Last year I was delighted by The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making (my thoughts) by Catherynne Valente and have been eagerly anticipating the sequel, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There. The sequel is different, but marvelous in its own way.
If you have not read the first Fairyland book you need to in order to completely understand this one. You will be confused in many places otherwise. In the second part of her story September must come to terms with the consequences of some of her choices during her first journey. Her decision to sever herself from her shadow was not a bad one at the time, but it had far reaching consequences that are pretty bad. And it is in this that the book is quite different from its predecessor. In the first book September was on a quest as a hero to topple an evil queen. Every child's Fairyland fantasy. Now she is a year older and wiser and faces an entirely different challenge. She still has a quest, but can't trust her companions this time around. And how do you go about defeating a foe when it isn't some far removed evil Marquess, but a part of yourself? Yes this is deep stuff indeed. And everything for September is different. She must rely mostly on herself and is often at a loss experiencing this shadow version of the place she loves and the people she loves. The author sympathizes with this but is remorseless in making the young heroine suffer through it:
Oh, September! It is soon for you to lose your friends to good work and strange loves and high ambitions. The sadness of that is too grown-up for you. Like whiskey and voting, it is a dangerous and heady business, as heavy as years. If I could keep your little tribe together forever, I would. I do so want to be generous. But some stories sprout bright vines that tendril off beyond our sight, carrying the folk we love best with them, and if I knew how to accept that with grace, I would share the secret. Perhaps this will help, if we whisper it to our September, as she watches her friend dwindle in the gloomy lilac breeze, borne away on a track of quicksilver tear: "So much light, sweet girl, begins in the dark."
As you can see Valente's signature beautiful prose are still present and she grew her story and world wonderfully. This is a bittersweet tale full of different creatures and new emotions for September. Tied into it are her feelings for her parents and the war that has taken her father so far away. It is a story of a girl coming to face her fears and hopes for the future, one foot in childhood and one on its way to adulthood.
As with its predecessor this is not going to find a home in the hands of just any child reader. But it's a special book and deserves a special reader.
I read a copy made available via NetGalley. The book will be released on October 2, 2012.