The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
Catherynne M Valente
London, Much-in-Little, 2013, 344p
This sequel is everything I wanted it to be and more. I adore the creative genius of Catherynne M. Valente, who has brought to life a world where your strangest dreams seem rational and your wildest fantasies are explored and visualised.
Most fairy stories end in relief and happiness, but rarely are the futures of the characters explored. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland is just that: what happened after September saved Fairyland? We rejoin her back in her boring old life, washing tea cups and desperately missing her father. She carries with her the secret of her time spent in Fairyland, waiting for the day when she will return. Then, one day, she slips back through, and discovers things are not as she left them. Shadows are being stolen from Fairyland, and taken to Fairyland-Below, in a plot let by September's own shadow, now known as the Hollow Queen. Consequently, all the magic is being sucked out of Fairyland, and it is slowly becoming normal, like September's world.
So, September reluctantly embarks on a quest to wake the Sleeping Prince, the rightful ruler of Fairyland-Below, in the hope that he will overrule the Hollow Queen and all the shadows will be returned to their rightful home. Along the way, September meets a Night Dodo, a Minotaur, and the shadows of her old friends, Ell and Saturday.
This world is so magical and fantastic, I am choosing to believe it is real. Valente draws on years and years of fairy tales, folklore and myths to create this world of knights and talking teacups and perilous challenges; she reimagines them in her own way, somehow making sense out of the most unusual elements of these legends. It is philosophical in it's treatment of the quest story. She has been incredibly thorough, with every detail formulated and researched to perfection.
Fairyland is a heaven for book-lovers. A characteristic of all my favourite books is that they celebrate the value of the written word, both through their language and formation, and through the themes and plot. In the case of this book, Valente uses her extensive vocabulary, intelligence, and wit to entertain the reader. She speaks to you, does not patronise, and draws you into her story. And within the story, books and libraries are praised and explored. Ell, a.k.a. A-Through-L is a Wyverary, a dragon Librarian. September visits a Library in the course of her travels, when she is seeking information to help her on her quest. And later, she falls into a book, opening a door to another part of her journey. As Valente writes, and as her novel proves:
"A book is a door into another place and another heart and another world."I couldn't have put it better myself.