My rating: 4 of 5 stars
How to describe the delicious whimsy and melancholy of Valente’s books? It’s impossible to do, but I shall try.
It’s like spiced cinnamon tea served in a golden teacup with all the honeyed tears of your childhood heart when it first broke into pieces. No, that’s not it. It’s like cool peppermint tea in a silver chalice and all your favorite golden words at the bottom… no, no, that’s not it either. It’s like your heart and mind are at war, and when they finally call a truce they sit down for a lunch of memory sandwiches and warm library books baked with pink icing. But it’s all wrapped up in a glittering fairy story, so you don’t mind so much that your heart was just sliced open and your mind picked apart.
This fourth book in the Fairyland series is no exception! I was wary, as many were, since this book is not about September; but I immediately fell in love with the new characters, and cheered them on through their adventures.
This is the story of Hawthorne, who is whisked away to be a changeling and make trouble in the world of men. When he meets Tamburlaine, they become friends and discover that they are not so very different. The two find their way to Fairyland and are immediately roped into a quest.
My favorite character, by far, was Blunderbuss. She made me laugh on more than one occasion, and since I was listening to this on audiobook, I got to hear that wonderful deep voice of hers, spouting out, “In the land of Wom, we bite if we like someone, or if we’re angry, or if it’s Tuesday.” haha! What a delightful surprising character! She’s so energetic and rough and expansive. I adore Blunderbuss!
It is quite a journey seeing Hawthorne go through the changes of becoming human, trying to fit into the human world, and then finally and slowly realizing that he is not human, and finding his way back to Fairyland. And it really spoke deeply to that part of each of us that feels that we don’t belong. “I’m not human. I don’t fit in. I must be something else entirely.” I really felt a connection to Hawthorne’s character and Tamburlaine as well, since they represent what we all feel on some level of ‘not belonging’ and then discovering who we truly are underneath, and hopefully finding some other people who also ‘don’t belong’, and forming a group of friends with our own little land of belonging.
The writing is just dazzling! Every word is glittering and robust, and it slices like a sword right into your inmost soul, saying “Ah, you recognize this, don’t you? This is the feeling, the thought, the happening, that you’ve been clutching deep down inside, and now it is perfectly mirrored for you in this book. And it’s a fairy book for children, my dear!” I will never get over how deep and complex, and yet beautifully simple and straightforward, the writing is. It really deals with some deep themes and weaves a gorgeous story around it. The best thing is that the seams don’t show! Everything fits in with everything else, and nothing is forced or stubborn. It flows beautifully and easily along.
I only gave it 4 stars because the ending seemed a little rushed to me, and a bit convenient at the last. I wish it were longer and more drawn out at the end.
I can’t wait to read more of Valente’s work! Simply genius!