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review 2017-04-04 21:27
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland (Fairyland, #4) by Catherynne M. Valente
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland - Ana Juan,Catherynne M. Valente

It should come as no surprise to anyone who's been following my reviews for some time now that I LOVE Catherynne Valente's Fairyland series. I adore them to bits! Ever since I read the first book in the series a couple of years ago, I couldn't get September and her adventures out of my head. I've gone back to re-read the first three books in the series to prepare myself for the fourth installment. And let me tell you, that is the best decision I could have made in regards to these books because refreshing my memory to what happened in the first three books made my reading experience for the fourth that much more enjoyable.


This time, however, we are not following September, Ell, and Saturday in their journey, but a whole new cast of characters. There's Hawthorn, Tamburlaine, Scratch, and Blunderbuss. Two changelings, a gramophone, and a stuffed wombat, respectfully. And we get to see how they stumbled from Fairyland to our world and back again. This story is filled with all the lovely whimsy and magic and adventure as all the other Fairyland books with an added layer of life lessons that all children must read.


And when I say "life lessons," I don't mean "please be nice," though that's definitely there. I mean Valente writes a beautiful narrative about a boy who is seen as "bizarre" and "different" and how poorly he is treated for being so, but in the process, Valente makes it clear that there's nothing wrong about sticking out. That there's nothing wrong with not being "normal." That each child (or adult) should embrace themselves for being different. The way Valente portrays this is subtle, too. It's not IN YOUR FACE about this message. She writes in as a mere mention and, as a reader, you take it in and continue on with the story. It's beautiful the way she writes this.


Also, I took a lot of what she was saying as how people treat queer kids differently from straight kids and it made my heart soar with happiness, but also pain. It hurts me inside to see when children are treated harshly because they don't fit a mold close-minded adults put before them. Kids should be allowed to be themselves. They should be allowed to be happy. As long as they are not hurting anyone, kids should be allowed to grow into happy, healthy adults being themselves. And Catherynne Valente is allowing children to do that by writing these books.


The characters for this book are all so beautiful. I love Hawthorn so much. I saw a lot of my younger self in him. Being a Changeling, he never quite fitted in to our world. The "human" world. He was questioned by every adult for his peculiarities, bullied in school, and treated as an "abnormal." But when he finally returns to Fairyland, he finds his place with people who love him for him and he starts to find his happiness. He's an amazing character who I fell deeply for. Tamburlaine is also a Changeling and she's a sweetheart. She finds solidarity with Hawthorn and begin to form a lovely friendship where neither of them had any before meeting one another. Scratch is Tamburlaine's gramophone with a spring to his step! Or, at least, he would is he had feet. He's cheerful and kind and helps in the best way a gramophone can: by providing music! Blunderbuss is Hawthorn's wombat (it makes sense when you read the book) and she is one of the feistiest characters I have read in a long time. I love how she comes across blunt and a bit mean but she means well and she shows it by being loyal and loving to her band of friends. Basically, all of the characters in this book are incredibly well-rounded and complex, I can't help but love them.


This story is great. If you've read all the other books in the series thus far, then I highly recommend you go ahead and pick up this book! Valente actually does something in this book that I did not see coming! I can't tell you because it is a HUGE spoiler but let me just say that I love it when a book is unpredictable. It makes for a much more interesting and entertaining read. So pick up this book and follow Hawthorn, Tamburlaine, and the rest on a journey through Fairyland to assist a King and find the ever allusive Spinster. It's going to be a wild ride~

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review 2016-05-30 15:32
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland - Catherynne M. Valente
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland - Ana Juan,Catherynne M. Valente

So this is the fourth in Valente's Fairyland series, and the story turns away from the adventures of September and her companions (the Marid Saturday and the Wyvern A-through-L) to take in Hawthorn, an infant troll swapped for a human child in order to, ha, troll humanity. The first half of the book, which sees Hawthorn (known in the human world as Thomas) navigating Chicago, a land as strange and wonderful to him as Fairyland's capital Pandemonium is to us, and dealing with his human father's disappointment in him as Not Normal, is clever and delightful and whimsical.


But it all goes a bit pear-shaped when he and his fellow Changeling Tamburlaine find their way back into Fairyland and meet an old autumnally-named friend of ours.


There are two reasons for this, I think.


The first is that the Fairyland half feels horribly rushed. On their arrival in Fairyland, round about page 200, Hawthorn and Tamburlaine are sent on a Quest by the King of the Fairies: Fairyland is falling apart because the Fairies (freed from their imprisonment by September at the end of the previous book) are all fucking horrible bastards not unlike Terry Pratchett's elves. We're told that Bad Things are happening to pretty much everyone, but no time is spent convincing the reader of this, and as a result it's difficult to invest in the fate of Fairyland. And, again, because there's simply no time to build up a decent storyline in the last half of the book, the many random and bizarre events which fill the other Fairyland books are all packed together and become not wonderfully whimsical and imaginative but annoyingly arbitrary and lacking any wider significance (which is decidedly not how fairy tales should work).


The second reason points to what I think is a wider problem with the series: the fact that it's a series at all. Much as I loved (genuinely loved) the world of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland, I think much of that love was invested in a Fairyland which genuinely felt like the Fairyland that lives in my head: one that is wild and wonderful and full of the essence of all the fairy tales from childhood; one that can't be pinned down, where there are strange dark corners we never get to see. As the series goes on, though, we have to keep seeing more and more of Fairyland, and more and more rules for how it works have to get introduced so that the stories will work, and it becomes more and more described and suddenly it's no longer Archetypal Fairyland, the Childhood Fairyland that's familiar to everyone, but Just Another Fantasy World with passing reference to that shared cultural childhood. And I think the series reached that point two books ago, if not before. And that's a crying shame.

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review 2015-05-18 00:00
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland - Ana Juan,Catherynne M. Valente I don't know what went wrong, but somewhere around the last third of the book the story got lost and the there was a hurry up and finish that just didn't quite fit. I think too that I'm becoming disenchanted with Valente's diataste for this world.
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review 2015-03-30 18:19
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne Valente
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland - Ana Juan,Catherynne M. Valente

This book is utter nonsense… you’re going to love it.


Let me first say that Catherynne Valente has more imagination in one fingernail than most people do in their whole body. You can just imagine her as a hyperactive, hyper-creative kid who’s just seen Fairyland and wants to tell you all about it and she can’t wait for even one minute, no she can’t. It’s the sheer volume of words and references and, frequently, nonsense that hurtles at you like the cascade of a waterfall that you couldn’t stem if you jammed all your arms and legs into it.


At the start it feels a lot like that – that is, overwhelming and a bit like paddling against a commanding torrent of colours and lovely words and fantastic items that leaves you with very little room to breathe, much less grab hold of a tree branch for long enough to get your bearings. (The branch would probably turn out to be a boa constrictor, anyway.) But after a chapter or so you get into the swing of things, pick up a few native words and shrug on an ethnic jacket; you learn how to salmon upstream. And it’s easy, mad riding the rest of the way.


The story begins when a young troll by the name of Hawthorn is spirited away by the Red Wind and her Panther of Rough Storms and sent into the human world as a Changeling – an out-of-place little mischievous creature that is, for all intents and purposes, anarchy incarnate.


But of course, this isn’t actually where the story begins.


The Boy Who Lost Fairyland is the fourth in the Fairyland series and, while it can stand independently, much like a small child, it would be much better off being supported on one side or the other by its mum or one of its older siblings. That is to say: alone it is very good, but in line with its forerunners it would be glorious. I say this having not read the others, mind – it’s just that, towards the end of the book in particular, characters from the other books are mentioned and I think you’d enjoy these mentionings more if you had the faintest idea of who they were on about. The beginning of the book, too, launches confidently into an assertive stride and you can immediately feel the presence of the narrative stepping stones that led to this one.


After Hawthorn is recast as a small human child, he is completely and utterly confused and crestfallen. The oven and the chandelier won’t speak to him, his mother (who is clearly a witch) makes him toys that won’t come alive, try as Hawthorn might, and his father is quick to point out that he isn’t normal. But life must go on and our small troll with it, and so Hawthorn grows into a human boy: Thomas Rood. Along the way are the hurdles of school and other kids and being normal, and Thomas must do his best to fit in even as he forgets all about his real heritage. That is, until one day, when a carefully orchestrated (and not entirely normal) accident changes everything and stirs awake the troll deep inside…

Thomas did not have any clear idea what Normal meant, except that it was something Gwendolyn and Nicholas were, and Mysterious Unnamed Other Children were, and possibly Grocers and Teachers and Street Sweepers as well, but that Thomas was not. Despite the awful hurt that capital N did to his raw, naked heart, Thomas was still a little boy – at least, mostly a little boy – and he did not like his father to be sour. He began to collect Normals, so that he could identify them on sight.

The book is absolutely wonderful and incredibly creative, entirely comfortable in its well-worn fantastical shoes. It also often reminded me of Dianna Wynne Jones’s work (which is a great compliment as she is one of my favourite writers) in the way that it followed its protagonist around and, again, in the cameos of old favourites towards the end of the book, much like Howl’s resurgence in Castle in the Air (and I shan’t say more about that, only that you must read Howl’s Moving Castle if you haven’t already!). Another similarity is the use of illustrations and a brief summary of the upcoming adventure at the head of each chapter in the form of, for example, ‘Chapter 1: Entrance, on a Panther. In Which a Boy Named Hawthorn Is Spirited Off by Means of a Panther, Learns the Rules of the World, and Performs an Unlikely Feat of Gardening’ – a style that I absolutely adore.


The Boy Who Lost Fairyland is an extraordinarily fantastic book, rivalling Alice in Wonderland in nonsensicality and Howl’s Moving Castle in poise; get this book if you are a fan of either. Perfect for humans, trolls and fetches of all ages (ok, maybe ten and up, give or take). I will be picking up The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, the first in the Fairyland series, sometime rather shortly.


I was sent an ARC copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Source: www.thelittlecrocodile.com/the-boy-who-lost-fairyland-catherynne-valente
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