The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (boy, is that a mouthful) is written by Catherynne M. Valente. It was published in 2011 by Feiwel and Friends. It is the first in a series. Valente’s website can be found here.
Genre: Children’s, Fantasy, Fairy Tale
“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.”
“I am the Honorable Wyvern A-Through-L, small fey. I would say, ‘at your service,’ but that’s rather fussy, and I’m not, you see, so it would be inaccurate.”
“That’s a very funny name for…”—September consider her words—“such a fine beast,” she finished.
“It’s a family name,” A-Through-L said loftily, scratching behind one horn. “My father was a Library. So properly speaking, I am a Lyvern, or…a Libern? A Wyverary? I am still trying to find the best term.”
A tiny brown creature stood at her feet, barely a finger high. She was brownn all over, the color of a nut-husk. Only her lips were red. Her hair was long, covering most of her body like bark. She seemed very young. She wore a smart acorn cap.
“She’s just for show,” breathed the wee thing.
“Who are you?”
“I am Death,” said the creature. “I thought that was obvious.”
“But you’re so small!”
“Only because you are small. You are young and far from your Death, September, so I seem as anything would seem if you saw it from a long way off—very small, very harmless. But I am always closer than I appear. As you grow, I shall grow with you, until at the end, I shall loom huge and dark over your bed, and you will shut your eyes so as not to see me.”
Warnings: A little bit of violence in the way of blood, but not a lot.
Recommended Age Range: 10+
What I Liked:
This book (and its sequels) have been reviewed a lot by bloggers like myself, so now it’s my turn. It reminded me a lot of both Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, a sort of strange hybrid of the two with a dash of Lemony Snicket.
I loved the Fairyland in this book. Wonderful worldbuilding, wonderful descriptions of people and places. The rules and the mechanics were so beautifully interwoven into the story. I’m hoping that in each book in the series we get to see something new, much like Frank Baum’s Oz series.
I have to admit, one of the things that made me love this book so much was the twist at the end. My mouth literally fell open. I was not expecting it at all, and it just made me love the book even more because, for once, I was actually surprised by a plot! The Marquess is quite possibly the best villain of any children’s book, ever. Children’s villains tend to be rather flat and slightly goofy, but this is as dynamic a villain as any novel for older readers.
Also, the heck was up with the girl at the end? Why was she there and how did she get there? I mean, unless it’s the whole marid thing, so she can be there before she actually exists (also, do we see that happen or do these books only take place when September is young? I suppose this was Valente’s way of saying what the future will bring without actually having to show it).
I feel like this is a book you have to read several times just to see what Valente is saying about certain things, because this is clearly just as much a book for adults as it is for children.
I loved the language and the capitalization of certain things, and…well, this was just a great book.
What I Didn’t Like:
I’m not quite sure how I feel about September. I liked her, but…she was sort of the typical “girl who goes to Fairyland” character. Maybe that was the point, since the story is already so familiar to us. I found her just a little too perfect and polite, but that’s just me.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland… is a book that’s not just for children (clearly, since I read it and enjoyed it). The worldbuilding and introduction of new elements is wonderful. September’s journey is a bit typical, but the villain is fantastic and the reveal at the end was so wonderfully not-expected. A great beginning to a series that I am looking forward to reading!
Coming Up Next: The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde