Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

Thursday, September 20, 2012
Title: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Genre: young-adult, fantasy, fairy tales
Series: Fairyland #2
Pages: 272 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected October 2, 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 5/5

September has longed to return to Fairyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows—and their magic—to the world of Fairyland Below. This underworld has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September’s shadow. And Halloween does not want to give Fairyland’s shadows back.

Fans of Valente’s bestselling, first Fairyland book will revel in the lush setting, characters, and language of September’s journey, all brought to life by fine artist Ana Juan. Readers will also welcome back good friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. But in Fairyland Below, even the best of friends aren’t always what they seem....

It's hard to duplicate a success - countless series and books that follow-up first-in-line beloved stories can easily attest to how hard a feat that is to accomplish. Happily, that is so far from the case here with Catherynne Valente's second foray into her magical, modernish fairytale series with The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. Told once again in the same wistful, cheeky tone, and with the same immediately immersive feeling as the first one, but with a more mature September and a more convoluted journey, Catherynne Valente once again proves how imaginative and capable a storyteller she is. Set a year after the first novel wrapped up, readers will have all new marvelous adventures, new anthropomorphic creatures, more wondrous and weird locales to sink into as they go along with September in her fight to once again save Fairyland.     

These two books have been absurd, funny, poignant, and filled to the brim with odd, hard-won wisdom. The second adventure with September in Fairyland and Fairyland-Below has lost none of the originality or charm that so defined the first. Without a single doubt, this newest novel from the author is another winner from prosemaster Catherynne Valente. I loved this. Even more than the first, which I would've bet wouldn't've happened before I got a chance to read an ARC of the eagerly-awaited second.

With the same narrator, who frequently breaks the fourth wall to directly address his audience about the goings-on of September and her "new" motley band of misfits, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is as highly imaginative, and uniquely told as its predecessor. Though told in the same inimitable and thoroughly cheeky prose brimming with deeper meaning, Valente has a subtle way of intertwining hard-won wisdom amid her world of absurd and wonderful creations. With just as many quotable sections as the first, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland... benefits from a larger focus on plot than the novel before. The novel still reads more like episodic vignettes than a straight-forward novel, but the overarching need to save Fairyland from Fairyland-Below drives September ever on. 

The first September novel came across as an original and compelling mix of a modern fairytale, with a lot of ideas and events borrowed from the ages-old Persephone myth. The forced return for eating food, the regular mention of pomegranates further reinforced that feeling for me as I progressed in my read. Here in the second, I caught vibes of the Orpheus myth - someone sent into the underworld to retrieve something vital to her/others. Though in The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland's case, it is not someone but something that must be retrieved. So far, both novels in this hopefully-ongoing series have uniquely and successfully blended adult themes, ideas into an easily readable and immensely enjoyable, highly original take on fairy tales. This is a series and book like no other. 

More mature, and darker than the first novel, September's journey shows how much the main protagonist has grown and her battle with her darker self will appeal to  readers of all ages. Filled with "mad and savage beasts", September's journey to save the world and put herself right easily blends classic fairytale ideas with new, more modern adaptations. With hints at a third, and more secrets than previously imagined, I anxiously hope that this is not the final adventure with September, Ell, Saturday, and everyone else. Full of brilliant prose, multilayered meaning, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is another winner from a very talented and original author. These books -and this author - are nothing short of remarkable.

"The sky glowed deep blue and rose, and a little yellow star came on like a lightbulb in the warm evening. That's Venus, September thought. She was the goddess of love. It's nice that love comes on first in the evening, and goes out last in the morning. Love keeps the light on all night."

"[September] did not know yet how sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colorful parts, cunning or or powerful or even marvelous, beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts. They do this because they are afraid of being stared at, or relied upon to do feats of bravery and boldness. And all of those brave and wild and cunning and marvelous and beautiful parts they hid away and left in the dark to grow strange mushrooms – and yes, sometimes those wicked and unkind parts, too – end up in their shadows.”

"A book is a door, you know. Always and forever. A book is a door to another place and another heart and another world." 

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