Book Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

May 23, 2011 Books, Reading, Reviews 5 ★★★★★

Book Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. ValenteThe Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
five-stars
“One of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century.”—Time magazine, on the Fairyland seriesTwelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn't . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday. With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when author Catherynne M. Valente first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a Publishers Weekly Best Children's Fiction title for 2011.
Series: Fairyland #1
Published by Macmillan on 2011-05-10
Genres: Teen Fantasy, Teen/YA Fiction
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
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I received this book for free from The Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

 

Wow. What an amazing, beautiful book. In The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente creates a rich, gorgeously-told fairy story that is both old fashioned and modern all in the same breath.

September is a twelve year old girl who is bored with life in Omaha. On the very first page, she’s swept away by the Green Wind and taken on the back of The Leopard of Little Breezes to Fairyland. She’s been Ravished, but she’s glad to go and have an adventure. At first, September is a distant character; she’s a little girl who is angry that her father has gone off to war and that her mother has to work long shifts at the factory. She’s Heartless, as we’re told most children are, and so while her quest through Fairyland is an adventure, it’s also the story of how September grew her Heart.

The narrator/novelist blurs the line between fiction and reality, breaking down the literary fourth wall and speaking directly to the reader often, letting us in on secrets that September cannot know. I like books with this sort of narration, though they are few and far between today, and I think Valente does a fine job constructing a narrator that is a storyteller, a tour guide, and a companion who sometimes holds the reader’s hand through the rough parts of the story, and more often, pushes September right into the thick of things.

Fairyland is incredibly imaginative, and Valente is by far a talented enough writer to bring all of the strange and wonderful things she imagined to life through her words. I was enchanted by every part of Fairyland, from Pandemonium–a city woven from cloth–to the Autumn Provinces, with its brilliant foliage and perpetual Halloween, to the Lonely Gaol at the bottom of the world. The inhabitants of Fairyland are amazing, too, and it’s obvious that Valente did her research. I love folklore, and I was so pleased to discover new creatures, like the spriggans and the Tsukumogami, that I’d never heard of before.

Over the course of the story, September grows her heart and grows up a little, and she finds in Fairyland the friends she was missing in her old life: A-Through-L, the half-wyvern, half-library (wyverary, if you will); Saturday, the Marid; the Green Wind; Gleam, the lantern. I love the parallel between September’s story and the story of Persephone. I love the richness of Fairyland. I love all of the characters, but especially September.

Oh heck, I just love this book.

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