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Showing 1-10 of 225 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 368 reviews
on December 11, 2016
Different. Delightfully so. Very much worth reading to get out of whatever literary rut youre in.

This book isn't going to be for everyone, and I can tell you right now that the author is perfectly fine with that.

I don't think I've read anything quite like this. It's simple and complicated, an easy read and multilayered. I definitely say give it a go; best believe I'll be getting the sequel.
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VINE VOICEon March 5, 2014
I absolutely adore Valente’s very distinct and beautiful writing style, so reading an entire series she has so lovingly crafted is a special delight! Her Orphan’s Tales duology remains one of my favorite series, so when I first heard of this series aimed for younger readers, I could hardly wait. And with high hopes for a magical and wonderful read, in the very first pages, Valente delivers - and continues delivering until the very last pages. What a talented author!

September may be twelve years old, but the rich vocabulary and heart and wit makes this a terrific tale for readers both young and old - I imagine that the best way to experience this would be to read it aloud to a younger audience. What an enchanting bedtime story this would make! I love the magic of Valente’s Fairyland and her unique twists on otherwise familiar bits of fantasy - like the wairwolf and the dragon-ish Wyverary (he’s one of my favorite characters - so wise and sweet!).

This is an absolute treasure to read, with loads of adventure, emotion and charm. I am so excited to continue on this series! The ending hints where the next adventure will go. Valente is a skillful writer and this is just one of the most delightful reads that I have had in a while! Even after finishing it, I am already looking forward to re-reading it in the future! It is so lushly written and manages to sneak in some education amongst the magic - not just the great vocabulary but also hints of history and the ways of the world. This is simply a beautiful, flawless gem of a novel - one that begs to be savored whilst pressing the reader on to race to the end to see how it all turns out. September makes for a lovely heroine and this book really makes me excited to continue to follow her adventures - and those of her shadow!
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on March 25, 2016
It is the writing more than the story that makes this book so special. This is the kind of book you look for your whole life. I have read it to my children and I hope to read it to my grandchildren. It gives you a peak back into the mysterious, amazing, frightening and sometimes dangerous kingdom of childhood. And for children, it validates your sneaking suspicion that life should be filled with the strange, the ridiculous, the unknown and should almost always be treated as an adventure.
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on October 23, 2014
If I.Q. were a measure of strength of imagination, Catherynne Valente would most certainly be the Albert Einstein of writers. There was more imagination on display in that book than in any other book I've ever come across. I felt like I was reading a Tim Burton movie--colorful whimsy and fluff, along with some real adventure and brushes with death. It took 20 or 30 pages to really get into the rhythm and immerse myself in the experience, but once I did I really had a lot of fun! I'm looking forward to the next books.

Content wise this story is suitable for all ages. However, there are many, many BIG words in there...I haven't used my Kindle's dictionary this much since The Count of Monte Cristo! I would only turn my kids lose on this book if I knew the challenging vocabulary exercise wouldn't discourage them.
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on December 20, 2013
If Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland books had existed when I was a child, they would certainly have jostled with my Oz, Narnia, and Wonderland books for room on the shelf of most influential fantasy stories. What’s amazing to me is that the Fairyland books are recent works written by a living, breathing author. I could almost swear—and I mean this as the most reverent compliment—Valente discovered some old, dusty manuscripts from the 1940s and edited them very lightly for the modern reader. Her style is so quaint, and her language is so unapologetically nostalgic, I can’t help feeling as if I myself have stumbled upon some long-forgotten fairy stories that never achieved the renown of, say, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Valente wears a deep affection for traditional fairy tales on her sleeve for all to see, and the result is an enchanting new fairy tale classic for the 21st century.

The first book of this series, The Girl Who Circumnagivated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, introduces the reader to September, a girl as precocious as Wonderland’s Alice, as brave as Oz’s Dorothy, as kindhearted as Narnia’s Lucy, and just as eager as all of them for an adventure to disrupt her humdrum life. The Green Wind arrives at September’s window to whisk her away to Fairyland, where she makes unusual friends, including a Wyverary, a creature who is half-Wyvern, half-library (makes sense, right?), and a Marid, a young genie of the sea. September discovers the outlandish beauty of Fairyland, with its capital city crafted entirely out of textiles, its herds of wild velocipedes (bicycles), and its exquisite fairy food. However, the new ruler known as the Marquess has enacted numerous laws that threaten to remove all the “fairyness” from Fairyland, such as chaining all flying creatures’ wings, requiring everyone to go through customs before entering Fairyland, and forcing inhabitants to work in factories. September resolves to help her new friends defy the Marquess but instead finds herself forced to go on a quest for a mystical sword—otherwise the Marquess will have her friends executed.

Although this may sound like the beginning of so many other fantasy quest stories, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is unique in its own right. The sword September must retrieve for the Marquess is unlike any traditional sword you may have read about before, and the ship September builds to speed her quest is one of a kind, because…well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out why. I said Valente’s writing style reminds me of fairy tales from another era, but the story of September is its own delightful thing. September, I believe, has earned a place next to Alice, Dorothy, and Lucy as a girl who, just like them, has left her indelible mark on a magical world as limitless as her imagination.

(And now I am really tempted to write an old-fashioned apostrophe, beginning with something like “O! Fairyland—how fair are your skies, how crystalline your seas, how…” Okay, I’ll stop, I promise. It’s that kind of book, though—just makes me want to write longhand with a quill pen!)
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Catherynne Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is her first foray (I think) into YA fiction and it is a wildly inventive and original debut, one which I'm happy to say has already been followed up by the equally inventive The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.

September (and tell me that isn't a great name for a character--the cusp of change, the move from summer to fall) is left to her own devices around the house because her father has gone off to war and her mother works during the days at the local aircraft factory. What would have been another dull day is wonderfully transformed by the arrival of the Green Wind, who, seeing that September appears "an ill-tempered and irascible enough child," offers to take her away `Upon the Leopard of Little Breezes . . . to the Perverse and Perilous Sea" that borders Fairland (It turns out that the Green Wind, in his "green smoking jacket, and a green carriage-driver's cloak, and green jodhpurs, and green snowshoes" can't enter Fairyland himself as "Harsh Airs are not allowed," but he dutifully explains a few of the rules to September and escorts her to the threshold where she embarks on her grand journey, followed unbeknownst to her by a very important flying key.

In Fairyland, as one might expect, September meets a bevy of wondrous creations (wyverns, golems, marids, witches and werewolves, and a host of more original ones that it would be spoiling the fun of meeting them if I described them here). She also finds herself on a quest forced upon her by the ruler of Fairyland (which is not as happy a place as it could be or once was)--the bratty little tyrannical Marquess.

This is a fairyland much more akin to Carrol's Wonderland/Looking Glass worlds or Juster's Phantom Tollbooth than the usual medieval fantasy-world setting. It shares with them that great sense of whimsy and creativity, of surrealism and originality shot through with darker veins. As with all good true fantasy, there's a lot of bitter mixed in with the sweet and Valente doesn't condescend to her young readers by pretending otherwise. Like those other works, it's also more episodic than narrative. While there is a storyline and a goal, the September's journey and the many startlingly wondrous discoveries she makes while on it, as one of the subtitles might put it, is really the joy.

Valente doesn't simply make use of fairy tale and storytelling tropes--re-using and refashioning them, along with making up her own, she comments on them as well, sometimes via the characters themselves, as when one subtly and indirectly alludes to a famous pair of shoes. But most often the metafictional or intertexual aspects arrive through the commentary of the enjoyably intrusive narrator, as when September pauses before a large decision:

The trouble was, September didn't know what kind of story she was in. Was it a merry one or a serious one? How ought she to act? If it were merry, she might dash after a Spoon and it would all be a marvelous adventure with funny rhymes and somersaults and a grand party with red lanterns at the end. But if it were a serious tale, she might have to do something important, something involving, with snow and arrows and enemies. But no one may know the shape of the tale in which they move . . . Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.

I'm a big fan of this sort of thing, so I ate it up all the way through. And it's just one of the ways the book, ostensibly for younger readers, can be read on multiple levels. Again, similar to Carrol's Alice books or, in a more recent, different medium, much as most Pixar movies are vastly entertaining both to children and their parents, who if they're honest would admit they are there as much for themselves as because they "had to stay with the kid." For instance, I'm not sure a lot of kids are going to understand a reference to a lecture on hermetics.

But just to be clear, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is not an adult book dressed up in children's clothing. Kids will thoroughly enjoy it and like many of the truly great kids' books, it begs to be read aloud, thanks to the various voices, that great narrator, and the playful, lyrical language throughout.

Is it perfect? No, though that's hardly much of a complaint. I think sometimes the pacing is a bit off; it does slow here and there. For all the fun involved in watching September's adventures, to be honest I didn't often feel very connected to the character herself or to a strong sense of narrative arc. My guess is the former is going to be the minority response and the latter will bother some more than others.

Despite those issues, the payoff was certainly worth it and I was more than happy to pick up book two to see what happened when September returned. But that, as they say, is a tale for another time. Highly recommended to read and to read aloud.
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on October 20, 2014
Read this Princess Bride style to my five year old, a chapter a night. Our first real foray outside of the abysmal little golden book style of bedtime stories; save the sainted Dr. Seuss. While much of the vocabulary was above her head (quite a few stops in the story to answer , "daddy, what does that word mean" questions), it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Just nabbed the second book in the series to start reading her tonight. This book has a ton of heart, and an underpinning of wisdom.
The protagonist is delightful, and the characters colorful and enough steps away from the recognizable tropes to remain lovely. I have compared it to friends as the best update to the Oz series I have encountered.
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on July 20, 2017
I recently read the 5 books of the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente. PURE MAGIC. The language is rich and enchanting and astonishing and breathtaking. The humor is unabashedly delightful. Some readers are charmed by September or Saturday, I fell in love with the words.
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on January 29, 2015
Lovely book I bought for my daughter (age 13). It's been making the rounds in family and everyone (except the guys) love it. Now I want one for my own library. She's made it a "Special" book on her shelves. We certainly found this story to be truly unique and lovely to read.
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on December 29, 2012
Frank L. Baum, Lewis Carroll and Dr. Seuss all come to mind when I think of talented weavers of nonsensical worlds. Well, we can now add Catherynne M. Valente to that list. Valente has spun a magical tale that was clearly inspired by the stories of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, among others.

The irascible and ungrateful child, September, a girl of twelve, is unhappy in her world and, of course, she is whisked off to Fairyland (if only we could all be so lucky), not by a white rabbit or a tornado, but by a green wind. What is a green wind? I still have no idea, but I found that it was an unimportant detail. The citizens of Fairyland need her help addressing the problem of a wicked queen (of course). While trying to solve this problem, September learns the rules and limitations (of which there are few) of Fairyland and meets many wonderful and crazy friends.

I don’t like to give away too much when I review a book; discovery is part of the journey of reading. I can tell you that Fairyland is a crazy place, very reminiscent of Wonderland. So, if you liked Alice’s adventures, you’ll probably like September’s. It was a little difficult to get past the first 3 chapters or so, they were a bit confusing, but persevere and you’ll get to meet a wyverary (half wyvern/half library...seriously), a genie-like marid, and the wicked child queen. (There is something seriously creepy about evil children that speak like grown ups. Remember Village of the Damned?).

Amazon categorizes this book for ages 10 and up. I feel pretty confidant saying that I don’t know many 30 year olds with the vocabulary to navigate this book. (Did you know that “widdershins” means counterclockwise? You did? You’re so smart). Luckily, I read this on my kindle, where a definition is only a click away. This is not a book in which you can use context clues to help you figure out the meaning, you really have to investigate. A 10 year old will definitely struggle but, if you know a young reader who is motivated to use a dictionary this book would certainly be appropriate and would be helpful in expanding his or her vocabulary.

I would recommend it if you are looking for a fun and light read or a book to read with your child.
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