In the third book in the Fairyland series, September returns to Fairyland and ends up visiting the moon, where she tries to prevent a revengeful Moon Yeti named Ciderskin from destroying Fairyland. I think. I can’t be one hundred per cent sure in my explanation, because to be honest I was never completely sure exactly what was going on.
This time we are introduced to a Taxicrab, a city which is actually inside a very large whelk, acrobats named Valentine and Pentameter who are actually paper acrobats made out of love letters and poems/sonnets respectively, a 1925 Model A Ford going by the name of Aroostook, and all kinds of weird and wonderful creatures who were fascinating to read about but who often left me baffled as to the reasons for their inclusion or contribution to the plot.
I expect it’s clear that I had a few issues with this book, but they aren’t all to do with the plot itself. I also thought there were a few problems with consistency and editing, which is a bit frustrating because these are small things which should have been picked up before publication, and which may have helped to make an already muddled book a little clearer. For example, we are told that Candlestick doesn’t accompany September and friends to the Photography realm, however there is a line of dialogue attributed to her in that scene. I had to flick back to the previous scene to work out whether it should have been Candlestick speaking or not, and who was meant to be where. I know it sounds nitpicky, but this is the kind of extra effort that readers shouldn’t have to make. Also Aroostook is referred to as both male and female within the same sentence. This might be a deliberate device as September debates in the book about whether Aroostook is ‘alive’ or just a machine, and so she would presumably not know Aroostook’s gender either, but I found using both pronouns for Aroostook within one sentence just made it harder to work out exactly who was being referred to. These are little niggles, but throughout the book I consistently felt confused about where September was going and why, what was the situation between Ciderskin and the fairies, and basically what on earth was going on. Having finished the book and read the conclusion where everything is meant to be nicely wrapped up, I’m still none the wiser on some of these points. I still haven’t quite grasped why (or how) the fairies turned into objects. Ciderskin the midwife was a bit of a left field twist for me, although I do appreciate the twists in this series because I never seem to see them coming, but I just felt like the ending of the book and the wrap up of this particular story fell a bit flat.
I will admit that I was slightly disappointed by this book, but that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading it. As I’ve said before, I am a fan of this series but the first book especially gave me very high expectations for the rest, and sadly this book hasn’t quite managed to meet those expectations. I did get annoyed at some of the consistency errors because to leave them in a published book is just lazy. They should have been spotted before hand, or the proof readers just aren’t doing their jobs properly. But that’s not to say that I didn’t like the book. I found the plot hard to follow and rather overdone at times, but I always love to read about the fantastical characters and settings that Catherynne M. Valente comes up with. I still think that the idea of a Wyverary, half Wyvern and half Library, is one of the most brilliant creatures I’ve read about in a work of fantasy. However, it’s possible that I’ve reached the stage where the individual books don’t quite match up to the enjoyment I get from the series as a whole. I really, really loved the first book, and I also really enjoyed the second, but I feel like it’s reaching a point where everything’s getting a bit too overegged. I didn’t think this was a bad book, it just wasn’t as wonderful as I’d hoped. I’ll continue to read the series though because the next book, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, is told from the point of view of a troll changeling, and I think it’ll be really interesting to see Fairyland from a new perspective. I’ll have to wait for it to come out in paperback though, so it matches the others. (It’s possible that I may be slightly biased against The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland because the edition I bought looked like it matched mine on the website, but when it arrived it was too tall and the spine’s different and I am far more annoyed about it than is really necessary).
See also Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.