Guest Review #9 – The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
  • Posted:
  • February 13, 2013
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Like the parents in Risky Business, Bibliopunkk has gone on a trip to an undisclosed location, leaving the world’s worst Scientologist Greg Baldino in the proverbial Joel Goodson role to dance around in Ray Bans and shirttails, make love to a prostitute on the Red Line, and fill-in for her on the blog.
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Further determined to have the most unTweetable book titles possible, Catherynne M. Valente returns to the world she created in The Girl Who Navigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making with The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. I’m going to let the magnitude of that titular array sink in for a minute.

(It’s no vendetta against social media. While on tour for the new volume, Valente admitted that the long title and the expository chapter forenotes were originally intended as a parody of lengthy Victorian fairy tales. When the book was published, and she came up with further ideas, she had to stick with her established motif.)

(See, it’s because The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making started off as a book-within-a-book, then became a crowd-sourced serial online, then got published in print and won the Andre Norton Award. Which means as of this book Cat has never written an interation of this story the same way twice.)

(Yes, I know, every certainty you were ever told about publishing just got thrown out the window. Just go with it.)

 Last time in what for brevity’s sake we’ll call Fairyland 1, September had gone off to Fairyland on her own initiative–no accident, no tripping through a portal or getting swept up by a storm, and no real pressing urgency to return to the Midwest and resume chores. In the course of which she rights a number of wrongs, makes friends with a variety of interesting entities–including a Wyverary, the offspring of a Wyvern and a library, a soap golem, bicycle wranglers, and more.

 Book two opens with September back in the real world, where her father is fighting the Nazis in Europe and her mother is Rosie the Riveter. But September is learning a hard truth for anyone who’s left a small rural town to visit the great big world beyond and come back changed: No one cares, and in fact, they kind of resent her for it. It’s a fascinating place to open a kids fantasy book, where there’s something of a persistent trope about young-person-goes-to-otherworld-makes-friends-learns-lessons-becomes-better-person, but rarely do they deal with the psychological aftermath of going back to life-as-it-is-lived-in-the-commons. Leaving home changes you, and home doesn’t always welcome the changes. Fortunately this is a Cat Valente book, which means that there’s only so long before fantastic imagery rendered in lush Byzantine language comes along, and as soon as September sees a rowboat floating across the tips of the wheat field she’s off and running.

 But all is not well in Fairyland since last our heroine saved the day in book one, and what’s more the new problems seem born out of the old solutions she came up with last time.

I’m really interested to see where she goes with this. On her recent tour, Valente confirmed that the series will run for five books, and it’s going to be interesting seeing not only what new problematic escapades September encounters, but how Valente goes about building the tale.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Lead the Revels There pulls off the task of following a top-notch stand-alone book and making it work as a series without seeming forced. Definitely worth picking up for anyone who likes Clive Barker’s Abarat or the classic Oz books by L. Frank Baum–and extraspecially worth picking up if you actually are a young adult and looking for an adventure with lots of cool stuff in it and a girl hero who’s not a milksop yearning for dreamy boys.

 The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels Thereby Catherynne M. Valente is published by Feiwel and Friends in hardcover for  $16.99


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