Title: The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two
Series: Fairyland #3
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Illustrator: Ana Juan
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Format: Advanced Reader's Copy
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Subgenre: Portal Fantasy
Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of the ARC through the Amazon Vine program. I'm a Valente fangirl, as always.
September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.
I really, really liked The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. But much though I liked it, I could tell it was never going to be my favorite of Catherynne Valente's works, and after rereading it and then reading The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There I remained firm in that belief. Much though I adored Valente's world-building, much though I relished Valente's ever-muscular prose, much though I delighted in Valente's unexpected bits of poignancy, there was still a simplicity of outlook at the core of both books that kept me slightly at a distance. In both books, no matter how sympathetic Valente made the villains, September was still able to draw a very clear line: this is right and this wrong, and this is a thing I could never do, no matter how hurt I might be.
It is an outlook I understand in books aimed at children and teenagers but which, as an adult, I find. . . somehow inaccessible. It is not relaxing to me, as I assume it is for other people; instead I find it very slightly invalidating.
So while I expected to enjoy The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, I did not expect to be greatly moved by it. And at first I was, if anything, a little disappointed. This third novel felt rougher than the previous two, some of the world-building seemed slightly pro-forma, and for the first time in this series Valente's pacing for information reveals seemed slightly off -- I wondered where a character had disappeared to in a scene and was not given the answer for several paragraphs, making it feel as though Valente had forgotten him/her. Part of this may be because I read the ARC -- in one scene the narrator stated that a character had been left behind, but then the character was mentioned twice more afterwards, an obvious error that I assume will be fixed in the final copy. So some of the roughness in other scenes may be similarly amended.
But as the novel went on, I became increasingly convinced that at least part of the unevenness in tone was intentional. September is fourteen now, caught in that thorny place between childhood and adulthood, struggling to figure out who she is meant to be amongst all the conflicting messages she has been given by the world around her. She is aware of Saturday as a boy in a way she wasn't when they first met, and she has begun lying to herself.
And Fairyland. . . Fairyland has changed with her. Circumnavigated was about choice, about saying yes; Fell Beneath was about dealing with the consequences of one's choices; Soared Over, I think, is about how you respond when your choice is taken away, when your actions are irrelevant, when the world will do what it wants for good or ill and you have no power to change it. It's so much more complicated, suddenly, than I gave this series credit for, and that is both heartbreaking and deeply satisfying to me.
It does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, which none of the previous books have, and the plot is somewhat meandering even accounting for what I think is deliberate messiness, but this book excited me the way the rest of the series did not, so I give it my strongest recommendation.
Overall Satisfaction: ★★★★★
Intellectual Satisfaction: ★★★★★
Emotional Satisfaction: ★★★★★
Read this for: The themes.
Don't read this for: The plot.
Bechdel Test: Pass
Johnson Test: Fail
Books I was reminded of: Just the rest of Valente's work.
Will I read more by this author? Of course!
- Current Mood: enthralled