Brief Thoughts: The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home by Catherynne M. Valente

Blogger’s autosave ate my full review (which I was quite pleased with) of this book 🙁 I am reminded of why I draft locally in Word… There’s nothing I hate more than rewriting, but I’m going to try to recall as many of my thoughts as possible and share them here. At least I made a few notes while reading…

Quite by accident, September has been crowned as Queen of Fairyland – but she inherits a Kingdom in chaos. The magic of a Dodo’s egg has brought every King, Queen, or Marquess of Fairyland back to life, each with a fair and good claim on the throne, each with their own schemes and plots and horrible, hilarious, hungry histories. In order to make sense of it all, and to save their friend from a job she doesn’t want, A-Through-L and Saturday devise a Royal Race, a Monarckical Marathon, in which every outlandish would-be ruler of Fairyland will chase the Stoat of Arms across the whole of the nation – and the first to seize the poor beast will seize the crown. Caught up in the madness are the changelings Hawthorn and Tamburlaine, the combat wombat Blunderbuss, the gramophone Scratch, the Green Wind, and September’s parents, who have crossed the universe to find their daughter…

  • I didn’t remember a lot of stuff from the previous books, but the characters felt familiar (I certainly didn’t remember that her Dad was in Fairyland Below!).  
  • This book wraps up September’s story, but I would have liked to see more of Tam and Hawthorn, after we spent an entire book getting to know them. I’m crossing my fingers for a novella of their adventures during the race.
  • September has grown believably over the course of the series. She’s not a little girl anymore and her words and actions reflect that. Sometimes I feel a character’s growth over time can be forced or jagged (as opposed to the natural flow of maturing). September’s growth felt very real to me.
  • The prose I adored in the first book and occasionally felt tired of in the other books seems to have found a balance here. Rather, Valente’s busy creativity occupies itself with a vast array of characters. The simple camaraderie of September, Ell and Saturday can at times feel crowded by all other character encounters. When you arrive at the end of series like Fairyland, where your MCs have travelled far and encountered many, you have a lot of characters to catch up with at the end! But then, I suppose you also can’t have a race without other racers to go up against.
  • I liked the conclusion, which wraps everything up nicely without being predictable. I also liked the inclusion of September’s parents – I actually would have liked to hear more about them.
  • A brief narrator interlude towards the end nearly made me cry. The passage as I understood is about returning to the stories we love (told through the metaphor of returning home). I’ve never heard the experience described so accurately or eloquently. Here’s a piece of it:

I will always be here, in my old chair by the door, waiting for you, whenever you are lonesome. Our little house will always look just the same as when we first blew the dust off the bookshelves, and the kettle will always be just about to boil. Sometimes I will be young, and sometimes I will be old, sometimes you will be young, and sometimes you will be old. But for as long as forever, I will keep a room for you. I swear by the sparkle in my eye and the spring in your step. (299-300).

  • The Bottom Line: A fitting conclusion to a delightful series. I hope these books will be enjoyed as classics by many in years to come.

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