It was around this time last year that I read Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (my review of it is here.) After reading it I cheerfully said “The sequel just came out! I can’t wait to read it!”
Apparently I could wait, because it took me a year to get around to it. And I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. I recommend you read it sooner.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland features the return of September, the girl who saved Fairyland before returning home. Not surprisingly, 1940’s Nebraska is not nearly so exciting for September as Fairyland, and she’s had a difficult year adjusting. It doesn’t help that her father is away at the war, her mother works very long hours at the factory, and the girls at school know something’s different about September, which doesn’t earn her any friends.
In a lot of young adult books we’d probably have to wade through a few dozen pages while the main character gets into fights or sulks miserably or learns to somehow appreciate life in the Real World. Luckily, this is not that kind of book. Valente knows what we really want; she drops September back into Fairyland before the end of the first chapter.
(Valente must be a C.S. Lewis fan; he would’ve done the same thing.)
Once again Valente fills Fairyland with beautifully off-kilter people and creatures. We meet the Duke of Teatime and the Vicerine of Coffee, a Watchful Dress, a train named Bertram, a dodo named Aubergine, a kangaroo who mines for memories, an Onion Prince, and an Oat Knight. Those are just some of the ones we’re introduced to personally, there are lots of other people wandering around in the background, filling up Valente’s dreamlike world.
Some of September’s friends from the previous book make an appearance, sort of. Something weird has happened to everyone’s shadows, and it’s made relationships a little complicated.
The odd science of Fairyland was particularly fun in this book, the little “facts” that Fairyland natives take for granted:
If you want to have a marketplace, you have to hunt for one and capture it, minding the fact that fish-monger stalls will be much more dangerous than a little fruit market. Tea and coffee have to be matched to whatever nobility you are, or it’ll taste awful and your tea leaves won’t tell you anything but nonsense. All crows are descended from that pair from Scandinavia who got to travel around with that fine smart fellow with one eye. Mad Scientists are often Mad Professors, so raise your hand if you didn’t understand something. And any Physickist knows why so many people in fairy tales know all about the sleeping princess and how to rescue her or the treasure in the well and how to get it: it’s because such things generate a strong EKT field. (“Everyone Knows That.”)
There’s a lot more, but I don’t want to spoil the fun. Once again, this book is marketed towards young adults, but any adult who loves bizarre, dark fairy tales will love it. And if that wasn’t enough, the sequel, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, just came out last month!
I promise I’ll have it read by this time next year, at the very latest. Maybe sooner. Honest.