There can be something eminently satisfying about reading a really good series. Yet it can be frustrating when each book ends on a cliffhanger, and waiting a year or more for the next one can be irritating (take note, George R.R. Martin). Three cheers, then, for award-winning author Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series. Every book has been an exceptional romp with a conclusive ending. Each successive book builds on the last, but doesn’t leave you feeling as if too much is left unresolved.
For those of us who started at the beginning with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, we have followed the protagonist September from the ages of 12 to 17. We’ve watched her visit and mend Fairyland, make friends and make numerous self-discoveries. In the end, she always returns to her home in Nebraska, and we feel with her the ache to return to the magical world. However, at the end of the last book, September was left holding the crown, facing the possibility of staying to be Queen of Fairyland. The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, as a final installment, is as full of wondrous prose as the other books—which only makes it all the more heartbreaking to think it is the last we’ll see of September.
Valente does an admirable job of catching the reader up on what’s what and who’s who for those who have not read the earlier novels, but if you start with this one, I guarantee you’ll want to go back and read the rest. By making Fairyland itself a character and its heart the object of a quest, the author has indisputably taken the fantasy story to a new level. The publisher recommends this book for readers aged 10 to 14, but I would make that 10 to 100.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a Pre-K through 8th level Catholic school.