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The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home: 04/20/16
The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home by Catherynne M. Valente is the conclusion to the Fairyland series. In the last few pages of The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, much was revealed and the oddball book was firmly entangled into September's arc.
Although I had kept current with September's books, I forgot about the series long enough to miss the initial release of book four. It was in the announcement of pre-orders for the final volume that I finally purchased and read Hawthorne's piece in the adventures.
In that regard, reading the end of Fairyland was more like binge watching on Netflix, than in following a series as it is slowly and lovingly created and released. The book, though, is written expecting the loyal reader to have spent a year away from Fairyland and in need of refreshing. Therefore the first fifty pages or so are spent on recapping "last time in Fairyland."
Fairyland, like Oz, seems to chew through leaders at an unusual pace. In Oz, it's whomever can take the Emerald City and get into the palace gets to be ruler. At least, that is so until Ozma who seems to be as eternal a ruler as Princess Bubblegum. Fairyland, though, goes through rulers at such a quick pace that the land has evolved a system for picking a new one.
The method as the title implies, is a race. Rather it's more of a madcap caper with a dash a treasure hunt. Imagine if you will, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World blended with the original 39 Clues series but set in Fairyland. Or if you will, imagine Through the Looking Glass if Alice's moves across the world sized chessboard were a race instead.
But before the race can begin, a very bewildered September, now back to her original age at the time she last left for Fairyland, must re-learn all of the monarchs that came before her. She must also re-learn the rules of being monarch while picking how her new, because her old form counted as a different monarch.
As with anything in Fairyland, everything, even the race itself, is more metaphorical than literal. In that regard, the race is run and won in part by how well the participant relates to Fairyland. Strength of conviction in one's interpretation of Fairyland is the most important aspect of the race.
Thematically book five is a combination of Road to Oz and the Emerald City of Oz. Heroines who routinely visit a magical land eventually have to decide whether to live in their original world or their adopted magical one. With the four colored winds and the land being able to awaken anything that visits, it's no surprise that Fairyland would follow rules similar to those of Oz. September takes on the color of the ruling city state (and briefly tries ruling) as Dorothy becomes a Princess of Oz. Saturday becomes a Munchin or an honorary Scarecrow (who also briefly ruled Oz).
My three stars, then, are for the pacing issues at the beginning, and the neat and tidy way that every character, no matter how minor, is given one last scene. September's fate in Fairyland as predicted in the first book is finally revealed and it's a satisfying compromise given how she has grown across the series.