Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Girl Who fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Catherynne M. Valente continues to delight with The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, the second book in her Fairyland series (previously: 0, 1). We stick with our familiar protagonist September, who has grown up a little in the intervening year but still longs to return to Fairyland, where she left behind several close friends, the fantasy-world of magic and silliness, and, of course, her own shadow. This girl-shadow --- with her own name, and her own narrative arc, and her own personality --- is the title's referent, continuing the series' title pattern.

Valente again tickles the readers' fancy, with a story and characters wonderfully sweeping from the foolish and silly to the clever and subtle. The prose is luscious and playful, childlike with hints of adulthood peeking through. Again we are treated to some light breaking of the fourth wall ("I am a sly narrator," p. 59) and again the details of Fairyland are a mirror-image of the daft systems of reality (economic speculation of firstborns and spinning straw into gold); I was particularly gratified to hear from more magic-researchers about the intricacies of academia in Fairyland. (In a book titled Sleeping Royalty and Other Politickal Conundrums, we read that "Other than revolution and assassination, falling asleep for a hundred years or more poses the biggest danger to royalty these days." p. 121)

At a toll to pass into the underworld, instead of surrendering a puissant magical item, September is asked to take one from the Sybil's cluttered house, with her encouragements:
But the trouble is, when they leave their sacred objects, I'm left with a whole mess of stuff I have no use at all for. Good for them --- they learn not to rely on their blades or their jewels or their instruments of power, but for me it's just a lot of clutter to clean up. After a thousand years, you can see it heaps up something monstrous and there's just no safe way to dispose of magical items like these. (p. 46)
In the time since the previous book, September has read a wide variety of mythology, as background research and preparation for her anticipated next visit to Fairyland. So this book makes even more references to familiar fairytale tropes, and September sometimes heads off a dull explanation with a shortcut that she figured out from other stories.

Once again the conclusion was unexpected, which is a criterion I appreciate a lot recently.

Recommended. (Although, start at the beginning of the series!)

This post's theme word is pervicacious, "very stubborn." Pervicacious girls have very strong magical powers, if handled and frustrated correctly.

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