At long last, Catherynne M. Valente has reached the conclusion of her Fairyland series, and with it, September’s adventures. The Girl who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home picks up pretty much where The Boy who Lost Fairyland left off, September standing at the front of a room in Pandemonium’s castle, inadvertently having become Queen of Fairyland and trying to figure out what to do while all the previous rulers yell at her. Ultimately, it is decided that all of those previous rulers, including September, must race, and the winner will become the next ruler of Fairyland. This race is no ordinary race, of course, containing a fruit-basket turnover of transportation options, duels-by-proxy, riddles, underwater adventures, new friends and new lands, and the horrible loss of memory. In the meantime, September has 3 days to rule and race, aided by her trusty friends, A-through-L and Saturday, and her new friends, Hawthorn, Tamburlaine, Blunderbuss, and Scratch. This time, though, September’s parents and aunt have stumbled into Fairyland as well, in search of their missing daughter and niece.
I’ve already written about Valente’s delightful, sophisticated, and subversive approach to both the fairy tale and young adult novel, so I suspect that this post will be rather short. The main thing I want to note is that despite a stumble with the third book and a break from September’s adventures with the aforementioned fourth, Valente has recaptured all that is lovely, charming, and creative about her world in this last book. It was so nice to spend some more time with September, Saturday, and A-through-L again, and Valente blended the foursome from The Boy who Lost Fairyland perfectly into the world at large. I did realized that I have become completely lost in terms of September’s personal timeline (I seem to remember she started the series quite young–maybe 12 or so?–and in this one she seems to be closer to 17 or 18), but despite that, there was no major misstep on Valente’s authorial part.
I particularly loved the arrival of September’s aunt (who, like September, had explored and even ruled Fairyland for a time) and her parents. I think so often we think we are so alone in our wishes and dreams, and this showed that’s not really true. I just really liked the continuity between September and Aunt Margaret, who shares the experience of Fairyland, and September and her mother, who’s work during the war inspired September’s independence and ruling title: The Engineer. In a series about fantasy and adventure, her family’s appearances provided a nice grounding and blending of fantasy and reality that felt really good.
Overall, I was really happy with the series as a whole and with this final book. I can’t tell you how the race turns out, of course, but I can tell you that I finished the book with a strong sense of satisfaction, a twinge of sadness, and a tingle of anticipation for the next adventure, whether or not we get a chance to ride along. And September remains an excellent role model for readers of any gender and age. As I said in my first review of the series, this is a wonderful YA series but don’t let that chase you away if you are an adult reader. It is definitely worth your time.