One of our picks for the best books of 2011 for ages 10 and up was The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and now the highly anticipated follow-up book has been released. John Scalzi, best-selling author of the cult classic, Old Man’s War, and his most recent book, Redshirts, wrote the fabulous Omni guest review below for Valente's latest, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.
As you'll see, John added a disclaimer to his review, and I'll add a side-note of my own before I let him take over: don't let that middle grade age marker deter you, adult reader. Catherynne Valente's books are a great read for anyone who enjoys a good Alice in Wonderland-esque, fantasy story. But don't just take my word for it, let's see what John Scalzi has to say...
First a disclaimer: I know Cat Valente, like her a whole lot, and have even paid her money to write stuff for me. So while what follows is honest (i.e., I really believe what I am saying to you), it is not in the least bit unbiased. It is totally biased! Just so you know.
With that out of the way:
Some Very Excellent Reasons Why The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is Very Much Worth Your Time and Also and Not Coincidentally Worth Your Money Too:
(in no particular order)
1. I love the story, continuing the adventures of September, the willful, half-shod protagonist of Cat’s New York Times bestselling “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Boat of Her Own Making” (which, incidentally won the prestigious Andre Norton Award for young adult fiction over some pretty serious contenders, including a book of mine, so there). September is older, and arguably wiser, and also changed. But then so is Fairyland when she returns to it and confronts a new foes and new challenges. I would tell you more, but why spoil it? But I will say:
2. I love September, who is very exactly a young woman of a certain age, that age being thirteen. Coincidentally I happen to have a thirteen year old daughter in the house and while she and September are their own people, they are (to my eye at least) clearly part of the same newly-hearted tribe. Cat is too, or at the very least remembers vividly what it’s like to be one.
3. I love Fairyland, which pulls off the neat trick of being both immediately familiar and refreshingly new. Cat knows her folklore and myth -- knows the mechanics of “once upon a time” -- and that knowledge allows her to create a Fairyland that is delightful but not exactly safe. It’s a dreamworld that tells you that you’ve been there before even when everything is new. That’s the delight, and also the danger.
4. I love the language, which in Cat’s hands is playful but not twee, blunt but not cruel, truthful but not pedestrian, expansive but not showy. Which words get used? The right words, the smart words, the unexpected but perfect words, the words that unpack a feeling like a picnic basket and invite you to the feast. Much of the magic of Fairyland is in the telling -- both of the land itself and how September herself apprehends it.
5. I love that it’s the rare book -- like Neil Gaiman’s Coraline or Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -- that you want to read aloud to a child not only as a loving obligation but because it makes you want to explore Fairyland together, hand in hand. Books like that are too few to miss. That Cat has made two of them is a little bit of a miracle.
In short: I love it, and I think and surely hope you will too. I am biased here, but also truthful. This is a good book. —John Scalzi