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DMS

Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

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The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1) - Catherynne M. Valente There are two lessons here, I think. One is that there is a certain type of person that no matter what damned stupid thing they do always seems to come out ahead because life isn't fair. The other is that there is a certain type of person that no matter how clever, how kindly helpful or horribly ruthless will always lose everything because life isn't fair.

I was right to be rooting for the Marquess. Stupid life being all not fair.

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Ok, that may be a bit snide a description for a book I actually did enjoy. I feel like what I read must be a very different book than the one I've read reviews for with the same title. Or the one described by Valente in her Big Idea post.

She describes it as a book about a girl who says yes. I suppose that means in a literal sense of actually having to say the word "yes" out loud at the start of the adventure, but to me this is a book about two girls who said yes. The other, of course, is Maud. In her first visit to Fairyland, she adventures in her own way and builds quite a wonderful life from herself largely by saying yes. Even to hard things for a girl with such a rough history to say yes to, like love. Because she’s Stumbled, she is eventually thrown back to her old life as though none of it ever happened. In September’s parallel adventures, she also has to go back, but because she’s Ravished, she ends up with a sort of “best of both worlds” arrangement. But they both chose to go on adventures and they both saved their beloved Fairyland from a tyrant, right? The difference here is that the way the world works, the girl who did everything a man expected her to got a happy ending and the girl who made the best of an opportunity she stumbled into lost everything she cared about.

But that isn’t the end of Maud’s story. I’m not going to argue that she isn’t a villain. Certainly, the world she makes the second time isn’t as good as the one she had ripped away from her the first time. But she’s a very sympathetic villain since she got to evil by trying to eliminate injustice from the world. To quote the author, “It’s a choice, and however dark her journey becomes, she never wishes to take it back.” She’s talking about September, but it applied just as well to Maud. The second time she made it to Fairyland was literally by her own making (of a soap golem) and she chose to stay even though the life she’d had didn’t exist there anymore, even when she’s lost the new empire she’s built.

The thing that makes her different from September is that she didn’t wait for someone to offer her adventures. She went out and found them. Twice. And was punished for it. Twice. That’s just how the world works.

At least, that was the book I read.

While I love the author's explanation of the premise, somewhere in the execution it got turned around. Instead of empowering, it got depressing. Instead of a positive message about embracing adventure, it turned out to be a cautionary tale about the dangers of ambition. I totally endorse the idea that one should go out and make one's own opportunity, and also suggest that one look at every experience to see if it is an opportunity. I can't really get behind the idea that one should sit around and wait for opportunity in the form of a formal request because that's just not going to work out for any but the luckiest of people.