Title: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making (Fairyland #1)
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Genre: Fairy Tale, Middle Grade
Publisher: Much-in-Little (17th January 2013)
SEPTEMBER is a twelve-year-old girl from Omaha. With her dad fighting a faraway war, and her mum always out at work, she is lonely, stuck in a rut and starved of adventure. So when a Green Wind arrives at her window and invites her to Fairyland she accepts in a flash (mightn’t you?). But Fairyland is in crisis, crushed by the iron rule of the villainous Marquess – and September holds the key to restoring order. With a book-loving dragon and a mysterious boy named Saturday by her side, she sets out on a thrilling quest to Fix Things. But time is short, and time is ticking, and every story must have an ending. Can September save Fairyland? Can she even save herself?
Rating: *** (3 stars)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (hence forth known as The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland) is a modern fairy tale – it even starts with the famous ‘Once Upon a Time’. It tells the story of twelve-year-old September’s adventures in Fairyland.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is told very much in the style of a fairy tale. It is narrated in the third-person by an omniscient narrator, this allows Valente the scope not only to tell September’s story, but also to let the reader know information that September does not and to follow the adventures of a key. Valente uses language playfully throughout the narrative, mixing in complex words with ones that (I think) she made up. At times I found this word play fun, but at others I struggled to keep myself in the story.
September is an interesting main character, who chooses to leave her humdrum life behind to have an adventure in Fairyland when Green Wind offers her the chance. At times September is brave and fearless, but she is also very much a twelve-year-old girl trying to do her best in rather difficult situations. Valente does a good job with the secondary characters, not one of them would feel out-of-place in another fairy story. She also writes a really interesting villain in the Marquess.
The plot of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is both simple and complex, as many fairy tales are. To start with the story focuses on September’s journey to Fairyland, it is only once she arrives there that things get complex. I think Valente did a good job with the plot of the book, borrowing fairy tale conventions but also making the world and characters her own. The ending of the book was rather fitting, and wrapped things up nicely.
If you are a fan of fairy tales, if you like Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland then you should definitely pick up this book. It is a romp through a half-familar, but altogether strange world that follows the conventions of a fairy tale.