All posts for the month June, 2014

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut The Moon in Two (Catherynne M. Valente) Book Review

Published June 19, 2014 by ElisaChristy

Video version of this review can be found here.

The third book in the Fairyland series – Reviews of the first and second books here – starts, once again, with September at home on Earth. As she is getting older, she has more things things to occupy her time other than school, such as learning to drive – although she is fourteen at the beginning. I doubt I would have been allowed near a steering wheel at that age – though she spends her time running errands, helping her father who was wounded in the war, she is still unsure what she wants to do when she’s grown up. Then she finds her way into Fairyland again.

“No-one can see themselves change until they have already done it, and then suddenly they cannot remember ever having been different at all.”

September is worried she may be too old to go to Fairyland anymore, the book references a line from Peter Pan, which goes:

“I am old, Peter. I am ever so much more than twenty. I grew up long ago.”
“You promised not to!”
“I couldn’t help it.”

And here we have September thinking: “I am fourteen now, which is ever so much more than twelve.”

A theme throughout the book is whether or not you are ever too old to go to Fairyland, and this reference to one of the most famous books with imaginary worlds ever written is a wonderful way of illustrating the idea.

“‘Money is magic everyone agrees to pretend is not magic. Observe! You treat it like magic, wield it like magic, fear it like magic…The little circles can’t get up and fight a battle or make a supper so splendid you get full just by looking at it or build a house of a thousand gables. They can do those things because everyone agrees to give them power. If everyone agreed to stop giving power to pretty metals and started giving it to thumbnails or roof shingles or first kisses or tears or hours or puffin feathers, those little circles would just lay there tarnishing in the rain…”

September is told by the blue wind to take a box to the whelk of the moon. She cannot open the box herself, so she must go to a library and ask the librarian where she once again meets A-through-L the Wyvern. There are moonquakes happening and everyone on the moon believes a yeti is trying to break the moon apart, to find her paw that was cut off many years ago by the fairies, however that is not exactly the case, it’s just what everyone believes.

Narrators have a professional obligation not to let their charges fall onto the pavement.”

In this book, we also seem to learn more about the narrator. As the book is told in the third person, it is being narrated by someone outside of her story. The narrator does seem to be omniscient, but that doesn’t mean the reader gets to be omniscient too, as the narrator does not tell us everything she does.

“‘Oh, every place has a Pluto! It’s where the universe keeps the polar bears and last year’s pickled entropy and the spare gravity. You need a Pluto or you’re hardly a universe at all. Plutos teach lessons.'”

Pluto teaches the lesson: What others call you, you become. September takes this to mean as others are calling her an official criminal of the realm, then that must be what she is. But, there is a place in Fairyland which will tell you your fate, and September wants to go there, however when she does, she does not want to know her fate, as she wants to choose it, not have it written out for her, but as our omniscient narrator tells us:

“It is written – but so, too, it is crossed out. You can write over it again. You can make notes in the margins. You can cut out the whole page. You can, and you must, edit and rewrite and reshape and pull out the wrong parts like bones and find just the thing and you can forever, forever, write more and more and more, thicker and longer and clearer. Living is a paragraph, constantly rewritten.”

So September still does not know her fate, and she does not know what will happen to her at the ending.

At the end of this book, I had three theories for how the ending could go, and although the ending was one of those three – I won’t tell you what though – it is written in a way I didn’t expect. And with a cliff-hangar I didn’t expect. Hopefully, this just means there is going to be another book in the series. 

Personally, I think this is my favourite book in the series so far, enough like the first one to satisfy my fantastical side, but with enough of a running plot through the book to keep me reading. In terms of writing style, I think this book lies somewhere in between the first and second book, and uses the best parts of both of them.