Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2011
: Bibliophilic wyverns, enchanted woods, an evil Marquess, a magical talisman, dwarven customs agents, djinns, velocipedes--and that doesn't even take into account what's in the title of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
. A fantastical tale that's somewhere between Lewis Carroll and Terry Pratchett, Cathrynne Valente's book follows twelve-year-old September, a girl from Omaha, Nebraska, who finds herself whisked away by a fast-talking gentleman called the Green Wind to the world of Fairyland where she has to retrieve a witch's spoon from the fickle Marquess. Still, Cathrynne Valente's imaginative cast of characters and spirited prose turn what could be a standard heroine-on-a-quest story into something on par with the best (and weirdest) classics. --Darryl Campbell
A Look at Ana Juan's Illustrations for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
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|Exeunt on a Leopard ||The Wyverary |
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|Thy Mother's Sword ||One Hundred Years Old |
Amazon Exclusive: Cory Doctorow Reviews The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Cory Doctorow is a co-editor of the popular weblog BoingBoing and the author of Little Brother, Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, and several other books.
Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making: sweet fairytale, shot through with salty tears -- magic!
Feiwel & Friends has done the world an enormous service by putting The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente's extraordinary, award-winning, free web-novel, between covers. What's more, they've augmented it with Ana Juan's wonderful illustrations, one for every chapter.
Fairyland is a book that is both deeply in love with fairy tales and sharply critical of them: the story of September, a girl who flies from her dreary and sad life in Nebraska to Fairyland on the Green Wind. In Fairyland, she meets every sort of wonderful mythical beast (including a wyvern that's half library), eats the most wonderful and strange things, and has the most wonderful and extraordinary adventures and quests. And it really is wonderful: whimsical and lyrical and shot through with an imagination that simultaneously renders the traditional furniture of fairy tales fresh, and manages to make the author's own inventions seem as mythic as the first story told in the first cave in front of the first fire.
But Valente's fairytale broods and seethes, and it is not always such a nice place. For every velocipede herd thundering across the plain, ridden by a marvelous fairy in aviator's leathers and jodhpurs, there's a whipped blue water-djinn who bears the emotional scars of slavery. For every autumn kingdom filled with fiery sylvan alchemists, there is a political exile in the winter country, banished and sorrowing. For every brave sacrifice from September's companions, there's an abandoned soap golem that wishes the good queen would restore Fairyland to its glory.
And that's what makes Valente's work so truly fairytale fantastic: the sense that the magic sweetness is alloyed with a pinch of salty tears that makes it all so flavorful and complex, a wonder streaked with anxiety. So as September embarks on her quest to topple the evil Marquess who is bent on remaking Fairyland so that it is as dull and regimented as Omaha, Nebraska, we cheer her on, fear for her, and wonder, a little, if she might not be on the wrong side of the war.
Valente's lyrical fairytale is billed as a young adult novel, but like all the very best young adult novels, this is a book that can (and should be!) enjoyed by grown ups too.