Title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Illustration: Ana Juan
Publisher: Square Fish
Type: Paperback, 247 p
Keywords: alice in wonderland, kids going to magical worlds and coming back awesome, whimsical words!, yummy food
Why? I’ve been meaning to read this book, or any of Valente’s works for a while now. I also challenged myself to the Worlds Without End Women of Genre Fiction challenge and she just happens to be on the author list! Plus Neil Gaiman has a blurb on the cover. Neil. Gaiman.
In their words:
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.
Are all fairy tales like this? Full of characters that are created so well that you feel that they’re real, regardless if they’re a wyverary or a golem made of soap? Are these so-called children/YA books full of deeper meanings and hiding behind a simple fairy tale storyline? If so, adults are missing out on a whole lot of books and I need to re-read all the books I read as a kid because GUYS this book is so gooood. Haven’t felt this kind of bittersweetness since reading John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. The writing really gave Fairyland that whimsical feel to it and gave me the impression that Fairyland is both a wonderful and kind of terrifying place to be. My favorite description has to be about the Autumn Provinces:
The trees go all red and blazing orange and gold, and wood fires burn at night so that everything smells of crisp branches. The world rolls about delightedly in a heap of cider and candy and apples and pumpkinds, and cold stars rush by through wispy, ragged clouds, past a mon like a bony knee…Autumn in Fairyland is all that, of course. You would never feel cheated by the colors of a Fairyland forest or the morbidity of the Fairyland moon.
Squeeze your eyes closed, as tight as you can, and think of all your favorite autumns, crisp and perfect, all bound up together like a stack of cards. That is what it is like, the awful, wonderful brightness of Fairy colors. Try to smell the hard, pale wood sending up sharp, green smoke into the afternoon. To feel the mellow, golden sun on your skin, more gentle and cozier and more golden than even the light of your favorite reading nook at the close of the day.
I also loved how Valente wasn’t afraid to be brutal to the protagonist September: from breaking bones, fighting an all-out brawl with a magical marid, and sailing around Fairyland naked. 0_o
And the characters! The snarky narrator! Death who can’t sleep because it dreams of people’s regrets. I want my own Wyverary! I want to hug Saturday and give him some tasty sea stones to eat! And the story of Queen Mallow is heartbreaking. Just another reason that this book rocks: not everything is black and white, good or bad. I love my books in shades of gray~
This book can be for everyone I think. For the lovers of quirky humor, stories that are deeper than first glance, and Alice in Wonderland, down the rabbit hole type of stories. Curses now I need to buy the sequel STAT. And what a good start for the WWEnd challenge! I think the next author I will try is Rae Carson, another author I’ve been meaning to read.
Here’s a sample of some of my favorite passages:
“I said ‘Hello!'”
“Yes, that’s me.”
“What?” said September, confused.
“Are you very dull or very deaf?” said the other woman, flinging an alarmed lizard into the cauldron.
“Oh!” cried the young man. “A little deaf child! How sweet! We should adopt her and teach her to write symphonies. She’ll be all the rage in town. I’ll buy her a powdered wig and a tricorne!”
“Green! Stop it! I just want to know—”
“One! Because you were born in—”
“If I am special,” finished September, halfway between a whisper and a squeak. “In stories, when someone appears in a poof of green clouds and asks a girl to go away on an adventure, it’s because she’s special…”
…”But what I mean to say is: Maybe you meant to go to another girl’s house and let her ride on the Leopard. Maybe you didn’t mean to choose me at all, because I’m not like storybook girls. I’m short and my father ran away with the army and I wouldn’t even be able to keep a dog from eating a bird.”
The Leopard turned her prodigious spotted head and looked at September with large, solemn yellow eyes.
“We came for you,” she growled. “Just you.”