Fairyland Blog Stop!
I'm very happy to announce that the Fairyland blog tour has stopped by my blog!
You may remember seeing my review of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship Of Her Own Making a little while ago - you can see the full review [here]. I thought that the author, Catherynne M. Valente wrote this book intelligently, magically and absolutely beautifully.
I just know that a lot of you will absolutely adore this book, especially if you're into fairytales and other 'whimsical nonsense' (in the best possible way)!
My favourite character in this book is a very special Wyvern, which I'd love you all to meet. I've kindly been provided with an extract of the book - my favourite chapter - to share with you.
I hope that you all enjoy this extract!
In Which September Is Discovered by a Wyvern, Learns of a Most Distressing Law, and Thinks of Home (but Only Briefly)
‘What happened to your shoe?’ said a big, deep, rumbling voice. September froze in mid-stretch. Two blazing, flame-colored eyes danced before her. A dragon was staring at her with acute interest, crouching like a cat in the long grass. His tail waved lazily. The beast’s lizardish skin glowed a profound red, the color of the very last embers of the fire. His horns (and these horns led September to presume the dragon a he) jutted out from his head like a young bull’s, fine and thick and black. He had his wings tucked neatly back along his knobbly spine – where they were bound with great bronze chains and fastened with an extremely serious-looking lock.
‘I . . . I lost it,’ said September, holding herself utterly still so as not to spook either the dragon or herself, her arms still stuck out into the air. ‘It fell into the sink as I was climbing on to a Leopard.’
‘That’s not losing it,’ the beast rumbled sagely. ‘That’s leaving it.’
‘Um,’ said September.
‘Don’t wear shoes myself,’ the dragon haroomed. ‘Tried when I was a wee thing, but the cobblers gave me up for lost.’ He rose up on heavily muscled hind legs and, balancing carefully on one of them, flexed one enormous three-toed scarlet foot. His black claws clicked together with a sound like typewriter keys clacking. ‘You’re very quiet! Why don’t you say something? Why don’t you do a trick? I’ll be impressed, I promise. Start with your name, that’s easiest.’
September put down her arms and folded them in her lap. The dragon hunched in close, his smoky-sweet breath flaring huge red nostrils. ‘September,’ she said softly. ‘And . . . well, I’m very scared, and I don’t know if you’re going to eat me or not, and it’s hard to do tricks when you’re scared. Anyway, where I come from, it’s a known fact that dragons eat people, and I prefer to be the one doing the eating if eating is to be done. Which it hasn’t been since last night. I don’t suppose you have cake? I think dragon food would be all right, it’s only Fairy food I’m to watch out for.’
‘How funny you are!’ crowed the beast. ‘First off, I am not a dragon. I don’t know where you could have gotten that idea. I was very careful to show you my feet. I am a Wyvern. No forepaws, see?’ The Wyvern displayed his proud, scaled chest, the color of old peaches. He balanced quite well on his massive hindquarters, and the rest of him rose up in a kind of squat Sshape, ending in the colossal head, which bore many teeth and a thick jaw and snapping bits of fire-colored whiskers. ‘And you must have very rude dragons where you come from! I’ve never heard the like! If people show up to a dragon’s mountain yelling about sacrifices and O, ye, fell beast spare my village this and Great dragon, I shall murder thee that, well, certainly, a fellow might have a chomp. But you oughtn’t judge any more than you judge a lady for eating the lovely fresh salad that a waiter brings her in a restaurant. Secondly, no, I don’t have any cake.’
‘Oh. I didn’t mean any offence.’
‘Why should I be offended? Dragons are a bit more than cousins, but a bit less than siblings. I know all about them, you see, because they begin with D.’
‘What is your name, Wyvern? I should have been more polite.’
‘I am the Honorable Wyvern AThrough-L, small fey. I would say, “at your service”, but that’s rather fussy, and I’m not, you see, so it would be inaccurate.’
‘That’s a very funny name for . . .’ – September considered her words – ‘such a fine beast,’ she finished.
‘It’s a family name,’ AThrough-L said loftily, scratching behind one horn. ‘My father was a Library. So properly speaking, I am a Lyvern, or . . . a Libern? A Wyverary? I am still trying to find the best term.’
‘Well, I think that’s very unlikely,’ said September, who preferred Wyverary.
‘However unlikely it may seem, it is the truth and, therefore, one hundred percent likely. My sainted mother was the familiar of a highly puissant Scientiste, and he loved her. He polished her scales every week with beeswax and truffle oil. He fed her sweet water and bitter radishes grown by hand in his laboratory and, therefore, much larger and more bitter than usual radishes. He petted her, and called her a good Wyvern, and made a bed for her out of river rushes and silk batting and old bones. (They didn’t come from anyone he knew, so that was all right, and a Wyvern nest has to have bones, or else it’s just not home.) It was quite a good situation for my mother, even if she hadn’t liked him a great deal and thought him very wise. As all reptiles know, the bigger the spectacles, the wiser the wearer, and the Scientiste wore the biggest pair ever built. But even the wisest of men may die, and that is especially true when the wisest of men has a fondness for industrial chemicals. So went my mother’s patron, in a spectacular display of Science.’
‘That’s very sad,’ sighed September.
‘Terribly sad! But grief is wasted on the very roasted. Without her companion, my mother lived alone in the ruins of the great Library, which was called Compleat, and a very passionate and dashing Library indeed. Under the slightly blackened rafters and more than slightly caved-in walls, my mother lived and read and dreamed, allowing herself to grow closer and closer to Compleat, to notice more and more how fine and straight his shelves remained, despite great structural stress. That sort of moral fortitude is rare in this day and age. By and by, my siblings and I were born and romped on the balconies, raced up and down the splintered ladders, and pored over many encyclopedias and exciting novels. I know just everything about everything – so long as it begins with A through L. My mother was widowed by a real estate agent some years ago, and I never finished the encyclopaedia. Anyway, Mother told us all about our father when we were yearlings. We asked, “Why do we not have a Papa?” And she said, “Your Papa is the Library, and he loves you and will care for you. Do not expect a burly, handsome Wyvern to show up and show you how to breathe fire, my loves. None will come. But Compleat has books aplenty on the subject of combustion, and however odd it may seem, you are loved by two parents, just like any other beast.”’
September bit her lip. She did not know how to say it gently. ‘I had a friend back home named Anna-Marie,’ she said slowly. ‘Her father sold lawn mowers all over Nebraska and some in Kansas, too. When Anna-Marie was little, her daddy ran off with a lady from Topeka with the biggest lawn in the county. Anna-Marie doesn’t even remember her daddy, and sometimes when she’s sad, her mother says she didn’t have one, that she’s an angel’s daughter and no awful lawn mower salesman had a thing to do with her. Do you think, maybe . . . it could have been like that, with your mother?’
AThrough-L looked pityingly at her, his blazing red face scrunched up in doubt. ‘September, really. Which do you think is more likely? That some brute bull left my mother with egg and went off to sell lonemozers? Or that she mated with a Library and had many loved and loving children? I mean, let us be realistic! Besides, everyone says I look just like my father. Can’t you see my wings? Are they not made of fluttering vellum pages? If you squint you can even read a history of balloon travel!’
AThrough-L lifted his wings slightly, to show their fluttering, but the great bronze chain kept them clamped down. He waggled them feebly.
‘Oh, of course. How silly of me. You must understand, I am new to Fairyland,’ September assured him. But really, his wings were leathery and bony, like a pterodactyl’s, and not like vellum at all, and there was certainly nothing written there. September thought the creature was a little sad, but also a little dear.
‘Why are your wings chained up?’ she asked, eager to change the subject. AThrough-L looked at her as though she must be somehow addled.
‘It’s the law, you know. You can’t be so new as all that. Aeronautic locomotion is permitted only by means of Leopard or licensed Ragwort Stalk. I think you’ll agree I’m not a Leopard or made of Ragwort. I’m not allowed to fly.’
AThrough-L shrugged. ‘The Marquess decreed that flight was an Unfair Advantage in matters of Love and Cross-Country Racing. But she’s awfully fond of cats, and no one can tell Ragwort to sit still, so she granted special dispensations.’
‘But surely you’re bigger than the Marquess. Couldn’t you say no? Squash her or roast her or something?’
AThrough-L marveled. His mouth dropped open a little. ‘What a violent little thing you are! Of course, I’m bigger, and, of course, I could say no, and, of course, in the days of Good Queen Mallow, this would never have happened and we’re all very upset about it, but she’s the Marquess. She has a hat. And muscular magic, besides. No one says no to her. Do you say no to your queen?’
‘We don’t have a queen where I live.’
‘Then I’m sorry for you. Queens are very splendid, even when they call themselves Marquesses and chain up poor Wyverns. Well, very splendid and very frightening. But splendid things are often frightening. Sometimes, it’s the fright that makes them splendid at all. What kind of place did you come from, with no queens and bad fathers and Anna-Marees?’
‘Just one Anna-Marie. I come from Nebraska,’ September said. Home seemed very far away now, and she did not yet miss it. She knew, dimly, that this made her a bad daughter, but Fairyland was already so large and interesting that she tried not to think about that. ‘It’s very flat and golden, and my mother lives there. Every day, she goes to a factory and works on airplane engines because everyone’s father left for the war, and there was no one left to make airplanes. She’s very smart. And pretty. But I don’t see her much anymore, and my father went away with all the others. He said he would be safe, because he would be mainly learning things about other armies and writing them down, not shooting at them. But I don’t think he’s safe. And I don’t think my mother does, either. And the house is dark at night, and there are howling things out on the prairies. I keep everything as clean as I can so that when she comes home she’ll be happy, and tell me stories before bed, and teach me about boilers and things that she knows.’ September rubbed her arms to keep warm in a sudden breeze that kicked and bucked through the field of little red flowers. ‘I don’t really have many friends back home. I like to read, and the other kids like to play baseball or play with jacks or curl their hair. So when the Green Wind came to my window, I knew what he was about, because I’ve read books where things like that happen. And I didn’t have anyone to miss, except my mother.’ September wiped her nose a little. ‘I didn’t wave goodbye to her when we flew away. I know I ought to have. But she goes to the factory before I’m awake in the morning and just leaves biscuits and an orange on the table, so I thought maybe I wouldn’t say goodbye to her, since she doesn’t say goodbye to me. I know it was vicious of me! But I couldn’t help it. And, really, she leaves little notes with the biscuits and sometimes funny drawings, and I didn’t leave her anything, so it’s not fair at all. But I don’t want to go home, either, because there aren’t gnomes and witches and wyveraries at home, just nasty kids with curly hair and a lot of teacups that need washing, so I will say I’m sorry later, but I think it’s better to be in Fairyland than not in Fairyland on the whole.’
AThrough-L carefully put his claw around her shoulders. His talons quite dwarfed her. She wrapped her arms around one and leaned against it, the way she might have leaned against an oak trunk back home.
‘Except . . . things are not all well in Fairyland, are they? The witches’ brothers are dead, and they’ve no Spoons, and
your wings are all chained and sore – don’t say they aren’t, Ell. I can see where they’ve rubbed the skin away. And can I call you Ell? AThrough-L is so very many syllables. Things are not right here, and I haven’t even seen a proper Fairy at all, with glittering wings and little dresses. Just sad folk and no food. And that’s more than I’ve said to anyone in forever, even the Green Wind. I do wish he had been allowed to come with me. I believe I am sick to death of hearing what is and is not allowed. What is the purpose of a Fairyland if everything lovely is outlawed, just like in the real world?’
‘How poor you are, September. You make my heart groan. I know about Homesickness. It begins with H. What will you do?’
September sniffed and straightened up. She was not one to feel sorry for herself for long. ‘Mainly, I am going to Pandemonium, to steal the Spoon that belongs to the witch Goodbye, so that she can cook up the future again and not feel so sad.’
AThrough-L sucked in his breath. ‘That’s the Marquess’s Spoon,’ he whispered.
‘I don’t care if it is! What a dreadful person the Marquess must be, with her ugly chains and her bow and her silly hat! I shan’t feel at all bad about stealing from her!’
The Wyverary drew his huge foot back and settled down on his haunches just exactly like a cat, so that his face was on a level with September’s. She saw now that his eyes were kindly, not fearsome at all – and a beautiful shade of orange.
‘I am going to the City myself, human girl. After my mother was widowed, my siblings and I went each our separate ways: MThrough-S to be a governess, TThrough-Z to be a soldier, and I to seek our old grandfather – the Municipal Library of Fairyland, which owns all the books in all the world. I hope that he will accept me and love me as a grandson and teach me to be a librarian, for every creature must know a trade. I know I have bad qualities that stand against me – a fiery breath being chief among these – but I am a good beast, and I enjoy alphabetizing, and perhaps, I may get some credit for following in the family business.’ The Wyverary pursed his great lips. ‘Perhaps we might travel together for a little while? Those beasts with unreliable fathers must stick together after all. And I may be a good deal of help in the arena of Locating Suppers.’
‘Oh, I would like that, Ell,’ said September happily. She did not like to travel alone, and she missed the Leopard and her Green Wind fiercely. ‘Let us go now, before the sun gets low again. It is cold in Fairyland at night.’
The two of them began to walk west, and the chains around the Wyverary’s red wings jangled and clanked.
September was not even so tall as his knee, so after a little while, he let her climb the chains and ride upon his back, sliding her sceptre through the links. September could not know that humans riding Marvelous Creatures of a Certain Size was also not allowed. AThrough-L knew, but for once he did not care.
‘I shall amuse you along the way,’ he boomed, ‘by reciting all of the things I know. Aardvark, Abattoir, Abdication, Adagio, Alligator, Araby . . .’
Want even more?
Don't forget to drop by the other blog stops on this tour!