The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M Valente
|The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M Valente|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Thirteen-year-old September at last manages to return to Fairyland, but she discovers that things are going badly there: magic is disappearing along with people's shadows. Once again she must gather her courage in both hands and set off on a quest.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 344||Date: January 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
September has had various wonderful adventures in Fairyland already, and because she ate Fairy food she knows she will return. But a year has gone by without a word from her friends, and in the meantime she has become a teenager. This changes her, for it is the time when human children grow a heart, and when at last the summons comes, she finds her adventures are far more complex than they were before.
In the first volume in the series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making September journeys with a motley crew of creatures across and around Fairyland in an attempt to defeat a wicked Marquess. During her travels she gives away her shadow to save a little pooka girl from the horse-headed Glashtyn, and this turns out to be the cause of all the problems in the second book. September learns that her shadow has experienced the heady freedom of not being forced to do exactly what September does, with no free will of her own. It has become the Hollow Queen and is determined never to join with her again. It is now gathering other shadows together in a wild, unending celebration which has the unfortunate effect of slowly sucking all the magic out of Fairyland.
The book has a slow beginning, rich in detail and imagery. This is not going to be a helter-skelter rush through encounters, perils and fairy worlds, though all those elements are there, but a measured and thoughtful journey, with asides and comments on the nature of the heart, and lush, highly colourful imagery. In fact, some readers will want to read it once for the story, and then again for the language. It follows on very closely from the first volume, and while it would just about be possible to read this book as a stand-alone, it is not recommended because the reader would lose a fair amount of insight into the overall story and the relationships. Many of the characters here are shadows (literally!) of their former selves, and even some of the plot devices are reprised in a minor key (please excuse the pun).
This is a far more subtle and nuanced approach to fairy tales, and it is hard to see how our heroine will reconcile all these diametrically opposed demands. Both parties want freedom and happiness, and both, surely, have rights. And the shadow characters, while at times self-centred and greedy, can also be as loving and kindly as their other halves in the world above. Furthermore, the whole story is shot through with a hint of possible sorrow and tragedy awaiting September when (that is to say, if) she returns to the ordinary, non-magical world. It is a darker, more grow-up story with no guarantee of happy ever after. There are echoes of Alice in Wonderland, with odd, unsettling characters who allow traces of cruelty, greed and self-indulgence to peek out from beneath their apparent bonhomie, along with a generous dollop of charming and heart-warming nonsense. And like that book, it is well worth the time and effort a careful, patient and attentive reader will put into reading it. It is delightful, original, funny and scary — and at times it is also a little strange. Isn't that what a fairy tale should be?
To fully enjoy this book you really ought to read the first volume The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. And another book about a feisty young girl caught in a strange and bewildering world can be found in the excellent A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M Valente at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M Valente at Amazon.com.
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