Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

By: Catherynne M. Valente 

Published: Oct. 2, 2012 
Pages: 258 
Series: Fairyland #2 

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.

Fans of Valente’s bestselling, first Fairyland book will revel in the lush setting, characters, and language of September’s journey, all brought to life by fine artist Ana Juan. Readers will also welcome back good friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. But in Fairyland Below, even the best of friends aren’t always what they seem. . . .

If I liked the first book in this series, (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making) I adored this one. When I came home tonight I placed the order for my pre-order of the next book in this series because I am so excited to see what happens next in this fantastical world. I was in the perfect mood to read this book when I picked it up and the quirkiness of it just drew me in this time. During the first book, I sometimes felt pushed away from the world because of the bizarre elements. I don't know it was familiarity with Valente's writing or the mood I was in, but this book clicked with me so much better than the first.

September has found her way back into Fairyland after some time at home. She finds it different and without the same magic that it had before because the magic is disappearing along with everyone's shadows. Her shadow, Halloween, has been misbehaving and stealing all the shadows from the topside of Fairyland. While September is trying to reconnect with her shadow she travels through Fairyland-Below, which is a very different place than Fairyland-Above. Instead of a whimsical story about saving Fairyland, I found this book to be about one of my least favorite things. Growing up. (My favorite Disney movie was Peter Pan. I hate talking about growing up because I never wanted to do it.) However, I was able to forgive this book because luckily September is doing a much better job than I did, but I'll get back to that.

I did not read these books in rapid fire so I have forgotten some of the details about A through L and Saturday since then. However, I remembered why I loved them so much when I met their shadows. While the shadows are similar to September's friends, there are differences as well. I loved that the shadows gave Valente's characters more depth. They felt wrong because I missed their lovely counterparts, but there is also a more sinister and darker feel to Fairyland-Below. The shadows add to that darkness (no pun intended). Even so, I felt for the shadows because they have experienced everything their counterparts have, but have never been given any credit or thanks or ridicule for what they have done. Now that they have been separated they do not want to go back even though it may be endangering all of Fairyland.

There are so many strange and bizarre moments in both of these books. Unlike Alice in Wonderland, where I was frustrated at the with the strange and crazy writing, I really enjoyed the strange creatures and happenings of Fairyland. I love how Valente speaks to the reader as the story goes along and keeps me in the loop and also keeps me guessing the whole time. Elements always come back around to be important long after I dismissed them from my mind.

Something else I really love is that Valente sneaks in lessons about life in her fantastical world when I'm not even looking. September is of course older in this story and she begins to see the real consequences of what she did to Fairyland in order to save it. There are lessons pouring out of this story and many mature topics are touched on throughout this story. This time around things are more difficult because they always are as you grow up and everything is more complex. She encounters different problems and doesn't have one villain to fight at the end of her journey. Instead she has to solve many different problems that don't have black and white answers while dealing with betrayal, love and Dodo birds. September's growth between books is wonderful to see but she really blossoms into her new form throughout this book. Valente also develops her other character so September is not the only one who has matured and Fairyland becomes even more interesting and complex when you see the underside of it.

Overall I loved this book more than the first and I'm going to be busy reading the next book as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Rating 5/5

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