07 February 2014

The Girl who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There - Catherynne M. Valente

Sometimes you finish a book that was ohhhhhkay and you feel like all the good books were written in the past, and you're so woebegone that you ignore the somewhat glaring inconsistency that by definition ALL published books were written in the past.

"Books today," you think, "are just not what they used to be. I'm going to go back to classics and books with dragons on the covers.*"

And then you feel very smug with yourself and pick up this slim novel by Catherynne M. Valente, promising yourself that it's nothing but Brontes and Dickens and Collins after this because at least they weren't writing to be able to sell movie rights. This is when Valente - who is a year younger than you, what have you been doing with your life?!? - takes you by your smug nose and teaches an object lesson in Creative Writing.

Chapter 1: Exuent in a Rowboat, Pursued by Crows
 Valente's imagination should be a national treasure. Her work is full of the details that make Oz and Wonderland such indelible places.
"Once upon a time, a girl named September had a secret."
This is the second book in the The Girl Who series, which I'm sure has a better, more proper name but who cares about that. The point is, in theory you've already read the first book or at least heard its title, which is The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making. Thus it is not a spoiler to tell you that September's secret is that she has been to Fairyland before, and it's not much of a spoiler to tell you that - much like the rest of us would if we had been September - she spent a large portion of her time thinking about how to get back.
"Now, secrets are delicate things. They can fill you up with sweetness and leave you like a cat who has found a particularly fat sparrow to eat and did not get clawed or bitten even once while she was about it."
Nice job, Puss.
But they can also get stuck inside you, and very slowly boil up your bones for their bitter soup. So we may be very glad that September had the better of her secret...
Those are some Trufax (TM), you guys, and it's only page 1.  Observe page 180, if you please:

Wit laughed, which for a crow is a loud, rough sound. Crows look down a bit on birds that make pretty, trilling sounds. Pandering to humans, they say. Just shameless.

I gobbled this book up and ordered the third one from the library, tout de suite.

10.5 out of 11 Mazes that wouldn't be caught dead without a minotaur. It's not done!

*Can we please have a moment of silence for Anne McCaffrey, without whom  I would probably not be here - either as a writer or as a reader of books. Pern is a much beloved mark on my soul, and if the future doesn't bring me a fire lizard then what, I ask you, is science even for?