The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All The Way Home by Catherynne M. Valente

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, by Catherynne M. Valente, was published in 2016 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the sequel to The Boy Who Lost Fairyland.

Spoilers for the Fairyland series.

This final book in the New York Times-bestselling Fairyland series finds September accidentally crowned the Queen of Fairyland. But there are others who believe they have a fair and good claim on the throne, so there is a Royal Race—whoever wins will seize the crown. Along the way, beloved characters including the Wyverary, A-Through-L, the boy Saturday, the changelings Hawthorn and Tamburlaine, the wombat Blunderbuss, and the gramophone Scratch are caught up in the madness. And September’s parents have crossed the universe to find their daughter. Who will win? And what will become of September, Saturday, and A-Through-L?

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home is a delightfully perfect ending to the Fairyland series. It resolved things in ways I wasn’t expecting, and yet as I read those resolutions, I couldn’t help but think how well they fit with the characters as we knew them. September’s desire to go home warring with her desire to stay in Fairyland was perfectly resolved at the end, making such complete sense that although the series is finished, I am happily content.

I’m also glad that we got some final resolution with the Marquess, who was my favorite part of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. Many things from that book were brought back and her resolution was quite sweet and a good way to resolve that character. However, I do think Prince Myrrh was a bit of a wasted character and a little pointless to include since he doesn’t do anything.

Blunderbuss the combat wombat was probably my favorite part of the book, and the description of her’s and Ell’s kiss at the end was hilarious. I also liked the fawning over Agatha Christie and the Cantankerous Derby in general.

I do think the part with September’s parents was a bit sudden and I didn’t really buy the fact that they so readily agreed with the “Let’s all stay in Fairyland!” idea, but it had a really strong Oz vibe to it, as this whole series in general has had, so I rolled with it even if it seemed a little contrived.

The Girl who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home is a perfect ending to a wonderful series, which started strong with the first book, wobbled a bit on the second and third, and hit a home-run on the fourth and fifth. This last book had a few minor things I didn’t like, but overall, this has been one of my favorite series to read and it had such a good ending that I’m not even sad that it’s over—I’m that satisfied.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“I know I ought to have come as soon as I heard Greenwich Mean Time sounding off at you, but I couldn’t stop looking at the Human section. So many books I’d never heard of! SO many titles I couldn’t understand? What’s a Wuthering? Why is it Important to Be Earnest? I am always earnest. Why would anyone not be?”

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/1sCJZ5A

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland: Wonderfully Imaginative

 The Boy Who Lost Fairyland is written by Catherynne M Valente. It was published in 2015 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the sequel to The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two.

When a young troll named Hawthorn is stolen from Fairyland by the Golden Wind, he becomes a changeling—a human boy—in the strange city of Chicago, a place no less bizarre and magical than Fairyland when seen through trollish eyes. Left with a human family, Hawthorn struggles with his troll nature and his changeling fate. But when he turns twelve, he stumbles upon a way back home, only to a Fairyland much changed from the one he remembered.

I loved The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, but was disappointed with the next two books. The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, however, restores my love for Valente’s Fairyland: it doesn’t have the great villain that the first book did (or any villain at all, really) but it’s a wonderfully imaginative and beautiful book. The Boy Who Lost Fairyland revels in imagination and wonder and shows how a little imagination can go a long way in terms of making people’s lives better.

The book also has a surprisingly simple plot, compared to the first three books. There’s no main villain and most of the book is just “The Adventures of Hawthorn and Tamburlaine,” which is probably why I found this book so charming. It’s only until the end that we get glimpses of where the plot is going in regards to September and the fifth book. And that’s not a bad thing, since the simplicity of the plot means that you get to enjoy the beauty of the world more.

So, yes, I found Boy a significant improvement over the last two books in Fairyland; the simplicity of it was refreshing and I had more time to indulge in the world—and thus I spent less time getting bored with how long it was taking the main character to get things done (cough The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland cough). And that’s a good thing, since this book doesn’t just take you from Earth to Fairyland. It also brings Fairyland to Earth.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“The Laws of the Kingdom of School,” he squeaked. “One: A Teacher is the same thing as an Empress only a Teacher wears skirts and uses a ruler instead of a scepter. Two: Be present at eight o’clock sharp or you will be marked Tardy and if you are Tardy enough you will be banished to the Land of Detention, where no food or joy can live. Three: If you write that you shall not do a thing five hundred times you cannot do it again for your whole life. Only Teachers possess this magic, as Mother and Father have never tried it. Four: A race of Giants live in the Kingdom of School. They are the Big Kids and they dwell in the Upperclassmen’s Wing. They must be treated as dragons and never bothered or they will destroy us, for they know great and terrible magic as well as how to drive cars. Five:; when the clock strikes three in the afternoon, the power of the Teacher is broken with the pealing of a bell and all go free. Six: There is a curse called Homework a Teacher may cast if she longs for her power to continue after the great bell has rung….”

Thomas stopped. Twenty children stared at him. Twenty children gawped at Thomas the Un-Normal in the wet, gray play yard. Finally, Max coughed.

“You got any more?” he whispered.

Overall Review:

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland brings back what I loved about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland: not the intricacies and twists of the plot, but the sheer beauty and wonder of Fairyland itself, and the beauty and power of imagination. And Boy is probably better off for its simplicity, in the end, because Fairyland now shines through without the burden of a complex plot weighing it down and distracting people from the real beauty of it.

You can buy this here: The Boy Who Lost Fairyland

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland And Cut The Moon In Two: Sadly Disappointing

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two is written by Catherynne M. Valente. It was published in 2013 by Feiwel and Friends. My reviews of the first two books in the Fairyland series can be found here and here. Valente’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

I talked in my reviews of the first two books that September’s voice sounded really off to me. In this one, I feel that September finally grew into her voice. It was just right, finally.

I love the unique aspects of Fairyland that Valente has shown us in each book. It reminds me greatly of the Oz books, where L. Frank Baum did something similar with showing something new each book. I especially loved the Land of Photographs and the paper circus in the whelk shell.

The ending was pretty intense, although not as awesome as The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland’s ending was. I’m intrigued as to how September is going to get out of this mess, and also profoundly glad that this cliffhanger was not in the second book, but in the third—a rare departure from the FSASCH formula (although Fairyland is not a trilogy, so maybe that explains it).

What I Didn’t Like:

Nitpicky: the title is a little misleading. I mean, September doesn’t actually cut the moon in two and actually has nothing to do with the “cutting in two” of the moon at all. But I guess The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Was a Passive Bystander to All That Went On There is not as catchy (before anyone complains, I’m being a bit hyperbolic. But really, September didn’t actually do much besides drive around).

I must admit, I found most of the book to be a bit…boring. The ending was better than the rest of it, but I think The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland set too high of a bar in terms of plot, and as a result the rest of the series just can’t stand up to that, in my opinion. I’m also disappointed in the lack of a solid villain, and the subsequent undermining of the villain once he appeared. It makes all the tension just fizzle out in the worst way. The best thing about the Marquess was that no one truly understood her or her past, and yet once she told September (i.e., when September “understood” her), she stayed the villain anyway. Ciderskin was even worse than September’s shadow in his “misunderstoodness.” I got to that part of the book and thought, “I just read 200 pages for this?” The ending made up for a little, but only a little.

Also, the fact that people continuously spoke in run-on sentences was a little annoying.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Middle Grade

Passages/Quotes:

September wriggled out from under the Blue Wind’s fingers, which prodded her forehead for further evidence of devilry. “But I’m not a criminal! I know all that sounds bad, but there were such good reasons for it all! What else could I have done? The Marquess was terribly cruel and my shadow would have driven all the magic out of Fairyland. And as for lying, the Green Wind told me to do it!”

The Blue Wind patted her shoulder convivially. “Oh, we all have such good reasons. It’s the reasons that make it sweet.”

“I am not a criminal,” September repeated, pulling away from the Win. “Just calling me one doesn’t make it so.”

“Well, of course you’re not a Criminal!” chuckled the Calcatrix. “Not yet. You’re not licensed to commit crimes! A fine place we’d be in if we let just anyone go about infringing and infracting!”


 

“Oh, forgive us, of course we don’t know you yet,” said the boy, whose long, tall body was covered in blocks of text, little birthmarks of fourteen lines each. He was made of sonnets, from head to toe. His hair was a flutter of motley ribbon marks. An intricate origami looked September in the eye, folded and smoothed and peaked into a friendly, narrow face.

“But we feel as though we do!” cried the girl, whose body was the warm, expensive gold of old letters, an elegant calligraphy covering every inch of her round, excited cheeks, her acrobat’s costume, her long, red, sealing-wax hair, the postmarks like freckles on her shoulders. September could make out a number of addresses and signatures, words like Dearest, Darling, Yours Foerever, Heart of My Heart: love letters, woven together to make a girl. “I’m Valentine,” she said, holding out her angular hand.

“I’m Pentameter,” said the sonnet boy.

Overall Review:

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland continues the great portrayal of Valente’s Fairyland, with new places to see that are equal parts Alice in Wonderland, Oz, and something new all together. However, I did find it a bit boring, and a little disappointing. The ending made up for it a little, but not quite. I would read The Girl Who Circumnavigated again, but not this one.

You can buy this here: The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland And Led The Revels There: Not As Good As The First, But Still Highly Original And Entertaining

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is written by Catherynne M. Valente. It was published in 2012 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the second book in the Fairyland series, the first of which I reviewed here. Valente’s website can be found here.

Summary/Blurb:

“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 world has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September’s shadow. And Halloween has no intentions of giving Fairyland’s shadows back.”

~Inside Flap

What I Liked:

What I liked so much about the last book was the incredibly surprising plot twist at the end that made my mouth drop open. This book had two, and while neither of them made my mouth drop open, the second, at least, I wasn’t expecting (I guessed the first).

Valente continues to dazzle with new Fairyland denizens and locations. I liked the whole concept of shadows that was used in the book. She gives a nice twist on the Traveling With Companions by having the companions’ shadows travel with September, so they were the same companions, yet not.

My favorite part of the book was the Questing Physicks chapter where September meets a character who just starts spouting off plot tropes with Special Names. It was rather funny, especially if you’re familiar with plot tropes.

I love the magical clothes. Not enough books use magical clothes (as in dresses or coats). I demand more magical clothes in books!

Cover Art

What I Didn’t Like:

No one’s evil, they’re just misunderstood!Let’s all hold hands and dance and sing! Yay! NOT.

After the fabulous villain in the previous book, the villain in this one was more than disappointing. September’s companions made better villains, and that’s saying a lot. Also, I felt the Marquess’ character was really undermined in this book from the first one.

September’s voice just feels so off to me. I’m not even sure what it is. She just doesn’t seem like a realistic character (but maybe she doesn’t need to be—this is Fairyland, after all).

Rating: 4/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Children’s, Fairy Tale

September vs. September

Passages/Quotes:

The Sibyl’s face was not a person’s face. It was a perfectly round disc, like a mask, but without a head behind it. Two thin rectangles served for eyes, and a larger one opened up where her mouth should be. The disc of her face was half gold and half silver, and all around it a lion’s mane of leaves and branches and boughs, each one half gold and half silver, sprouted and glittered around her strange, flat head. Her body had odd carved half-silver and half-golden joints, like a marionette, and she wore a sweeping sort of short gold-and-silver dress that looked like what little girls wore in paintings of ancient times. But September saw no strings and no one else in the red elevator, and the disc of the Sibyls’ face made her shiver in the sun and clench up her toes in her shoes.

“Are you a Terrible Engine?” September whispered. “Like Betsy Basilstalk’s gargoyle or Death’s mushroom lady? Is there someone else back there hiding behind you, someone less frightening and more friendly?”

The Sibyl tipped her head down to look at her, and nothing gleamed in the black bars of her eyes. Her voice emerged from the slash of her mouth, echoing, as if from somewhere very far away.

“No, child. I am only myself. Some things are just what they appear to be. I am the Sibyl, and you are September. Now come in out of the light and have a cup of tea.”

~Valente 38

“Already we know that Prince Myrrh is an Endgame Object Type W—that’s Wonderful, since we have yet to see if he will be any Use in governing. He sleeps suspended in a Theseus-type narrative matrix, however he does seem to have some gravitational pull on events, which is unusual for a T-Type. After all, we still remember him even after all these years. It’s far easier to forget something than to remember it. Remembering takes all kinds of magic. No one knows who he is or what he looks like or where to find him, and yet we all know of him. We all know he sleeps in an unopenable box on an unbreakable bower. That’s a frightfully strong E.K.T. Field for one little creature!”

“What’s an E.K.T. Field?”

Avogadra grinned. “Whilst on an expedition to prove the Rule of Three, my honored colleague Black Fermat hypothesized that certain Quest Objects cast a field around them, like a magnet or a planet—an Everyone Knows That Field. This is how they draw in unsuspecting Heroes. When an E.K.T. Field is in effect, everyone within its power will know a good deal about the Object, even if they can’t say where they heard about it or why it’s so deathly important to remember all that dusty old nonsense. They’ll chat about it with any passing stranger like it’s sizzling local gossip.”

~Valente 141-142

Overall Review:

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland… introduces new, wonderful people and places in the world of Fairyland. Valente continues to (mostly) surprise with the plot twists and September’s adventures are really unique and great, even if the character herself just sounds…off. Unfortunately, Valente has a tendency in this book to make every single villain into some sort of misunderstood person who really just needs to be understood and accepted, which includes undermining previous character development and portrayal.

You can buy this book here: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Coming Up Next: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making: I Haven’t Liked A Villain So Much Since Rumplestiltskin

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (boy, is that a mouthful) is written by Catherynne M. Valente. It was published in 2011 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the first in a series. Valente’s website can be found here.

Minor spoilers.

Genre: Children’s, Fantasy, Fairy Tale

Summary/Blurb:

“September is a girl who longs for adventure. When she is invited to Fairyland by a Green Wind and a Leopard, well, of course she accepts. (Mightn’t you?) But Fairyland is in turmoil, and it will take one twelve-year-old girl, a book-loving dragon, and a strange and almost human boy named Saturday to vanquish an evil Marquess and restore order.”

~Inside Flap

Passages/Quotes:

“I am the Honorable Wyvern A-Through-L, small fey. I would say, ‘at your service,’ but that’s rather fussy, and I’m not, you see, so it would be inaccurate.”

“That’s a very funny name for…”—September consider her words—“such a fine beast,” she finished.

“It’s a family name,” A-Through-L said loftily, scratching behind one horn. “My father was a Library. So properly speaking, I am a Lyvern, or…a Libern? A Wyverary? I am still trying to find the best term.”

~Valente 41

A tiny brown creature stood at her feet, barely a finger high. She was brownn all over, the color of a nut-husk. Only her lips were red. Her hair was long, covering most of her body like bark. She seemed very young. She wore a smart acorn cap.

“She’s just for show,” breathed the wee thing.

“Who are you?”

“I am Death,” said the creature. “I thought that was obvious.”

“But you’re so small!”

“Only because you are small. You are young and far from your Death, September, so I seem as anything would seem if you saw it from a long way off—very small, very harmless. But I am always closer than I appear. As you grow, I shall grow with you, until at the end, I shall loom huge and dark over your bed, and you will shut your eyes so as not to see me.”

~Valente 148

Cover Art (Also, the illustrations in this book are wonderful)

Warnings: A little bit of violence in the way of blood, but not a lot.

Recommended Age Range: 10+

Rating: 5/5

What I Liked:

This book (and its sequels) have been reviewed a lot by bloggers like myself, so now it’s my turn. It reminded me a lot of both Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, a sort of strange hybrid of the two with a dash of Lemony Snicket.

I loved the Fairyland in this book. Wonderful worldbuilding, wonderful descriptions of people and places. The rules and the mechanics were so beautifully interwoven into the story. I’m hoping that in each book in the series we get to see something new, much like Frank Baum’s Oz series.

I have to admit, one of the things that made me love this book so much was the twist at the end. My mouth literally fell open. I was not expecting it at all, and it just made me love the book even more because, for once, I was actually surprised by a plot! The Marquess is quite possibly the best villain of any children’s book, ever. Children’s villains tend to be rather flat and slightly goofy, but this is as dynamic a villain as any novel for older readers.

September on the back of the Leopard of Little Breezes

Also, the heck was up with the girl at the end? Why was she there and how did she get there? I mean, unless it’s the whole marid thing, so she can be there before she actually exists (also, do we see that happen or do these books only take place when September is young? I suppose this was Valente’s way of saying what the future will bring without actually having to show it).

I feel like this is a book you have to read several times just to see what Valente is saying about certain things, because this is clearly just as much a book for adults as it is for children.

I loved the language and the capitalization of certain things, and…well, this was just a great book.

What I Didn’t Like:

I’m not quite sure how I feel about September. I liked her, but…she was sort of the typical “girl who goes to Fairyland” character. Maybe that was the point, since the story is already so familiar to us. I found her just a little too perfect and polite, but that’s just me.

Overall Review:

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland… is a book that’s not just for children (clearly, since I read it and enjoyed it). The worldbuilding and introduction of new elements is wonderful. September’s journey is a bit typical, but the villain is fantastic and the reveal at the end was so wonderfully not-expected. A great beginning to a series that I am looking forward to reading!

Coming Up Next: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde