The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There was my one non-Brandon Sanderson pre-order this year. The first book, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making was one of the best books I read in 2011 (and the second book ever to be reviewed on this blog.)
It has been a little over a year since September’s first visit to Fairyland, where she defeated the evil Marquess and saved the land. She has been waiting for the Green Wind to come fetch her so she can see her friends Saturday and A-through-L and have a fun adventure, but she’s afraid her friends have all forgotten her. When she finally gets to Fairyland, it turns out that the magic is seeping out of the land into Fairyland Below whose Queen is Halloween, September’s shadow. So our intrepid September has to save Fairyland all over again… but now it’s from her shadow self.
Pretty much everything about this book is gorgeous – the cover art, the words, the setting, the story. Valente is one of the most skilled writers I’ve encountered in her ability to play with words and ideas. Her prose is evocative and is full of whimsical but logical similes, allusions and metaphors. I would recommend this series based entirely on her writing, but every other part of the book is perfectly crafted too.
Valente tackles the age old children’s book trope – growing up, but somehow manages to put a fresh face on it. September is a lovely protagonist – she’s practical, but brave, very sure of herself and not afraid to take responsibility for her actions. But now she’s outgrowing her childhood, and that means she’s growing a heart and her feelings war. She’s always seen things the way she wants them to be, and now she sees things as they are, and that’s a hard realisation at any age. This is especially poignant when she encounters the shadow Marquess.
I especially loved the concept of shadows being everything the “real” person keeps hidden. Halloween is so wild because September tries her best to be proper, shadow Saturday is effusive, and shadow A-through-L is bashful. Mirroring was a big theme throughout the book – Fairyland Below is a mirror of Fairyland, and Fairyland itself mirrors wartime America.
I could go on and on, but I wouldn’t leave you any magic to discover for yourself. This series is the new Phantom Tollbooth! It doesn’t matter how old you are (you’ll love the whimsy if you’re young and you’ll appreciate the nuances if you’re older) – read The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. Just make sure you read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making first.
- “Ship of Magic” by Robin Hobb
- “A Shadow in Summer” by Daniel Abraham