“The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making” by Catherynne M. Valente

I’ve been putting off writing this review for the past few days purely for the fact that it means that the magic of this book is over.

This book reminds me a lot of the first Harry Potter book in terms of mood. There’s magic and adventure, but there’s also darkness and danger and some pretty gruesome things that people of the tender age of twelve (eleven, in Harry’s case) just should not have to deal with. But, much in the same way as Harry Potter, Valente doen’t shy away from these horrific moments. She never once talks down to the reader, which means that this series coan be enjoyed by all ages. Not even the vocabulary is reined in. I had flashes of a young me reading this book and having to look up words every now and again, because that’s what I used to do. Hell, I still do it. I only learned was ‘verdigris’ was a few years ago.

The plot of Fairyland (please don’t make me type out that whole title every time!) follows September, a twelve year old girl, and what happens when the Green Wind takes her to Fairyland. There, she meets a Wyverary (wyvern/library hybrid), a Marid named Saturday, a lantern named Gleam, and a whole host of other characters.
What’s interesting is how Valente portrays the antagonist, the Marquess. She’s not inherently evil, but she tries to take Fairyland’s uniqueness, and therefore its soul, and that’s just … wrong. Valente makes the Marquess relatable, but you can’t really take her side. Villains you can understand are always amazing to me, and to have one of these complex characters show up in what is essentially a child’s book (but the genius of this book can be recognised on so many other levels) was just breathtaking.

Most books can be categorised as either character driven or plot driven. But Fairyland is one of the rare cases where both are just as equally important, and given just as much stage time. The plot spurs character development but at the same time the character development spurs plot and it’s all such a delicious cycle that I kind of want to read it again right now. You can see September grow up before your eyes and become a more grounded and selfless young girl. And, as a matter of fact, the same can be said for Ell, the Wyverary. And, well, everyone really.

I cannot wait to read the next book in this series. But, at the same time, all I can think is “where was this book when was twelve?”

★★★★ 1/2

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About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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One Response to “The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making” by Catherynne M. Valente

  1. Pingback: “The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There” by Catherynne M Valente | My Infernal Imagination

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