One of the biggest challenges of the second book in a series is the lack of surprise. Catherynne Valente's The Girl who Fell Beneath Fairylandand Led the Revels There did suffer somewhat in my estimation because I was not surprised by how good it was – I simply expected it to be so. I had been so charmed by Valente's first Fairyland book that the experience could not be duplicated. I knew what to expect; however, this is still a very satisfying sequel. The world Valente created is so vibrant that there is plenty of room for many more stories.
Here we are taken beneath Fairyland to Fairyland Below where a new ruler (Halloween, the Hollow Queen) has taken over and has her minions out stealing the shadows of the dwellers of Fairyland. The only person to stop this reign of terror and halt the progression that is leading to the destruction of Fairyland is September herself, our hero who circumnavigated Fairyland. Halloween is after all September's shadow, which she surrendered in a plea to save the life of another on her previous journey into Fairyland.
If the first Fairyland book was about growing up then this one is definitely about what you lose in the struggle. This is a darker Fairyland wherein the lessons are stronger, the truth more fluid, and the consequences to our hero's actions are more clearly drawn out. It is more grown up, but that makes sense. Time has past for both September and Valente's readers. They've experienced new troubles and joys. The have grown regardless of how much they wished they had not.
That Valente is working in the realm of fairy tales is simply perfect. Everything falls in line, from the fantasies to the realities highlighted by them. The fairy tale is meant to explain life through fantasy. The trials and tribulations of September are there to help explain why people sometimes lie or lash out when they get angry and many other valuable lessons hard taught in reality. Valente has proven how it is possible to be honest with children about darkness and light, actions and consequences without being dull or overbearing.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There has all of the charm of its predecessor and I'm definitely looking forward to encountering September and her friends again.