling of connection to the real world.  In the first book, September initially ran off to Fairyland with little thought to her parents, but this time she carries her fear and worry for her father, a soldier in World War II, with her. Her experience in Fairyland is accordingly darker, as she comes into a world that is slowly losing its magic (which is now rationed) in a war with Fairyland Below.

The story builds on a decision September made in the first book, when she chose to sacrifice her shadow in order to save someone. That shadow has now become the queen of Fairyland Below, and the queen is using her terrifying henchman, the Alleyman, to pull the shadows of others into her kingdom. However, Halloween is not exactly evil, she is merely someone who wants things very badly, and who is not too concerned with the effects of her actions on the wider world.  This left her as a rather ambiguous and complicated villain, especially since many of the things she wanted were not necessarily bad in themselves.  

This ties in to one of the things I found most interesting about the idea of the shadows—Halloween was not September’s evil twin, but instead represented the things about herself that she kept hidden or suppressed. The novel describes people’s shadows—their ‘dark sides’—as follows:

“…sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colorful parts, cunning or powerful or even marvelous, beautiful parts, just locked away at the bottom of their hearts” ~p. 72

Several major recurring characters appear throughout the story as their shadow selves, and I found it really interesting to see what parts of their personalities they chose to hide from others. I missed seeing some of them in their ordinary forms, like A-Through-L and Saturday, but there were plenty of interesting new characters to get to know as well.

Fairyland Below is just as large as Fairyland Above, and this second novel has just as impressive of a whirlwind of fantastical creatures and ideas—the economic systems of Goblin Markets, J√§rlhopp miners with gem-stored memories, minotaurs, forests of glass and much more.  There’s also magical Physickists this time around, which naturally piqued my interest.  I was delighted by the bizarre translation of physics academia into the fantastic, and especially loved this particular little joke about Questing Physicks: 

 “It is my dearest hope that one day I shall be the one to discover the GUT—the Grand Unified Tale, the one which will bind together all our Theorems and Laws, leaving out not one Orphan Girl or Youngest Son or Cup of Life and Death.” ~p. 120

Sure, it’s a simple joke,but it made me happy. Valente’s writing is also as lovely and poetic as ever, and I feel like I could have quoted half the book here as memorable passages. Altogether, this is an excellent addition to the Fairyland series, and I am looking forward to following September as she grows up through the coming novels.

My Rating: 4.5/5

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is a wonderful sequel to the delightful first book of the series.  September is a little older now, and as she moves from childhood into adolescence, her story has become a bit more mature and darker as well.  This time, she is dealing with shadows, the parts of themselves that people conceal, as well as her fear for her father, who is away in World War II.  September’s Fairyland adventures still run through a seemingly endless barrage of creative fantastical ideas, and the villain is, once again, more complicated than one might expect.  I'm really enjoying the series, and can’t wait to read the next novel!

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