Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland --- For a Little While

Catherynne M. Valente's The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland --- For a Little While is a delightful prequel to her other Fairyland novels. It tells the story of a girl who slips into Fairyland --- as so many storybook-children seem to --- and attempts to right the governmental problems they are having. Why are distant fantasy realms always suffering under oppressive monarchs? This is where the parallels to traditional fairytales end. Valente's Fairyland delightfully upsets the fairy status quo, and reading it is like the joy and wobbly experience of first reading Alice in Wonderland.

The titular girl is one protagonist Mallow, who is not prone to the usual protagonist's follies: "I am a practical girl, and a life is only so long. It should be spent in as much peace and good eating and good reading as possible and no undue excitement." Most protagonists are a bit silly or dense as plot motivation, but Mallow can simply recognize that "the story had to start sooner or later. I had only hoped it would be a little later, and I could rest for another spring in my library. ... But there's no practice like real living, and anyway it's mandatory." So clearly the nonsense situations that befuddled Lewis Carroll's Alice will be no obstacle to this modern post-Alice protagonist. A girl who knows what she wants and says so, acts in her own interest, is neither shy nor retiring (yet wants to peacefully read on her own, thank you very much) --- a heroine after my own heart. Mallow, and the entire story, is bait for bookish, practical types --- exactly the sort of person who would read the lengthy expository title and begin to read at all. (Valente is a pied piper of readers; I'd follow her out of town, dancing merrily.)

This modern narrative awareness is lovely, delightful, like a brain tickle.
The capital of Fairyland has always been accustomed to moving however it pleased, drifting across glaciers or beaches or long, wheat-filled meadows. It moved at the need and pace of narrative, being a Fairy city and thus always sharply aware of where it stood in relation to every story unfolding in Fairyland at every moment.

A quick, whimsical read. Recommended. (The entire thing is online at the link above!)

This post's theme word is concinnity, "a harmonious arrangement of various parts." Fairyland's parts stand in perfect verbal, geographical, and narrative concinnity with each other.

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