The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (book review).

This is the tale a girl called September who lives in Omaha who one day accepts an invitation from the Green Wind to go on an adventure to Fairyland. Of course, she accepts. Well why wouldn’t she and magic and mishap occur in equal measure. September discovers that Fairyland isn’t the happy place it once was as the evil Marquess rules it with an iron hand but September realises that she is the only person who can fix things. She, along with a book-loving dragon and a boy called Saturday, set out to find how to set things right in Fairyland.

This is written in a very distinctive style that I’m not altogether sure I like, but it does grow on you throughout the book. The style is very much that of the traditional fairytale in terms of things like ‘Alice In Wonderland’. It had a lot of the whimsy of these types of books but it also had the darker side that a lot of fairytales contain, the things that go bump in the night, etc. It’s a very quirky book and I don’t think there’s anything quite like it that has been published recently.

Alongside this fairytale story, there are glimpses of September’s real world specifically her father. We find out that there is a war taking place which from the sound of it is either the first or second world war. We learn that her mother is making planes to help with the war effort.

One of my favourite characters in the book is actually a technically inanimate object, it’s Septembers coat. I love that Catherynne Valente wrote chunks of the book from its point of view so we knew what it was getting up to when it was apart from September. It’s even more entertaining given that no-one else knows that it’s sentient, so it’s like a little aside to the reader.

I loved the different descriptions of the towns and cities, they were so imaginative. For example, one city is made entirely of material with magical hands that show the way to go so you don’t get lost. Then another is made of baked goods, which made me extremely hungry.

I liked the fact that we get to learn exactly what happened to the Marquess to make her into the evil person she is now. It’s so sad and makes the reader feel so sorry for her. Well, it made me feel sorry for her at least. I honestly hadn’t guessed at her back story at all throughout the book.

Overall, this is an excellent start to a series with a load of characters I really just want to read more about and places I want to revisit. I’m hoping that we get to learn a lot more about Fairyland in the next book. Oh and that ending, so bittersweet and perfect, I can’t wait for more.

Sarah Bruch

January 2018

(pub: Constable Robinson, 2012. 328 page some illustrations small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78033-833-0)

check out website: www.constablerobinson.com

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