September is a girl who longs for adventure. When she is invited to Fairyland by a Green Wind and a Leopard, well, of course she accepts. (Mightn’t you?) But Fairyland is in turmoil, and it will take one twelve-year-old girl, a book-loving dragon, and a strange and almost human boy named Saturday to vanquish an evil Marquess and restore order.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente has to be one of the best books I’ve read lately. I am in complete awe of this story and cannot believe I waited this long to pick it up. September’s adventures in Fairyland are seared in my mind and I reveled in every second spent journeying with her from the moment she makes it passed customs to when she finds herself traveling the seas to a Lonely Gaol at the bottom of Fairyland.
Our heroine, September, is a breath of fresh air – twelve-years-old and still Somewhat Heartless (as most children are), she of course excepts an offer from the Green Wind to hop on a Leopard and go Adventuring into Fairyland. She leaves behind her life and her mother (and father) with hardly a thought and goes off to see what awaits her in Fairyland. And oh September…what Adventures you do have! Throughout the story, despite the hardships she endures (since all good Adventures inevitably have hardships) she manages to prove over and over again what a smart, resourceful, capable, and kind person she is. September makes many of the decisions she does in order to help her friends, or do what she thinks is right. The decisions may lead to trouble, but she makes them anyway. Her friends are wonderful as well. The Wyvern A-Through-L that is born of a Wyvern and a Library (he’s a Wyverary!) and the Marid Saturday – a blue boy who grants wishes but must first be wrestled with and lose. Then there is also the Marquess, the seeming villain of the book who rules over Fairyland, and my favourite – the omniscient narrator who keeps us informed of subtle goings-on.
Fairyland is full of the kinds of fantastical creatures you expect to find in Fairyland and some new ones – like a pack of wild bicycles and items that you find in every day life like lanterns that have reached the age of 100 and become fully sentient. There are quests for a spoon and sword respectively, a grand city, a journey across the sea and a kidnapping. there is wonderful lore for changelings and a back story of a kind Queen who all believe killed by the newer Marquess who is but a young girl herself and slightly cruel (though her backstory is heartbreaking). And all of this is made so real through the magnificent writing of Catherynne M. Valente. It has been ages since I have read a book that wrapped me up in its words so completely. They’re lyrical and wonderful and absolutely perfect for emotion and description. Gorgeous.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente is one of those rare books that comes along and changes the way you read. Topics of family, friendship, politics, identity and more are woven throughout one young girls fantastic adventures in a strange and beautiful land not her own. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making deserves to be re-read at any opportunity because I just know this is one book you will only grow to appreciate more the more you visit it.