“The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There” by Catherynne M Valente

Before I get into this review, I just want to say that yes that is a colouring-in bookmark. I’m saving it for the end of the year. I think I’m going to need some relaxation after this semester. But moving on….

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland did something that not many books really can. Well, not for me anyway. It made me think. Not just about the story or the characters, but it made me think about life. Only the very best of novels can do this.

This instalment of the Fairyland  series mainly takes place in Fairyland-Below. All of the shadows are being stolen by Halloween, the Hollow Queen (genius, right?), and therefore leeching the magic from the Fairyland we met in the first book. Magic lives in the shadows, apparently. And so when the shadows disappear, so does the magic. This is what September goes back to fix.

Now how did this story make me think, you ask? Well, in this book we meet the shadow versions of our favourites: September, A-through-L, and Saturday. As well as the Marquess. The shadow versions of these characters were very similar to the characters we’d met previously. Only, every once in a while you’d see that one of their dominant traits had flipped to its reverse. A-through-L was timid, Saturday was assertive, and the Marquess was something akin to kind. And I’m going to let Valente take it from here:

“[September] did not know yet how sometimes people keep parts of themselves hidden and secret, sometimes wicked and unkind parts, but often brave or wild or colourful parts, cunning or powerful or even marvellous, beautiful parts, just locked up away at the bottom of their hearts. They do this because they are afraid of the world and of being stared at, or relied upon to do feats of bravery or boldness. And all of those brave and wild and cunning and marvellous and beautiful parts they hid away and left in the dark to grow strange mushrooms—and yes, sometimes those wicked and unkind parts, too—end up in their shadow.”

What The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland  looked at was how the traits the we keep in the dark strengthen over time until something, maybe the theft of all of the shadows in a fantastical place, forces those traits into the light of day. Which got me thinking: which of my traits would my shadow have? Would she be bolder? More selfish? Would she be cruel? It is an incredibly perplexing thought because, well, who knows? I don’t know my dominant traits, so I don’t know which traits I hide. Does anyone? And that got me thinking a whole lot of things about myself that got very uncomfortable very quickly.

And all that from a story that is set in Fairyland.

The plot of this story is simply what September has to do to fix the magic in Fairyland. It progresses the same way as any other questing story, really. September has to find pieces of the puzzle that lead her to the final stage where there is, of course, one last twist. The thing is that Valente does this with such panache. Now there’s a word that I don’t use very often. The plot may be something that we’re all familiar with, but what happens in between plot points is what makes this story beautiful. Plus the ability to create a dark side to already fully developed characters is something I haven’t really seen done before. It’s impressive and, really, a little intimidating.

You see where I’m going with this, right?

★★★★★

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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