September returns to Fairyland to find that her shadow, which she sacrificed to save a child in the previous book, has become the Queen of Fairyland-Below. Worse, the shadows in Fairyland are disappearing into Fairyland-Below, where they enjoy the freedom to be the masters of their own fate. But the shadows are the sources of magic in Fairyland, and as more of them leave for the underworld, magic is disappearing from Fairyland. September has to solve this problem before Fairyland disappears forever.
I was really tempted to just write a review that said, “This book is awesome and you should all go buy it now. Stop wasting time reading this review.” However, out of a sense of professional responsibility, let me explain why this book is so wonderful.
Catherynne M. Valente is the true heir to Lewis Carroll. Her imagination has created a world that is both strange and fearsome in its wonder. Every page reveals a new creation that is simultaneously new and as old as story. This is not a book that can be read quickly, for the wonderful language requires that you slow down and read it aloud in your head. (I can’t wait until my son is old enough for me to read this aloud to him.) This is a book not to just be enjoyed, but savored slowly. It is a fairy tale of the heart, of coming of age, of the cruel necessities and tender mercies of growing up. The fact that this is a book written for middle graders should not dissuade anyone from reading it. The story reads at multiple levels, and resonates with the mythic truths that underlie the best tales of things both impossible and true.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is destined to be a classic. It is a sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I read earlier this year and thought was fantastic. I wasn’t sure if Valente would be able to keep that level of magic and wit in a second novel, but she did. With this installment in the FAIRYLAND books (there will be another to come), Valente has firmly planted herself on my “buy on sight” list, and this book is on my shortlist for best novel of the year. You can expect to see my reviews of her backlist popping up in the future as I read more of this tremendously talented author.