Author: Catherynne M Valente; Illustrations by Ana Juan
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult/Middle Grade
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication date: October 2 2012
Hardcover: 272 pages
September returns to Fairyland to reunite with A-Through-L, Saturday, and Gleam, and to confront her shadow-self, who has become the queen of Fairyland-Below, the upside-down world beneath the Fairyland of the first novel, filled with creatures of water and shadow, tales of ancient Fairyland before the human world was born, and not a few hungry buffins, blind birds of ice and moonlight. The yearly revels of Fairyland-Below climax in a mysterious rite September must avert or else lose her shadow forever.
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the Fairyland series
How did I get this book: I got a signed review copy at BEA and it says and this is soooo cool : “To Ana – Happy Halloween to a Most Excellent Questing Physickist.” Seriously awesome.
Why did I read this book: Because I LOVED The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, it was a rare double 10 from us Smugglers and it featured in our top 10 of 2011.
There is something quite wonderful and magical about Cat Valente’s Fairyland books. They are beautifully written, immensely creative, full of heart and wholly reminiscent of times gone by.
In this sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland on a Ship of Her Own Making (one of the best books I have ever read), one year has passed since September’s adventures in Fairyland. One year of keeping it all a secret, of missing her friends terribly and yearning for more adventures. When she does finally go back, everything seems changed and not quite right and September just knows that it has to be her own fault, the result of her actions the year before. As such, taking upon herself to go on another Quest in search of answers, September travels all the day to Fairyland-Below where she will meet her missing shadow and learn just what she had been doing for the past year.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is just like its predecessor and yet somehow, completely different too. Just like before there are amazing adventures to be had against the backdrop of a wonderfully imagined world full of delight but also danger and darkness. There is still that interfering narrator, the great characters (some of them brand-new) and the beautiful illustrations by Ana Juan.
It departs from The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in the way that this is a more grown-up book when it comes to its themes. Because you see, September is now thirteen-years-old, on the way of becoming a teenager. And if – like we learnt last time – all children are heartless, this is not true when it comes to teenagers:
Teenage hearts are raw and new, fast and fierce, and they do not know their own strength. Neither do they know reason or restraint, and if you want to know the truth, a goodly number of grown-up hearts never learn it. And so we may say now, as we could not before, that September’s heart squeezed, for it had begun to grow in her like a flower in the dark. We may also take a moment to feel a little sorry for her, for having a heart leads to the peculiar griefs of the grown.
September now thinks about the future, about what she is going to do with her life especially after seeing so many friends settling down, knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. She thinks about first kisses and what do they mean. She thinks a lot more about her family, left behind in Omaha. But she is still September: with her heart full of wonderment, her desire for Adventure-with-a-capital-A and her loyalty and love for her friends.
And finally, the many threads and themes woven into the story are what make it all the more special. Like many heroes and heroines before her, September’s quest takes to the Underworld (and how much did I love seeing the fun graffiti – “I told you not to turn around – you never listened to me” – from previous visitors on its walls?) where she meets other aspects of herself and those she loves. I loved how the premise of the unconscious “shadow” is incorporated into the story: everything a person is not completely aware of with regards to their own personality is taken literally here when their actual shadows are the embodiment of both positive and negative aspects of their personality. So, September’s Shadow is a little bit fuller of Want and still a lot more Heartless than September – and I absolutely loved how this was all dealt with in the novel’s denouement in a way that does not dismiss those aspects of one’s personality. There is also a lot of fun with the metatext as well as the story is completely aware of itself: there is a moment when a couple of characters examine the types of Quests available to September with their built-in archetypes.
Perhaps because September is not as Heartless as before, I felt this book is not as dark as the first one. But it is still a fun, magical, profound, and joyful read. Absolutely a top 10 read of 2012.
Notable quotes/Parts: A couple of wonderful quotes from the book:
“A book is a door, you know. Always and forever. A book is a door into another place and another heart and another world.”
“That’s Venus, September thought. She was the goddess of love. It’s nice that love comes on first thing in the evening, and goes out last in the morning. Love keeps the light on all night.”
Rating: 9 – Damn Near Perfect
Reading next: Keeper of the Lost Cities
by Shannon Messenger