Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland And Led The Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

It’s been a year since September returned from Fairyland and not a lot has changed in this world. Her father is still away at the war, her mother still works long hours and everything is rationed. She’s just turned 13 and the other girls at school don’t much care for her or her stories of Fairyland. She’s been hoping the Green Wind will come by and spirit her away again, but he hasn’t shown up. Then just after she turns 13 she sees a boat sailing across the tops of the fields and gives chase, she falls beneath Fairyland.

The Fairyland Below is very different to Fairyland Above. It’s a dark world inhabited more by shadows than actual people and creatures. September finds it every bit as hard to come to grips with as she did when she first arrived in Fairyland Above in the first book (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making). Matters aren’t helped by the fact that September now has a heart, raw and reckless as it may be.

She is reunited in a way with her very best friends anywhere; the Wyvery A through L (Ell for short) and the Marid boy Saturday. I said in a way because just like September in the first book Ell and Saturday have become detached from their shadows and what she meets in Fairyland Below is their shadows, which are only parts of the actual beings, and not always the nicest parts. Ell is more selfish and less affectionate than his above counterpart and Saturday is very forward and impulsive. In fact September isn’t even sure she likes him very much.

Fairyland Below is largely controlled by the wild Halloween, who is actually September’s shadow. I didn’t like Halloween, and September was frankly shocked by what her shadow self is and what she advocates. It’s going to take everything September has and that of her friends to bring this all to a satisfactory conclusion and it may even affect events in the real world outside of Fairyland.

I adored The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, and I think it was far and away the best book of 2011.  It’s sequel is still a very good book (as I said in my review of the first Fairyland book I don’t believe Cat Valente is capable of writing a bad book), but not quite the mind blowing experience that Circumnavigated was. I felt it was darker, especially the depiction of September’s and Saturday’s shadow selves. There are however wonderful moments and characters. The Vicereine of Coffee and the Duke of Teatime along with their children; Darjeeling, Kona, Peaberry, Matcha and even the Littlest Earl, were very amusing. I also liked the Fairy Physickist Belinda Cabbage. The ideas and Valente’s astonishing imagery were still on display and I am in awe of both this woman’s imagination and her incredible facility with language. One thing I did miss from the first book was that narrator played a much smaller role, and I felt that more of her would have been welcome.

While with Circumnavigated one was left with the feeling that September had unfinished business, so the sequel was very necessary. The end of Beneath is more final and things seem to be wrapped up neatly. I wouldn’t rule out a third book, but I do feel that September’s story is now told.  

Once again Feiwel and Friends have done a wonderful job and given us a book of genuine quality, complete with Ana Juan's marvelous and whimsical illustrations on the cover and at the start of each chapter.

Despite maybe not being in my mind quite to the same level as The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland And Led The Revels There is still a wonderful experience that will cross generational boundaries and deserves to be read by everyone.


  1. I just grabbed a copy of book 1, so I'm definitely looking forward to it. Thanks for this review, although I had to be careful (i.e., skip parts) with some of it.

  2. I try not to spoil where I can. You really should read the first book before this one. You're in for a treat either way, though.