November 12, 2014

Faves & Flaws: In a Land Far, Far Away (+ Giveaway)

Today's Fall Into Fantasy post is a Faves & Flaws post focused specifically on the Fairyland series. Instead of doing a traditional review, Hannah and I will both be sharing what we really liked about the series, as well as what we thought didn't work for each of us.

by Catherynne M. Valente
Series: Fairyland #1-3
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Dates: May 10, 2011 || October 2, 2012 || October 1, 2013
Source/Format: Publisher (Thanks!) || Hardcover & paperback

Book 1 summary: Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

(1) the magical beings 

I'm pretty obsessed with the number of magical creatures Valente chose to include in her novel, from fairies, to winds, to wyverns, to witches and so much more! Her inventiveness truly shines through with the various personalities she's assigned to these magical beings, as well as the names she gives them. My favorite? Our dear Wyverary, of course.

(2) the variety of vocabulary

Even though the series is technically middle grade, I'm truly impressed by the level of language used. There are so many words Valente pulls out (and quite a few I had to look up). I love that Valente challenges her readers to understand and accept these words as part of the vocabulary of her tale - and it totally works.

(3) the narration by our ever elusive storyteller

I am in love with the person telling the story! Seriously, Valente manages to capture this totally unique storytelling voice that is playful, empathetic and amusing all at once. It's really very cool to be so drawn in by a person you only know as the storyteller; that, to me, definitely signifies a voice that's unique and worth listening to.

(1) the third book

Oh, I still finished the third book. But, personally, it just didn't fit right with its predecessors. It does make sense if the reader were to think about September getting older and facing new or different problems. But I enjoyed the lighter feel of the first two more, as well as the fact that right from the beginning September had a purpose in Fairyland. So, I could have done without the third!

(2) the lack of connection to the characters

While I loved the whimsy and strong personalities of all these characters, I never really personally connected to any of them. I would have loved to feel a kinship for at least one of them, a kinship so deep that it would really draw me into this story. But this just didn't happen for me, though I came really close with September and with A-through-L.

(3) the sheer amount of information

There is a lot to take in. For a middle grade read, there is certainly a lot of details included! While I didn't mind that all too much, I do think that, for its intended audience, it might feel a bit heavy-handed at certain points. Plus, sometimes, the information is provided in big chunks, so that too would make its reception a bit difficult.


While this section is mostly for my personal reference, here are my thoughts per book in case some of you are interested in seeing those: 

1 – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

This is the story of a girl named September, who one day finds herself transported the magical world of Fairyland with the help of the Green Wind. From that one sentence alone, readers will gather that this novel is full of whimsy and wonder, flights of fancy and just a whole lot of imagination. Reading the first Fairyland novel is like a fresh cup of coffee: hot and intense and slightly bitter as you first start it, but mix in a hint of understanding and recognition and it becomes just the right sort of brew to appeal to your senses. The cleverness of the vocabulary used, and the playfulness of its tone cemented this first Fairyland novel as something to be noticed and to be enjoyed.

2 – The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

September returns to Fairyland for a second adventure, and it’s seriously just as, if not more mesmerizing and magical than the first! What is best about the second Fairyland book is that it combines old and new perfectly. Readers will be pleased to be in the company of many an old friend, while still being challenged to think, to imagine new and wonderful things. It will feel as if the reader’s mind is still being encouraged to expand and grow and embrace every new bit of data about Fairyland and its occupants. The story has just a pinch more darkness than its predecessor, but it still maintains that whimsical, wonderful sense of adventure. The second Fairyland novel is, without a doubt, my favorite!

3 – The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Of all three Fairyland titles, this third novel is the one that feels less like part of a series and more like a half-hearted attempt to continue. Unlike the two before it, the third Fairyland story is dark, abrupt and less welcoming to its readers. There’s nothing particularly bothersome about the fact that it’s a harsher, darker tale; what really perturbs me is that it feels almost as if September is growing out of the easy whimsy of the Fairyland she knew and into one where things are harder, more intense and downright serious. Even though there were still clever turns of phrase, and lots of imagination thrown in, something about the third Fairyland book just didn’t sit well, and I could have done without it.

Retweet the giveaway tweet from @soobsessedblog to be entered to win copies of the first three books of the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente.
US Only. Ends 11/14.


  1. I ADORED the first one and was really anticipating the second one. But I think I picked it up a time when I wasn't really interested in it so I never finished. I do want to because I enjoyed it... one day I will! :)


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