Revisiting Fairyland with September

So…we all know that I madly, madly love Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland series, right?  I mean, there was quite a bit of conversation on that subject in the comments section of my RIP launch post.  As per plan, I reread Fairyland 1 and Fairyland 2, for Readers Imbibing Peril and as preparation for the soon-to-be-released Fairyland 3…and it won’t surprise you at all that I madly, madly loved them!!

Girl Who Circumnavigated FairylandBook One, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, was my favorite book last year–and I read 182 books in 2012. The only serious competition was from Book Two, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.  Both books follow the adventures of September, an ordinary girl from Omaha who is swept away to Fairyland.  She encounters wonderful and whimsical magic and makes dear friends–but this is not Baum’s terror-and-tension-free Land of Oz, and September needs courage and heart to survive very real dangers, and solve very real problems.

I already reviewed both books (here and here) the last time I read them, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much…and I’ll try not to just gush all over the place!

It’s very possible I loved these books more the second time through–which is really pretty amazing, considering.  But I feel like I know the characters even better now, picked up on some little nuances that probably went past me before, and loved the seeds planted in Fairyland 1 to suggest Fairyland 2 and (I think!) the ones in both books suggesting Fairyland 3.

Normally I refer to a book as a “fast read” as a good thing, and a slow book as a negative…but these were slow books in a GOOD way.  Especially in the first one, I found myself stopping practically every page to think “oh, that’s a clever line,” or “what an interesting insight,” or “that’s so TRUE.”  And there are few things I love more than seeing a book express something that I KNOW and FEEL but have never seen explained in quite that way before.

I just opened Fairyland 1 at random (to pages 114 and 115, if you’re curious) and found six different bits I love.  Really.  Lines that are clever or whimsical or touching or insightful or particularly well-phrased.

Fairyland 1 is particularly full of splendid little nuggets of thought or phrase, but Fairyland 2 brings a little more maturity, a little more wisdom.  Nothing too mature, of course!  But September begins to grow up, just a little, and the book reflects that.  It’s a beautifully drawn portrait of a girl beginning to grow towards adulthood–this is not Neverland, where no one ever ages, and even a girl fighting monsters in Fairyland can be prey to the same worries of growing up of everyone else.  She has fears about friends changing and feels often like the only person who doesn’t know her proper path.

Girl Who FellMaybe I love September because she seems to act the way people really would if they were whisked away to Fairyland.  Much as I love the classics, I want to shake Wendy for spending her time in Neverland darning socks, and I just don’t know what to do with Dorothy who wants only to go back to gray Kansas–or the Dorothy of later books who is never the least bit worried or concerned by anything.  September thinks about home, just enough, but she wants to revel in the magic of Fairyland–and when it goes bad, when there are challenges to be faced, she does it with a real understanding of the hazards and the fierce determination necessary to go forward anyway.

The book is very self-aware of its source material in a delightful way.  Little bits of classic novels are given nods here and there, in September’s magic shoes or her visit to a rather mad tea house.  And then there’s a piece where September visits a Questing Physickist, who begins discussing Object Quests, the Laws of Heroics, the Conservation of Princesses Law and E. K. T. (Everyone Knows That) Fields.  It’s brilliant.

Another aspect of the book that I love is the way everyone and everything is a meaningful character–I say “everything” because it applies even to September’s clothing!  Everyone has complexity and history, and seems to be carrying out their own lives that September just happens to be passing through.  I love that depth of characters and of the world.  And even the villains have their secret tragedies, and believe on some level that they are, in fact, the heroes.

I could gush and ramble on some more, about how much I love September’s fierceness and Saturday’s shyness and A-Through-L…well, his whole concept is brilliant, and about the wonderfulness of getting the shadows of characters in the second book to bring a whole different layer to them, or how creepy the Autumn Lands are and how heartbreakingly sad I find Mallow’s story, and how intrigued I am by little hints here and there that I hope will be explored in later books…but perhaps this review is long enough? 🙂

Suffice to say…I love this series.  I really, really, REALLY love this series.  I have the publishing date (October 1) for Fairyland 3 in my calendar, and I cannot WAIT to read The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two.

Author’s Site: http://www.catherynnemvalente.com/

Buy them here:
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

What Are You Reading, RIP Edition

What Are You Reading RIPThis past week saw the launch of the latest reading challenge from Carl at Stainless Steep Droppings: the Readers Imbibing Peril autumn reading experience.  This one focuses on the darker side of books, like mysteries, gothic and horror.  Read my launch post here.

I expect my reading to get a bit more shadowy in coming weeks…though not so much just yet, because I have to get some of my shadowy reads from the library still!

Right now I’m midway through The Professor by Charlotte Bronte–because it’s Charlotte Bronte and I madly love Jane Eyre.  So far, I’m not quite sure if I like The Professor, but I like reading it…if that makes any sense!  There’s just something about how Bronte puts words together, and I can’t explain it beyond that.  I’m also reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  It’s a little heavy on the science but is still very readable and has really interesting insights, particularly about how society tends to favor the extrovert ideal…which may not be the right fit for all of us who like curling up alone with books!

Next up I plan to reread the wonderful, amazing, incredible The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, to be followed by its sequel, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.  This, of course, is to prepare for the release of Book Three next month: The Girl Who Soared Above Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two.  I LOVE those titles!!  I’m counting these books for RIP too, with a creepy autumn scene in the first and lots of shadows in the second.

If it arrives soon enough from my library, I think I’ll read Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame in between the two Fairyland books.  I’ve been wanting to read it ever since I went to Notre Dame to see Quasi’s gargoyles–and even more since reading Les Miserables.  It’s another good one for RIP too, and for my goal to read more long and intimidating books!

A Hidden Magic by Vivian Vande Velde (new) and The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (reread) are a couple I have on my shelf that I’ve been meaning to get to–and which ought to keep me busy if I finish the others while still waiting on the rest on my library’s hold list.

Speaking of which–I’m up to #44 in line for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.  I was #125 when I joined the list, and it’s since grown to 266…not that I’m keeping track or anything.

So much for me!  Visit Book Journey for other What Are You Reading posts.  And…what are you reading?

Into the Dark of the Night…

RIP8main400My favorite source for reading experiences is kicking off another seasonal challenge: Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) celebrating autumn with books on the darker side.  This laid-back reading challenge focuses on mysteries, gothic and horror.  Even squeamish-me is looking forward to the fun!

I must admit, this doesn’t align with my favorite genres with quite the serendipitous perfection of the Sci Fi Experience or the Once Upon a Time Challenge, but I do like a good mystery now and then, and I have a few shadowy novels in mind. Continue reading “Into the Dark of the Night…”

Favorites Friday: Anticipated Books of 2013

Something a little different today–books I really want to read but alas, am still waiting on their publishing dates!

Before I got into book blogging, I was almost never waiting for books, because I usually didn’t know anything was coming out until it was already out.  I still don’t have a huge list of books I’m anticipating, since I usually add books to my ToBeRead list when they’re being reviewed–and therefore already published.  But I have managed to latch on to several current authors and ongoing series recently, and am eagerly awaiting their upcoming releases…

1) The Girl Who Soared Above Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente – I am so in love with that title.  I mean…!!!  The first two books in the series (reviews here and here) were my favorite two reads of last year, with no serious competition.  I am eagerly anticipating another return to Fairyland.
Release Date: October 8, 2013

2) Shadows by Robin McKinley – I feel a rather personal attachment to this book.  I read McKinley’s blog, and have been following along through the trials and trevails of writing, revising and copy-editing this book for the last…it must be upwards of a year now, maybe two.  After all that, I feel invested.  And that’s even though I have almost no sense of what the book is actually about.  I don’t know–there’s magic, and it’s McKinley.  I don’t really need to know more than that.
Release Date: September 26, 2013

3) Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce – Back when I didn’t track anticipated books, the one author I did keep an eye on was Tamora Pierce.  This book would be more exciting if it was in her Tortall series rather than her (good but not as good) Circle of Magic series…but oh well.  It’s Tamora Pierce.  It still ranks #3.
Release Date: October 1, 2013

4) Something by L. A. Meyer – Neither Amazon nor Meyer’s website will tell me what’s next in the Jacky Faber series, but since he’s released a new book every fall for a good five years or so, I trust another will be arriving.  The most recent slipped a bit, but I remain hopeful, and I always enjoy the continuing adventures of the irrepressible Jacky.
Release Date: Who knows?

Those are the top four I’m very anxiously awaiting.  It’s going to be a busy fall.  Though of course, I don’t have any shortage of books to read in the meantime…  Do you have any books you’re particularly looking forward to being released?

Reveling in Revels Below Fairyland

I spent this past weekend reading The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente.  I loved it.  It’s my second contender for “favorite new book this year” which is not altogether surprising–since it’s tied with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

I already reviewed the first book in the series, and all the wonderful things from that book carried over here–the magic and the whimsy and the beautiful, beautiful writing.  This series combines so much of the loveliness of classic children’s fantasy with more complex characters facing more complicated choices.

The last book promised us this sequel was coming, and I think it’s worth quoting that line again: All stories must end so, with the next tale winking out of the corners of the last pages, promising more, promising moonlight and dancing and revels, if only you will come back when spring comes again.

The second book begins with our heroine, September, eagerly looking forward to a return to Fairyland.  I’m drawn in right at the beginning, as Valente explores how hard it really would be for Dorothy to go back to Kansas–I mean, for September to go back to Nebraska.  It doesn’t take long for her to fall back into Fairyland, where she eagerly anticipates fun adventures with her friends–only to discover that something has gone awry.  September lost her shadow in the first book, and now she finds out that someone has been stealing shadows (and with them, magic) away from Fairyland.  September must go on a quest into Fairyland Below–and there we find “moonlight and dancing and revels.”  September meets old friends strangely changed and many new creatures and places that are decidedly odd indeed.  Fairyland Below is a darker, more mysterious place and September doesn’t always know who she can trust.

The Girl Who Fell still has L. Frank Baum’s whimsy and J. M. Barrie’s charming way of addressing the reader, with an added dash of Lewis Carroll.  September goes to a quite strange tea and coffee house, and we see chess references occasionally too.

Unlike Peter Pan (or really all the endlessly-young, never-changing children of classic fantasy), September is begining to grow up in this volume.  She feels things a little deeper, thinks a little more, and there are just a few hints of romance.  I love September; she’s a brave, resourceful girl who wants to solve the problems around her and do the right thing.  But she doesn’t always know what the right thing is, and she struggles to know who she is herself, and what role she’s meant to play.

Many major characters from the previous book, like A-through-L, September and the Marquess return in this one–but Fairyland Below is dark and mysterious and all may not be quite as it seems.  We also get to go to a Goblin Market, meet a minotaur and a dodo bird, and seek out a sleeping prince.  There’s philosophy and there’s lyrical writing and we even get to play a bit with fairy tale tropes.

It is perhaps not a perfect book.  There are a few time-jumps that are slightly disconcerting, and the ending is maybe a touch convenient.  Though the ending makes me happy, so I don’t actually mind that much.  And even if it’s not perfect, it comes very close.  Unquestionably one of the best new books I’ve read this year.

Really, I don’t know how to do justice to this book.  I loved it.  I really, really, really loved it.  I follow Valente on Twitter and she’s been referencing work on Fairyland 3.  I will be pre-ordering that one as soon as it becomes available!

Author’s Site: http://www.catherynnemvalente.com/

Other reviews:
Little Red Reviewer
The Book Smugglers
Books Writing Tea
Anyone else?