The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home is the fifth and concluding volume of Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series. I would only recommend it to those who had read the previous books, because the prior investment in the characters is essential in order to appreciate this one. For those who have already taken in the earlier stories, though, this is a very exciting and satisfying wrap-up. It has some real surprises, not the least of which is the admission of September’s adult relatives into Fairyland. It’s clear from this book that Fairyland is not “childish things” to be put away with maturity, but rather a genuine otherworld that answers to human aspirations.
In light of the way this book works out, I wonder about comparing this series to Brook Hansen’s wonderful work The Chess Garden. I think that they have a lot of conceptual common ground, but where The Chess Garden is a rather splendid tragedy, these Fairyland books turn out to be a delightful romance.
There is some meta-discourse in the closing pages where Valente, in her Narrator persona, insists that stories don’t really end, they just stop with greater or lesser amounts of grace. This stop is a graceful one, emphasizing the possibility of continuation without creating the need for it, “without end, but … finished,” as John Crowley’s Endless Things put it. My daughter, to whom I have read all of these Fairyland books aloud, expressed dismay that there might well be no more of them to come. But the Narrator also explicitly invites re-reading, and I think my daughter may well enjoy a return to these years from now. [via]