November 20, 2013

A thrilling return trip to Fairyland

By Catherynne M. Valente
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Anyone who has read Catherynne M. Valente’s first book for young readers, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and marveled at the author’s fantastic prose and vivid imagination, was pleased to find that Valente had not lost her touch in the second book, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. But her characters are so fantastical, her descriptions so alluring and her philosophies so poignant that surely Valente couldn’t do it again, could she? She has. The third book in the series, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, is as brilliantly written as the first two and an absolute thrill to read.

The protagonist, a girl named September who lives in Nebraska, first went to Fairyland when she was 12 years old—still a child, still easily borne into an alternate world. But now she is 14 and practically grown and not sure that she isn’t too old to get back in, even though it is her only heart’s desire. She needn’t have worried, for Fairyland needs her as much as she needs it. September rescued Fairyland from an evil Marquess in the first book, set things in order in Fairyland-Below in the second, and now she must travel to the Moon in Fairyland and save it as well. Luckily for her, her best friends Saturday (a boy born from the sea) and A-Through-L the Wyverary (part wyvern, part library) are waiting for her and ready to go adventuring.

As with any book, we could sketch out the plot, relay a few details and tell you of the self-discoveries that September makes, but it almost doesn’t matter with Valente’s books. It’s in the telling of the story itself that the magic happens. Reading this author transports you—her prose is magnificent, her narrative voice more than compelling. I cannot stop dog-earing pages for passages I want to remember and share. Like Oz and Wonderland, Valente’s Fairyland will draw you in, but unlike Dorothy and Alice (but much like September), you will not want to leave. The only thing I missed this time around are Ana Juan’s fantastic illustrations, but only because they weren’t included in my review copy.


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