Book Two of the Fairyland series
By: Catherynne M. Valente
Date Finished: 10.01.13
She 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 powerful or even marvelous, beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts.
Nothing could be quite that easy in Fairyland. It could be a Rule: Nothing is easy here. All traffic travels in the direction of most difficulty. Still, she held on tight.
September expected that destinies, which is how she thought of professions, simply landed upon one like a crown, and ever after no one questioned or fretted over it, being sure of one’s own use in the world. It was only that somehow her crown had not yet appeared.
I couldn’t concentrate on anything else until I read this sequel. Our marvelous heroine, September, has spent a year waiting for her time to return to Fairyland. Finally, she has an opening, but she does not find herself in the happy, magical world she expects. Instead, she learns that the inhabitants of Fairyland have been losing their shadows, and consequently, their magic. September’s own shadow has christened herself Halloween the Hollow Queen of Fairyland-Below and is bent on setting all shadows free to fulfill their own pleasures. September takes responsibility for all that has gone awry and travels to lowest parts of the under world to restore balance. Along the way, she reunites with old friends and old enemies, but not quite as she knew them before.
This is a distinctly different story than the first, and yet retains all its splendor. Valente is a mastermind as she explores deeply human issues in a recognizable, yet unique fantasy world. This particular book narrows in on the parts of ourselves that we keep hidden from others and the shadows personify those innate qualities that rarely see the light of day. It’s a captivating concept that not everything in the shadows consists of darkness.
Throughout, Valente artfully crafts tropes that don’t feel like tropes and utterly bizarre creatures that make perfect sense. Pace and texture are excellently executed, just as the first, and I appreciate the arc it takes. The ending lands in a sort of gray area with no formal resolution, but there’s still a sense that things are put to rights and that September’s journey was both meaningful and made an impact.
Put simply, there’s nothing sequel-ish about this book. All of my gushing in the previous post applies to this book 100%, so in lieu of repeating myself I will leave you with someone else’s words as a parting thought. This is one of the cover blurbs, written by Neil Gaiman (which is too perfect since Valente is the most Gaiman-esque author I’ve encountered).
As he so concisely says, this book is “a glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian fairy tale, done with heart and wisdom.”
At the end of the day: A seamless extension of the book I’ve always waited for