Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Genre: MG, Fairytale Retellings, AWESOME.
Publication Date: October 2, 2012 (Macmillan – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: September returns to Fairyland to reunite with A-Through-L, Saturday, and Gleam, and to confront her shadow-self, who has become the queen of Fairyland-Below, the upside-down world beneath the Fairyland of the first novel, filled with creatures of water and shadow, tales of ancient Fairyland before the human world was born, and not a few hungry buffins, blind birds of ice and moonlight. The yearly revels of Fairyland-Below climax in a mysterious rite September must avert or else lose her shadow forever.
☆: 4.5/5 stars! Definitely one of the best of 2012 so far.
Review: Wow. I thought I liked the first book, but this second book knocks the first right out of the park. Do you like shadows and mystery and magic? If so, “The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led Revels There” (what a mouthful!) is so definitely the book for you! I enjoyed the first, and it was very easy to sink back into Valente’s style of old-time storytelling and wonderful characters. But this time, it’s a lot more dark, and a lot more beautiful.
As the technical areas of this book were more or less perfection, in this review I’ll be talking about stuff that I really, really liked that Valente dove into.
There’s this question of growing up that gets tossed about much like Barrie tossed it about in “Peter Pan”, and whether growing up makes you lose the ability to use, see, and participate in magical worlds. I loved that Valente explored this question as it feels like not a lot of MG books have done this recently (and certainly, not a lot of YA books, either), as it’s one of the most important questions in a child’s mind – what will happen when I grow up? What will I lose? What will I gain? September turning 13 and in effect, “growing up” within a country at war (guessing WWII here – and that speeds the process even more) doesn’t quite entirely fit back into Fairyland as she remembered it, and she’s waited forever to get back there (okay, one year, but it feels like forever). Valente talks about how one loses one’s “wild bits” as one grows up, and it just really struck a chord in me. Most of this book did, but especially the discussion of losing the shadow self as one grows older.
The shadow self aspect I felt was exceptionally Jungian and beautifully rendered. Who would want to go back to the real world with a war going on and a single mom trying to do the best for her kid and ration cards? Halloween the Hallow Queen makes an excellent argument there, and pretty much all of the time we spend in Fairyland-Below was just…stunning. There’s no other word I can find to name it thus. I love the idea of shadows and playing with them, so an entire kingdom inhabited by them was exceptionally spellbinding. I feel like Valente really grew as a writer here, talking about this area of the self that we constantly try to deny (but one which children openly embrace), and all that comes with it.
Last thing: the world. Thought you liked Fairyland last time? Just wait until you go to Fairyland-Below. I LOVED all the shadows, Halloween, the Periodic Table of Tea Time, the Goblin Market, and the Revels. Oh lord, the Revels were absolutely lovely. Again, another area where I feel Valente really grew as an author was with worldbuilding (absolutely fantastic job), with some new and old characters that weave very well back into the world itself, and with sensory language and imagery. So, so good.
Final verdict? You simply must read this book – it’ll definitely enchant readers of all ages. However, you should probably pick up the first book before you dive into this one, or else you might get more than a bit confused. “Fairyland #2” is out today through Macmillan in North America, so what are you waiting for? Go and check it out as soon as you can!