Review Detail

Enchanting
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
What I Liked:
Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland trilogy recalls classic tales very clearly, but, rather than coming across as redundant, Valente weaves them together into something wholly new. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (TGWFBF for short) dives back into the vibrant world of Fairyland, adding further depth and wonder to an already glorious world.

At the novel’s opening, September remains in Nebraska, impatiently waiting some summons to return to Fairyland. As the days pass, September becomes increasingly glum, missing her father, off fighting in WWII, and her Fairyland friends. What immediately becomes apparent is that our little September has done some maturing in her time since the last book. Though still grumpier than average, now thirteen, September’s a bit softer than she once was. Much as I loved the grouchy, irascible September, I love seeing characters mature, and the way that having such wonderful friends has helped her grow.

Now, I’m going to take a bit of an aside, as I seem to have a tendency to do in Valente reviews; I blame her, and the way her words inspire me. In the first book, Valente describes children as heartless. In TGWFBF, she describes teens this way:

"For though, as we have said, all children are heartless, this is not precisely true of teenagers. Teenage hearts are raw and new, fast and fierce, and they do not know their own strength. Neither do they know reason or restraint, and if you want to know the truth, a goodly number of grown-up hearts never learn it."

To some, these designations may seem rather heartless in and of themselves. Keep in mind, however, that TGWFBF is largely metaphorical. Young children do not have fully developed minds, senses of right and wrong, or, in Freudian terms, ego, which leads to that cruelty that can be witnessed in children. Teens have grown so much, but they’re not settled. They’re learning, but everything is new, confusing, awkward, and they don’t necessarily have all the information and experience necessary to parse experiences both emotional and otherwise.

To digress further, the reason I love this quote so very much is that I think it encapsulates why I, as an adult, find young adult, and sometimes even middle grade fiction, so compelling. Yes, there are other factors as well, like the creativity and subject matter, but that right there is a big reason. Though I’m a decade out from 16 now, I often identify more with these teen heroines than the ones I find in adult fiction. Partly, this is market-driven, but it also correlates to the phase of life I’m in. What it comes down to is that teen hearts and adult hearts are not that far removed, necessarily.

Getting back onto track, September does finally manage to make her way down to Fairyland and, in fact beneath it, as the title suggests. When September arrives in Fairyland, she does not find the happy place she left. You may remember that September’s shadow was taken from her during the first book. Turns out that September’s shadow has led a shadow revolution, bringing all of them down below Fairyland, and taking Fairyland’s magic with them.

Almost the entirety of TGWFBF occurs in this shadow world beneath Fairyland, and September spends her time with shadows of her friends, former enemies, and herself. Valente uses the shadows to make a deep comment about what lies within each person. The shadows represent the selves that we keep hidden below the surface. Hesitant people would have impulsive shadows, for instance. TGWFBF beautifully highlights the fact that, whatever we may show on the surface, everyone’s made up of all the same things. We’re all capable of good or of evil.

In TGWFBF, the fact that Fairyland is a mental escape for September from the harsh realities of her real life in wartime becomes much more apparent. Where September and her mother scrape by on rations in Nebraska, she can feast on delicious things in Fairyland. As her worries at hearing nothing from her father increase, she descends into the magical landscape as a way of distracting herself. It’s a rather similar narrative device to the one used in Chronicles of Narnia, but much more subtly and fancifully done.

What Left Me Wanting More:
The cast of characters delights and entrances. The one drawback I had, though, was that I didn’t quite get the emotional engagement this time, as September spent her time with the shadow versions of her dear friends, and I missed them. However, the shadows really opened up Maud, the villain of the first book. Villains so often get passed over characterization-wise, but Valente continues to build out her motivations even from the start made in the first book.

The Final Verdict:
Though the Fairyland series is marketed as a middle grade series, do not let that stop readers of any age. Adults, read this without shame, as you should anything, and teens as well. Valente’s Fairyland series is intricate, clever, and jaw-droppingly magical, and all portrayed with some of the most gorgeous writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.
Report this review Was this review helpful to you? 0 0

Comments

Already have an account? or Create an account
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

The Cousins
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of One...
A Curse of Roses
 
3.7
 
0.0 (0)
Based on Portuguese legend, this #OwnVoices historical fantasy is an...
I Don't Want to Wash my Hands!
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
From beloved children's author and illustrator Tony Ross, comes a...
Dance Like a Leaf
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
As her grandmother's health declines, a young girl begins to...
The Bitterwine Oath
 
3.3 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
San Solano, Texas, is a quaint town known for...
Sing Like No One's Listening
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
A moving YA debut about a talented young singer...
Heiress Apparently (Daughters of the Dynasty, #1)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
The first book in an epic and romantic YA...
The Good Girls
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
One of Us Is Lying meets Sadie in this...
Frozen 2: Dangerous Secrets: The Story of Iduna and Agnarr
 
4.7
 
0.0 (0)
Sixteen-year-old Iduna harbors a dark secret. On the surface,...
The Camelot Betrayal
 
4.7
 
0.0 (0)
The second book in a new fantasy trilogy from...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Every summer, they say goodbye. Dorit goes to Tel Aviv...
Incredible Animals
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
In this illustrated guide, discover fascinating and unusual information about...
Special Delivery
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
A lovely book to share with children in an expecting...
Eyelike Stickers: Trains
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Hundreds of irresistible, reusable, and collectible stickers to mix, match,...
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
It is twenty years since the events of La Belle...
Winter Light
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
WINTER LIGHT is the story of 15-year-old Mary Donahue...

Latest Member Reviews

The Cousins
 
5.0
"THE COUSINS is a highly devourable and engaging family drama/mystery. The Story family is very wealthy, running a bunch of..."
A Curse of Roses
 
3.7
"A CURSE OF ROSES is an intriguing YA historical fantasy based on a Portuguese legend. The book tackles themes of..."
Speechless
 
4.7
"this story is amazing! i have a project for honors english 10, and this is a great story to chose..."
The Bitterwine Oath
 
3.3
"THE BITTERWINE OATH is a YA fantasy and light horror read. Nat is the descendent of the girl who put..."
 
4.3
"If your expecting the same type of books that you’ve been reading in this series, you’d be wrong. This whole..."
The Kinder Poison
 
5.0
"From start to finish I absolutely adored this story. The opening scene was so much fun to read while Zahru..."
Heiress Apparently (Daughters of the Dynasty, #1)
 
5.0
"HEIRESS APPARENTLY is a YA rom-com with deep themes that make it such an engaging and captivating read. Gemma is..."
The Good Girls
 
4.0
"THE GOOD GIRLS is an enthralling read. The book begins after the disappearance and seeming murder of the police chief's..."
All our Hidden Gifts
 
4.0
"Maeve finds a pack of tarot cards while cleaning out a closet at her school. What starts off as curiosity,..."
Frozen 2: Dangerous Secrets: The Story of Iduna and Agnarr
 
4.7
"DANGEROUS SECRETS: THE STORY OF IDUNA AND AGNARR is a great MG/YA fantasy romance. Based on Frozen, this book tells..."
Hot British Boyfriend
 
4.0
"When Ellie is completely humiliated by her best friend an crush, she decides the best way to escape her jeering..."
The Camelot Betrayal (Camelot Rising, #2)
 
4.7
"THE CAMELOT BETRAYAL continues Guinevere's story as she seeks to find her footing in a world that keeps throwing her..."
Loveboat, Taipei
 
4.7
"WHAT I LOVED: Ever’s pushy parents have already gotten their way by making her apply to medical school, but..."
The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea
 
5.0
"THE MERMAID, THE WITCH, AND THE SEA is a lush, beautiful, and romantic fantasy that follows Flora, now living as..."
Super Fake Love Song
 
4.3
"SUPER FAKE LOVE SONG is a YA contemporary romance about siblings, feeling like an outcast, and friendship. Sunny definitely feels..."
The Companion
 
5.0
"Margot is the survivor of a devastating accident in which her entire family drowns in their car. She is taken..."
How It All Blew Up
 
4.3
"Amir is an Iranian American teenager who is gay and in the closet. When another student blackmails him about his..."
Skyhunter (Skyhunter, #1)
 
5.0
"I really enjoyed Skyhunter, another winner from Marie Lu. Talin is a refugee and is mute. She is a Striker,..."
Now That I've Found You
 
4.0
"Evie is a young actress living in L.A. and has a legacy to live up to. Her parents are famous..."
Clown in a Cornfield
 
3.3
"When Quinn and her father move to a tiny town, she's hoping to fit in and finish high school. Kettle..."