Some of you may remember seeing September, heroine of Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series, on my recent list of fabulous female literary role models for young readers. Well, she is back in Valente’s latest installment, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two. This time September is 14, forced to mature too quickly by the war but still much more of a child than her classmates, whose talk increasingly turns to beauty and boys. Feeling out of place, September busies herself with caring for her father and loses herself in her books, yearning for a chance to return to Fairyland. Return she does, but this time in a most unpleasant way and to Fairyland’s moon rather than Fairyland itself. Eventually reunited with her dear friends, A-through-L the Wyvern and Saturday the Marid boy, September sets out to save the moon. Though I don’t wish to ruin any more of the plot, this time around September meets all sorts of moon creatures, goes up against a Moon-Yeti, and learns that there is more than one side to every story.
I’m not sure I cared for this book quite as much as the others, but after taking a day or two to mull it over, I think I’ve figured out why. The book is not as joyful as the first two; rather it emanates an anxious tension and the sense that nothing is quite right. Really, it is a masterstroke on Valente’s part, however. This subtle shift in tone reflects the anxiety and tension September herself feels as she is trying to determine her purpose and navigate the path of growing up while still clinging to her beloved Fairyland. It is the discomfort that comes from that in-between stage: not really a child but not yet a true adult, regardless of what life had already thrown at you. For while September is wise in the ways of life, she still can only mimic being an adult. But does becoming a real adult mean giving up Fairyland?
The prose is as deliciously mischievous and musical and the word choices as wonderfully complex as ever, the kind of prose that you just want to wrap around yourself and snuggle down into. Kudos to Ms. Valente for writing a “children’s” book series that never once talks down to its young readers and challenges them with sophisticated vocabulary that even caused me to look up a few words. And the slightly panicked sorrow I felt at the end reinforced Valente’s talents at creating complex and recognizable characters even within a fantasy context. I had originally thought the series was supposed to be a trilogy, but the ending of the book makes it seem like there will be more. I do hope she writes at least one more book. A character as wonderful as September deserves a different ending. As I get further in a series, I become reluctant to write too much in a review for fear of spoiling something, and I hope I haven’t spoiled something now. If you currently read about September and her friends, please continue to do so, and if you don’t, I hope you’ll start. Though this was not my favorite of the series, it is still a better and much more wildly creative novel than many popular novels, regardless of audience age. The series itself continues to be one of my favorites!
And now, I apologize if I don’t post for awhile. I am launching into the second book in the Game of Thrones series. It may read quickly, but it is still over 900 pages!