Catherynne M. Valente’s beloved Fairyland series is finally coming to an end with The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home. In this final installment, September has been crowned Queen of Fairyland, but due to a magic Dodo egg, every King, Queen, and Marquees Fairyland has ever had is back — and each think they have a legitimate claim to the throne.
While the book doesn’t hit shelves until March 1, EW reveals an exclusive sneak peek inside, below:
Chapter I: The Queen of Fairyland and All Her Kingdoms
In Which We Begin Just Precisely Where We Ended, Far Too Many People Talk All at Once, An Emperor Gets Himself Stabbed, Queen September Makes Her Inaugural Speech, and a Wondrous Race Is Scheduled for Thursday Next
A great stone strode up to the rear of the crush of fairies and foxes and gnomes and ravens. It had legs and fists but only the barest beginning of a face. It did not even have a name. It was the last to arrive, but the oldest and strongest of them all—the First Stone of Fairyland, laid down before one seed of glowerwheat, before the first luckfig root went searching in the soil for water.
“HELLO,” said the First Stone politely. It sat on the grass, carefully trying not to crush the violets.
September, Queen of Fairyland and All Her Kingdoms, waved back shyly. She hadn’t the first idea how to be a Queen. She could be a Knight, or a Bishop, or a Criminal, or a Spinster, but what could she possibly do with Queen? She thought of the Marquess and Charlie Crunchcrab. She thought of the Whelk of the Moon. She thought of everyone she’d ever met who was in charge of anything. She thought of her mother bossing around her engines, of her father keeping peace in his classroom—and September knew what to do. After all, in chess, the Queen does whatever she wants.
Queen September put her hand straight up in the air as though she meant to ask a question in class. She waited. It always took a while when her father did it. The Changelings Hawthorn and Tamburlaine understood right away, having been in middle school only last week. They raised up their hands immediately. Hawthorn’s huge, mossy troll fingers and Tamburlaine’s dark, slender wooden palm shot up into the air. Saturday extended his long blue arm. Scratch and Blunderbuss, being a gramophone and a wombat, respectively, could not quite work out how to manage it. They sat up as straight as they could instead, stretching scrap-yarn nose and gramophone bell toward the ceiling.
It was no good. September was not as tall as the First Stone or Gratchling Gourdbone Goldmouth, or even the Quorum of Quokkas wrenching their tails in anxiety.
“May I?” she asked Blunderbuss. The scrap-yarn combat wombat was nearly the size of A-Through-L, made of a hundred different colors of leftover yarn, and, September judged, quite comfortable for standing on. A Wyverary’s back is rather knobbly and pointy—good for riding, but a terrible podium.
“You’d do my fuzzy heart happy,” chuffed Blunderbuss, and got down on her huge knees to let September up. Saturday thatched his fingers together to help her hoist herself. He kissed her cheek as she put her toes into his hands. “Ha!” barked Blunderbuss, when September was safely aboard. “I always thought a Queen would weigh more! I could carry a hundred of you, if you’d all sit still, which you wouldn’t, but I’d make you!”
Once again, Queen September put her hand into the air. She did not say a word. And now, slowly, the others began to notice September and her friends and their funny fingers pointing at the sky. A duchess here, a pharaoh there, a brace of congressional banshees in the corner.
“What’s she doing?” asked Pinecrack, the Moose-Khan. “She looks quite, quite stupid. I shan’t have the first pang of guilt about impaling her with my doom-antlers.”
“Perhaps it’s some new gesture of power at court. We had many in my day,” considered Curdleblood, the Dastard of Darkness, a shockingly handsome young man dressed like a minstrel, if only minstrels wore all black and had long, sharp teeth hanging from his hat instead of merry bells.
“Your day was a thousand years ago,” snapped the Headmistress, who had ruled only a short while before King Goldmouth swallowed her whole, and was extremely unhappy to be teleported from her tidy ghost-crosswords into this intolerable clutter.
“And it was a wretched day, I must say,” said a sweet young lady with candy-cane bows in her hair and a dress all of butterscotch and marshmallows. When she conquered Fairyland, folk called her the Happiest Princess, though at the moment she felt quite cross. But she didn’t stop smiling, even as she spat at Curdleblood: “You painted the whole country black! I was still scrubbing behind the mountains when I lost my crown!”
“Still,” the Moose-Khan mused, “we shouldn’t like to appear ignorant. Much may have changed since the age of hoof and snow. I don’t want the Queen to think me old-fashioned.”
Pinecrack sat back on his haunches and lifted one hoof into the air. The Headmistress, ever conscious of manners, followed suit.
“Her?” snarled Charlie Crunchcrab, who had been King Charles Crunchcrab I only ten minutes ago. It’s very hard to make such a quick adjustment, and we ought not to think too harshly on him for behaving as poorly as he is surely about to do. “Her? She’s not the Queen. That’s just September! And that name is a Naughty Word, you know. She’s the Spinster. She’s a troublemaker. She’s a revolutionary and a criminal and a dirty cheat. She’s a human girl! She hasn’t even got wings! If she’s the right and proper Queen, then my hairy foot is the Emperor of Everything!”
“Sir, I beg your foot’s pardon, but I am the Emperor of Everything,” a young boy in a dizzying patchwork suit interrupted. Though he was a child, his voice rolled deep and sweet across the floor, like cold chocolate poured out of a dark glass. “At least I was,” he finished uncertainly. And he raised his hand in the air.
“Oh, I see, you’re trying to show me up!” cried Cutty Soames, the Coblynow Captain who sailed Fairyland across the Sea of Broken Stars to its current resting place. He stuck one sooty, filthy arm up with a sneer.
Others did the same, one by one, more and more, paw and hand and hoof and talon. No one wanted to be singled out as a country rube or an unfashionable cretin who didn’t know the wonder and mystery of the Raised Hand. Finally, the grand hall stood quite silent, filled with all the kings and queens of history politely waiting, like schoolchildren, for the teacher to be satisfied with their manners.
“Thank you,” said Queen September, lowering her hand. “Now, you must stop behaving like a stepped-on sack of scorpions or we’ll be here till Christmas, at least! And I don’t think any of us would really like to holiday together, so let’s all serve ourselves a nice big plate of hush.”