The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There – Catherynne M. Valente

9781780338446“It has been a long time since young September bid farewell to Fairyland, and she is excited to see it again; but upon her return she is shocked to find that her friends have been losing their shadows, and therefore their magic, to the kingdom of Fairyland-Below… Determined to make amends, she travels down into the underworld where, among creatures of ice and moonlight, she encounters a face she recognizes all too well: Halloween, the Hollow Queen. Only then does September realize what she must do to save Fairyland from slipping into the mundane world forever. Come and join in the Revels with September and her friends. But be warned: in Fairyland-Below, even the best of friends aren’t always what they seem…”

I fell in love with the first Fairyland book as soon as I started it, and I’ve been incredibly excited to read and review this one, its sequel. In The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, we saw a young girl September venture into Fairyland. There, she meets a cast of colourful characters and friends, and frees the magical land from the grip of the Marquess, a terrible tyrant who brings Laws and Rules to all the land’s fantastical inhabitants. She completes her mission and returns to her world, unscathed – save her shadow, which she sacrificed at the beginning of the tale in a selfless act.

Many months have passed, and September is dying to get back to Fairyland and her friends – namely Saturday, a blue Marid, and A-Through-L, a Wyvern. But life continues at its own slow pace, until one day she sees some not-so-normal characters passing by, and she follows them back into the wondrous world she fell in love with. But all is not well in Fairyland; the residents of the land are losing their shadows, and these shadows are fleeing below ground – to Fairyland-Below, a world of darkness and revelry, where things are not always as they seem. These shadows are the antithesis of their human counterparts; shy Saturday’s shadow is bold and fearless, and September’s shadow, Halloween, is selfish and flippant. She wants all the shadows to join together in celebration down below, using the magic only shadows can produce. But this is having a devastating effect on September’s beloved Fairyland; all the magic being taken away is making it disappear, and the line between this world and hers is starting to blur. To return things to normalcy, September must once again complete a long, arduous and confusing mission in order to battle a new foe – herself.

The wonderful thing about this Fairyland book is that it has all of the magic of the first book – the great characters and settings, unique storylines and imaginings – but it gives the reader an entirely new adventure, with more quirky details, fantastical characters and the brilliant idea of the shadow-human personality split. It doesn’t lose any of the first book’s originality or charm; it’s different enough that you don’t have to spend time re-familiarising yourself with all of the characters and places. In that way, it’s a continuation of a delightful journey, whilst being an entirely new adventure. A superb follow-up to a superb debut novel, and another simply magical read.

Many thanks to Constable & Robinson for the review copy.

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