Monday, February 10, 2014

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

Summary (from Goodreads):
Twelve-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 the author 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.
I knew I would love this book. I’ve owned it for some time and have even read several remarkable reviews for it. For some reason though, it was picking up dust at the bottom of my TBR pile. I am so glad that I added it to my Why Have I not read these books yet 2014 reading challenge. Who knows how long I could have abandoned this gem for other less deserving titles?
I’m not really even sure how exactly to express my love for this one. As the book summary suggests, it’s a mixture of Alice in Wonderland and The Golden Compass, but it’s also Narnia, Neverland and Oz. It’s this kind of modge podge version of all the things I love best about children’s fantasy. It’s even written in the language of Alice in Wonderland with this surreal and also at times absurd and hilariously poignant prose that reads better and more expertly than most adult books do.
There’s a separation between the narrator and the main character. Sometimes the narrator steps back and mentions the adventures of a different character: a very important key. Not many inanimate objects in this book are in fact inanimate. My favorite animated object was the green coat September was given in the beginning, a coat who becomes embarrassed when its not covering September correctly, and who is glad to act as part of September’s ship. There’s also a lamp that can speak to September through writing that appears on it’s shade, and who can hug September with arms…Then there’s the wyvern, who is part wyvern (dragon-like creature), and part library who acts a walking encyclopedia (A-L).
These are just a few of the quirks that add to the whimsical story. There’s also witches, stolen spoons, queens, weird laws about prohibiting flying (unless by flying cat), blue boys, kidnapped friends, stolen shadows and various magical quests for things like swords. I took my time reading this one because it was definitely a book that needed to be slowly savored over time. The language was just so magical, I seriously needed to prolong my overall reading.
I’m not sure I believed all of the phrases from the narrator about children being heartless. And there were definitely a lot of random phrases about things that were stated as fact. Like courage needs to be washed and all people are born with luck that they need to take better care of. But these odd phrasings that I didn’t always agree with definitely added to the absurd charm of the world September went to.
On top of great characters, beautiful language, whimsical charm, and absurd humor, there was also the remarkable world-building. I felt like I was seeing all of the crazy things that September was seeing. The details of it all were fantastic. So fantastic, that I was craving pumpkin pie for days after reading the Autumn scenes. There isn’t anything negative for me to say about this one. I loved it completely. I cannot wait to get my hands on the rest of the series. It gets a 10/10.

1 comment:

  1. Awwww, yay! I'm glad you also loved this one. I agree about it being a modge podge of references, but it's also something totally unique too, which is why it's brilliant. And the writing. UNF.

    I loved the heartless children thing. :) But the narrator's a character too in its way, which is fun.