If you’ve been following this blog a bit, you’ll recognise the name Catherynne Valente. I rave about her book Deathless as often as I can, because it’s literally the standard to which I hold all mythology retellings ever. It’s amazing. She’s amazing. Recently I read the first two books of her Fairyland series, which is aimed at a much younger audience, but I’m not joking when I say everyone should read it. And here’s seven reasons why.
- The adorkable characters. Our cast includes September, a twelve-year-old girl, A-through-L, a Wyverary (that’s half-Wyvern, half-library), the Green Wind, Iago, the Panther of Rough Storms, and other colourful characters. They’re so goshdarned adorable. You will fall in love with even the villain, because the author makes them so otherworldly and whimsical.
- The imagination. Honestly, did you ever think you’d read the word ‘Wyverary’? How about reading about a herd of wild bicycles? Reading from the perspective of a key or two crows? A lamp that can talk – sort of? Markets that follow you around, enticing you to buy something? Fairyland is magical to the next level. It’s far from cliché and so fascinating to read about. Honestly, if there were an encyclopaedia about Valente’s Fairyland, I’d read that, no matter how dry and boring.
- The prose. I’ll let it speak for itself.
Teenage hearts are raw and new, fast and fierce, and they do not know their own strength.Work is not always a hard thing that looms over your years. Sometimes, work is the gift of the world to the wanting.
Even the flowers are Duchesses, in the deepest dells. Even the raspberries are Khans.
Something in our monstrous blood still seeks the underground, still wants to be wrapped up cozy in a amaze, wants to draw youths and maidens to us and judge them, wants to guard, wants to hide. You cannot escape where you come from, September. Some part of it remains inside you always, like the slender white heart in the center of the thickest onion.
Who doesn’t want to read a book that goes like this?!
- The themes. It constantly surprises me how thought-provoking these books are. They manage to touch upon everything: bureaucracy, slavery, war (it’s set during one of the World Wars) and the best thing for fairytales to remark upon, the ideas of good and evil. You will really feel for the villains, and I don’t mean the way you feel for Loki because of Tom Hiddleston. I mean you’ll wonder are they even in the wrong? It’s mindblowing.
- The plotlines. Never has a children’s book felt to me so carefully plotted, the story weaved together in such a lovely fashion. There’s not a pace problem to be seen. These books know where they’re going, and go there in the best way. And I love how the second book tied up with the first!
- The fairytale feel. This isn’t a retelling, but it makes so many nods to fairytales. It felt very much like a modern Alice in Wonderland to me. And there are all these wonderful classical mythology references – yes! The whimsy and the fantastical creatures add to that aura, but Fairyland manages to stay very original.
- The book trailer. Watch it here.
(PS, if this series doesn’t sound like your style, give Deathless a go instead!)
(PPS, I promise I’m not being paid for this.)