Even if I didn't love this quite as much as I loved the first one (and I loved that one quite a lot!), I still very much enjoyed my second trip to Fairyland, holding on to September's coat-tails, hiding while she underwent another set of adventures, but this time with the burden of a newly-grown heart.
It may just be because the first book was such a delightful surprise, and now I expect this lovely sense of whimsy and beautiful prose from Catherynne Valente. It's hard to equal the thrill of discovering a book that just suits you in so many unexpected and delightful ways. Some books do, like comfortable armchairs, just waiting for you to sink into them, with premade dents in just the right places. Others you never get comfortable in, made as they were for people quite a lot taller or shorter, or with legs that seem to bend a different way.
But these books, which are the only two of Catherynne Valente's I've read so far, they fit me just right. I feel like Goldilocks.
September longs to go back to Fairyland, but rarely misses her shadow. That's until she does end up back there, and discovers what her shadow, now calling herself Halloween, has been doing in her absence. She rules Fairyland Below, and is slowly siphoning the shadows of all the creatures on the surface, taking with them their magic. She doesn't want there to be rules, being a wild thing, and thinks that she can kick the rules until they don't apply.
So September ends up with the shadows of her friends Saturday and A-Through-L the still delightful Wyverary (crossbread of a wyvern and a library, for those uninformed enough not to know that). But their shadows are like, but not quite the same as, the friends she left behind. They are wilder, darker, and exciting. Also, she picks up Aubergine the Night Dodo, master of Quiet Magic.
Parts of September enjoy Halloween's revels, but she knows things are not right, and has to go on a quest to find the true ruler of Fairyland Below, travelling through a most peculiar labyrinth, and suffering betrayals and encountering Mad Physicks. But because she has grown a heart, no longer being a child, things are more difficult.
I loved this book so much. I want everyone in the world to read it and love it as much as I do, and yet I feel protective, wanting to keep it from people who wouldn't understand it, who would appreciate how wonderful it is. You have to have a sense of whimsy and play, a love of story and fairy tale. If you do, please read this and its predecessor, The Girl Who Circumnavigate Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making
. And then we can enjoy it together.