The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, by Catherynne M. Valente – In these books, a girl named September, who lives in Omaha (hey, just like the Wizard of Oz) during World War II, visits the generically named but quite intriguing Fairyland. The place is a mixture of creatures from folklore and mythology, as well as many of Valente’s own inventions. One of my favorites, who plays a major role in the first book and appears as a shadow in the second, is the Wyverary A-Through-L. As the offspring of a wyvern and a library, he knows about everything that begins with the letters A through L. He’s an excellent addition to the fantasy world’s collection of large and imposing but friendly animal companions. He sort of reminds me of the Iffin from Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz (partially because both play on the names of common fantasy creatures), and maybe a bit of the Luck Dragon from The Neverending Story. Also quite fun are the living bicycles that migrate across Fairyland. The style of the books is fast-paced, with a lot of humor along the way, but plenty of melancholy and philosophical moments as well.
In the first book, September learns that Fairyland is ruled by a nasty Marquess, who took the place of the former potentate, Queen Mallow. The Marquess rules with an iron fist, imposing all sorts of rules and regulations on the fantasy land. September manages to defeat the Marquess, but not before learning the ruler’s story in a clever twist ending. The second book involves September trying to find her shadow, which she had removed in the first volume in order to pay a debt. It turns out that the shadow has set itself up as monarch of Fairyland-Below, and has stolen the shadows (and hence the magic) of many of the citizens of Fairyland proper. I understand there are supposed to be more volumes in the series, and I look forward to reading them.