Sunday, 15 February 2015

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

So I decided to review this book because, despite really enjoying it, I completely forgot to include it in my January Wrap Up post. I had a niggling feeling I'd forgotten something when I published the last post but it took me a few days to pinpoint the exact book that I'd overlooked so, rather than amend and re-publish my wrap up, I thought I'd give 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland' a full review and a blog post of its very own to make up for my forgetfulness. As usual, I'll try to keep the review spoiler-free and I'll include a link to the novel's Goodreads page for those of you who want to check it out after reading this.

'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making' is the first book in Catherynne M. Valente's 'Fairyland' series. It follows a twelve-year-old girl called September who leaves behind her dreary life in Oregon when the Green Wind invites her on an adventure. Entering the magical Fairyland, September discovers that the land is under the rule of the tyrannical Marquess. Soon September is embroiled in a quest to retrieve a mystical artifact and to try and save Fairyland's inhabitants from the Marquess' rule.

I really like classic fairy stories and I loved Catherynne M. Valente's take on the classical fairytale tropes and images. Valente isn't afraid of using traditional images in her work but she subverts many of them, adding new and original elements to well know fairytale devices and characters. I also liked the fact that this book is a proper fairy story and, as with the original Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson stories, September ends up going to some dark places and encountering some gruesome scenarios before the story ends. If you think fairytales are for children, think again - this one has some very grown-up ideas and, in my opinion, is most definitely a read for mature teens and adults.

The characters are all very unique and I really liked heroine September - she's feisty,brave and vulnerable in just the right measures. My favourite character though had to be A-Through-L, a Wyverary. What's a Wyverary you ask? Why it's a cross between a Wyvern and a Library of course! And that, right there, is one of the reasons I loved this book. It's a little bit insane but in all the right ways. In fact, it reminded me a lot of 'Alice in Wonderland' - when reading it I kept returning to the famous Mad Hatter quote "You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret....all the best people are!".

This book is entirely bonkers but in a completely delicious manner. It's one of those novels where you just have to roll with it and accept the world that the author has created, however crazy it might seem. For this reason, I'm not sure everyone will enjoy the ride. Fans of classic fairy stories and magical realism will really love 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland'. For those who prefer more linear fiction, or don't enjoy whimsical storytelling, the randomness of the world and with some of the more fantastical elements of the plot and characterisation might irritate rather than fascinate. 

For me however, I really enjoyed this book and was thrilled to discover this is the first of a series of novels set in Fairyland. I've already purchased the second book, 'The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There', and have the third novel, 'The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two' on pre-order for the UK paperback release. I think there is also a short story prequel for Kindle only called 'The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland - for a Little While' which I'm planning to track down if it's available on he UK Kindle store. I believe that a fourth book, 'The Boy Who Lost Fairyland' is due out later this year and that there are more to follow. So, plenty more Fairyland for me to discover and enjoy! And, if you're a fan of fairy stories and like the sound of a Wyverary, I'd urge you to check them out too! Until next time book lovers, Happy Reading!



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