The Boy Who Lost Fairyland: 03/31/16
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente is the fourth of the Fairyland books. As the narrator notes, magic rarely works in more than threes and when it does, it does something very unexpected. So this series follows suit, being a story of two changelings, sent to Earth from Fairyland for reasons unstated.
While the first three begin, as most urban fantasies do, in the mundane world, on Earth somewhere, this one begins in Fairyland, in the nest of young troll named Hawthorne. While the Green Wind takes children to Fairyland, the Red Wind delivers changelings. Life for a changeling is as governed by complex bylaws as visitors to Fairyland are.
Changelings are supposed to assume their new lives, their new bodies, and if anything, introduce a little fun and chaos to the human world. If they're really lucky, they'll get something like the Chicago Fire, attributed here to a changeling.
Changelings are supposed to be misfits in the human world. They are supposed to be teased and feel awkward.
They aren't supposed to hold onto their old personalities. They aren't supposed to be able to use magic. They aren't supposed to be able to find each other. And they certainly aren't supposed to return to Fairyland.
The middle act of this book, that is, Thomas Rood né Hawthorne's life in Chicago, is a bit slow. It's slow in that it's recognizable. It's Earth. It's Chicago. It's the 1920s and 1930s. It's not that much different from the world that Dorothy is escaping by her trips (and later relocation) to Oz.
Except, Dorothy knows the rules. She's human. At first she doesn't want to escape Kansas, beyond her boredom on one particular gray day. Hawthorne, though, doesn't know the rules. Even with keeping a copious notebook of all the rules he learns, he still can't keep up.
After a while I began to see Thomas as a metaphor for anyone who isn't "normal" for whatever reason. Thomas is the fantasy hero for any child who doesn't fit in. For any child constantly reminded by their parents, teachers, friends, neighbors, strangers that they are different.
The final act is a return to Fairyland. Remember, in the rules of magic, the fourth thing goes awry, off tangent, in its own direction. Changelings don't return. There are no rules of conduct for such an event. The lack of rules means improvisation. It means new magic.
While this book was a departure, it was still full of the beautiful language, humor, and pathos of the previous three.
Surprisingly the book ended up being completely on point for my road narrative project. I will need to revisit the earlier books and include them in my discussion of the Oz books.