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~