Audiobook Review: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

19 09 2013

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente (Fairyland, Bk. 2)

Read by S. J. Tucker

Brilliance Audio

Length: 8 Hrs 18 Min

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE  maintains all the magic, dark adventure and vicarious joy of the first novel, and builds on it with delightful results. Catherynne M. Valente’s twists of classic fairytales and portal fantasies is a magical joyride for people of all ages.

Grade: A

It’s been a year since September has returned from Fairyland, where she had grand adventures, made fabulous new friends and helped overthrow the Marquess who wanted to prevent any other little girls from crossing over into Fairyland. A year of patient waiting for her father to return from the war, for her 13th birthday, and for the wind to sweep her back to Fairyland where now that the darkness has been defeated she can delight in the magic and the company of her friends. Yet, when she finally does return, nothing is right. Someone has been coming up from Fairyland Below and stealing the shadows of those from Fairyland Above, and September suspects that the shadow thief may be her own shadow she left behind a year ago. OK, let‘s screw suspense, people…. I LOVE LOVE LOVED this book. This book made me want to have kids just so someday I can introduce them to the wonderful world of Fairyland where young girls can be bishops, markets run wild, shadows can dance and play, and science is a device searching for it’s use. Catherynne M. Valente’s twists of classic fairytales and portal fantasies is a magical joyride for people of all ages, from wide eye children to gruff brutish, emotionally distant, socially awkward almost 40 year old men like myself. Following September’s adventures in Fairyland is the closest I have come to reliving those days when I would give anything to travel to Narnia or Oz and have grand adventures with talking animals, ogres and ghouls, and maybe have tea with a family of beavers. THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE  maintains all the magic, dark adventure and vicarious joy of the first novel, and builds on it with delightful results.

There is so much in the book I loved that it’s would almost be easier to write a checklist of awesomeness. While you may miss out on the illustrations that come with the print version, the story itself is perfect for audio. Valente, in the form of a nameless narrator, tells this story in a conversational tone. The narrator acts as a conspiratorial conduit for the tale, letting the reader in on bits and bobbles and tiny secrets that the characters of the book are not privy to. She is quick to defend September for her often rash manner, explaining to us about how she is just now finding her heart, and is just getting used to it. This style truly pulls the reader into the tale, becoming more than an outside observer, but investing themselves into September’s adventure. I was amazed at the small and subtle moments of wisdom that Valente sneaks into her tale, flipping typical platitudes on their heads, and revealing as much about our world as Fairyland through the absurdity and wonder of it’s denizen’s. Small words of wisdom about ones "bone’s desire" and how you never forget what you do during war, ring even more true through the innocents of these characters. Like the first novel, Valente create magic through the mundane, taking regular items and having them act in irregular ways. Often times, the magic that forms is more in the altering of perceptions of everyday things than on spells and potions. While I am not a parent, I am an uncle, and I feel this book is one that little girls should read to understand their true potential, and little boys should read to understand little girls. Also, adults, because adults should always take moments in their lives to remember what it was like to be children. While THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRYLAND… is all these things I have mentioned in theme and execution, it is also a delightful, suspenseful and engaging story full of magic humor and wonderful characters. Most of the characters from the first novel, or some altered version of them, return, and often it surprising ways. Old friends become new enemies, and old enemies are surprising allies. Also, there are a couple of crows because crows are awesome. As I said, I could go on rambling and rambling about the many reasons I loved this book, and will probably hate myself tomorrow when I realized I missed 10 or 20 more, but just know I loved this book, and if you still have a heart somewhere, whether you remember how to use it or not, you will love it too.

THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FAIRLYAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE had been languishing on my TBL pile for a while, and the only reason I decided to listen to it at this time was due to a malfunction in my planned audiobook. So, with all this love of the book, why wait? My hesitation was solely from the change in narrator. This first novel was read wonderfully by the author, and I balked at a new voice taking over these delightful characters, particularly in a narrator I have never experienced before. So, it was somewhat of a shock to me when I absolutely fell in love with S. J. Tucker’s performance of this novel. She has a rich exotic voice, with a bit of spice that perfectly fed into the otherworldly magic of the novel. Tucker reads it with an unrecognizable accent, something not quite American and not quite British, but somewhere in between, adding a lyrical cadence to made the simplest line sing with poetry. I have always said, when talking about audiobooks, that readers can hear a smile, yet, with S. J. Tucker’s performance you can hear the shades of the narrator’s grin from the sly smile to the devilish Cheshire. While I am not sure if it was planned, Tucker’s performance seemed to have a continuity with Valente’s. I suffered no dissonance, each character felt right to me, as if I had already spend plenty of time on adventure with them. There were so many wonderfully memorable moments in this production, but I would be remised if I didn’t mention the rhyming goblin sales pitch, which was wonderfully written and performed and a joy to experience. As I mentioned early, this series is almost tailor made for audio, and S. J. Tucker’s beautiful performance enhanced the experience.

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Audiobook Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigate Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

19 12 2011

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Read by Catherynne M. Valente

Brilliance Audio

Length: 7 Hrs 17 Min

Genre: Fantasy/Fairy Tale

Quick Thoughts: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making is a wondrous magical journey full of camaraderie and adventure and all the things that will make your inner child sing out with joy. Valente has created the rare classic that adults will look forward to reading to their children.

Grade: A-

I truly hope that I am never too old for fairy tales. Sure, by all accounts I am well past the age where we are encouraged to put away childish things, but that doesn’t mean I can’t feed that inner child of mine on occasion. I never want to be at a point where I am not fascinated by the fantastic. I want to believe that somewhere there is a land where animals talk, inanimate objects can spring to life and fly, and little orphaned boys and girls can grow up to become great rulers. I don’t always need reality. I live in reality and it’s seldom as gritty or interesting as many of my favorite authors make it out to be. For me, I like to escape in my reading, travel places I would never travel in my real life, even if those places contain evil tricksters and wicked witches. My favorite type of fantasy has always been portal fantasy. I love stories where people are stolen away from our reality and sent to a world where the physical rules are different. As a kid, I searched out lonely wardrobes and dreamed of tornados that would take me to Oz. Even as an adult, I followed wielders of white gold into strange worlds, and took on quests searching for Dark Towers. Somewhere, deep inside of me, I know I may finally open that door and find a wind from another land blowing on my face.

One of the things I love about "end of year" best of lists is they always fill up my "To Be Listened To" list. With Christmas around the corner, I’ve been looking for lighter, fun spirited books to listen to. Reading one bloggers list, lead me to a book I had heard of, but never really took a serious look at before, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. I am really glad to have taken the leap and gave this novel a listen, and the Holiday season was the perfect time to do it. Valente’s tale follows a young irascible girl named September who is pulled from her droll life by a Green Wind, and flies on the back of a Leopard to Fairyland. This novel is exactly the kind of story that takes me back to my childhood. It is full of magical beings, humor, adventure and a likeable heroine that I feel people can really relate with. What I love about portal fantasy is experiencing the wonders of a new land through a character who is also experiencing it as new. I often get frustrated when character instantly adjust to the new surrounding, seemingly knowing the lands rules and history as if they are a life long resident. Here September is as amazed and often as clueless as the listener themselves and it makes the experience even better. My favorite part of the novel though, is the conspiratorial tone of the narrative. The narrator becomes an active part of this novel, often time playing with the listener in wonderful ways. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making is a wondrous magical journey full of camaraderie and adventure and all the things that will make your inner child sing out with joy. Valente has created the rare classic that adults will look forward to reading to their children.

I am often skeptical when an author narrates their own work. Sometimes I wonder if it’s due hubris or a need to control things that is the motivation behind it, rather than the desire to put out the best possible product. Yet, with the tone of the narrative, and Catherynne M. Valente’s rich voice, I wouldn’t want to experience this book any other way. Valente reads with such love for her characters that it shines through in every word. She seems to thrill is sharing secrets with the listener, where you can’t help but feel a bond with this novelist narrator. Her voice is never sickeningly sweet or flawlessly robotic, but full of life with the comforting tones of a natural storyteller. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is a quick listen,  just perfect for this season of hustle and bustle, and may just brightened your mood as you fight other mall patrons for the last LeapPad.