Illustrated by Ana Juan
Published: March 2014 by Much In Little
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
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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.
In this, the third instalment of Valente’s Fairyland series, we see our beloved heroine September grow up, use her heart a bit more, and learn some awfully hard lessons. This book is tinged with more sorrow and melancholy than its predecessors, and seems altogether more serious and full of darkness.
September is looking forward, as usual, to the time when she can return to Fairyland and join her friends, A-Through-L the Wyverary and Saturday the Marid, in a rousing adventure full of magic. The previous two times she’s been in Fairyland she’s been busy overthrowing monarchs, but surely this time she can get some peace and quiet and have a nice adventure, right? Right!?
Before September is whisked off to Fairyland in this book we are treated with a look at how desperately she longs to return there, and for the first time, I started thinking that these adventures are very bad for her. Why? Because it’s clear that she has basically stopped living. She doesn’t have any friends at school and spends a lot of her time being sad and wistful. Her father is back from the war, injured, and she’s very worried about his health. The little girl we met two years ago has been replaced with a slightly taller, quieter and more demure version. Here is a girl that can no longer be described as ill-tempered and irascible.
She’s still undoubtably brave, and growing up has given her a new perspective, which comes in very handy in the adventure she has in this book. Firstly, she’s whisked off to Fairyland by the Blue Wind, who is completely different from September’s friend, the Green Wind and tells September some hard truths. September resolves to grow up, to hide her feelings and generally conduct herself differently in the future. The ramifications of this decision are clearer as the novel progresses: it speaks to the desire all teens have to grow up and enter the adult sphere of life, but usually they’re depriving themselves of experiences and fun in the process.
The lessons September learns, through magic and mischief as in the other books, have grown up alongside her. They are about self respect and and finding yourself, the matters of destiny and accepting changes in those you love most. She learns to take responsibility for her actions, that some rules are meant to broken but figuring out which ones is hard, and that courage is very different from fearlessness.
Her friends are growing up along-side September, and she’s really struggling to accept it. She’s known, for example, that Saturday is a Marid and that he is very different from her, and in particular has a different experience of time, but when their beliefs come to a head her response is to ignore and hurt him because she doesn’t agree. Of course, September lacks the tools at that point to really understand him and his outlook, but much like her treatment of her friends’ shadows in the last book, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed at how selfish September was.
September has some weird views: she can believe in talking whelks and wyveraries but struggles with the idea that the car that got sucked into Fairyland with her might have feelings. She’s compartmentalised her two lives quite successfully, but now they are blurring and she has no idea what do with herself.
The plot of this narrative meanders in a way the other two did not. It feels as though this story doesn’t have a destination for a very long time, and encounters with strange and wonderful creatures and people just seem to be filling up time rather than leading up to something. The structure of this book departs from those before it as well. Whereas the other two books ended with September being deposited back in 1920’s Omaha to continue her life in our world, this one doesn’t, and it jarred and confused me.
I enjoyed The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two a lot, but wasn’t swept away by it was I was with the earlier instalments. Some of the charm is gone from September’s adventures, and it too much took long in this book for anything to actually happen. The unsatisfying plot and confusing ending have me hoping that the next book brings back the magic and wonder. I don’t expect the books to continue to be light and whimsical, but I feel like the maturing characters and plot of the series weren’t handled well in this book.