The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by Catherynne M. Valente
Published: 7 June 2012 (Corsair)
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Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
Gather up your courage and your wishes; grab a little pinch of luck - and prepare to be swept away, in a ship of your own making, to a land unlike any other. September is a twelve-year-old girl, Somewhat Grown and Somewhat Heartless, and she longs for adventure. So when a Green Wind and a Leopard of Little Breezes invite her to Fairyland - well, of course, she accepts (mightn't you?).
When she gets there, she finds a land in crisis and confusion - crushed by the iron rule of a villainous Marquess - she soon discovers that she alone holds the key to restoring order. Having read enough books to know what a girl with a quest must do, September sets out to Fix Things.
As September forges her way through Fairyland, with a book-loving dragon and a partly human boy named Saturday by her side, she makes many friends and mistakes; loses her shadow, her shoes and her way. But she finds adventure, courage, a rather special Spoon, and a lot more besides . . .
A friend lent me this book after she read and loved it, and with that title how could I resist? The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland (which is what I shall abbreviate it to to save writing the full title each time!) follows September as she is swept away to the mysterious Fairyland where she encounters all manner of magical creatures.
Starting this book was like being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool. It's one of those books that is so incredibly bonkers that it takes a little while to get used to the writing style and the craziness. It didn't take me to long to settle in and start going with the flow and soon I was just having so much fun reading about September and her adventures.
The story has an omnipresent narrator and it feels very much like the story is being read to you. I think it's one of those books that would be fantastic on audiobook. It mainly follows September's story but every so often you get these little intermissions where it breaks away and addresses the reader directly, which is something I really loved. It just brought out that feeling of being a child and having someone read you a magical story. Each chapter starts with a cute little picture and a sentence summing up what happens in the upcoming chapter. I loved those little touches and they aided my enjoyment of what was to come. I loved being teased about what was coming up and being curious about what the picture was!
The story sees September taken on the back of a flying leopard to the outer reaches of Fairyland. I loved all the characters she meets along the way, but my favourite had to be the Wyverary A-Through-L, also known as Ell. He's half Wyvern (like a dragon with no forepaws) and half library. Yes, you read that right. Half library. The name comes from the fact he knows everything there is to know about anything that starts with an A through to an L. I was just blown away by the imagination throughout the story because the ideas were so wonderfully bizarre!
The main plot revolves around September trying to make it to the capital of Fairyland, Pandemonium, to track down a Spoon on behalf of some witches who want to use to brew up the future. I was worried the plot would get lost in all the craziness but there was enough solid storyline throughout the book to keep my attention. The book does go off on little tangents and I think the best way to describe it is that each paragraph is like its own mini-adventure. I make notes as I read and I just couldn't keep up with making notes on everything that happened in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland because there are just so many little wonderful moments that I'd have been stopping every few seconds!
I liked the contrast between September's life in Nebraska which she seems to feel is very boring and the complete wackiness of Fairyland. There were also lots of moments where what goes on in Fairyland is completely in contrast to what you'd expect, like when September expects the witches to be horrible and the scary creatures to eat her. I also liked the time we meet a Wairwulf who is wolf for most of the month and then turns human around full moon. It just defied so many preconceptions.
I loved that the book focused a lot on courage and September being brave. She's only twelve and suddenly finds herself in some pretty intimating situations where she has to overcome her fears and be brave. September's back story was really well done and endeared me to her as a character. Her parents are busy in the war so her mum is often guilty of neglecting her and her father is away fighting. I thought the historical setting in the real world was a nice touch too. It added to the mystery and magic of fairyland because September has only basic things to compare it to.
I was completely captivated by this book and the writing was fantastical and magical. It was one of those books where you could taste and smell and see everything that was being described. It's a real adventure tale where the main character goes on a quest, so if that's your thing then I think you'll love it. It took a little while to get into the story because of the craziness of it, but once I let my guard down and just lost myself in the story I had a great time reading it. Fans of Alice in Wonderland should eat this up because I think September the brand new Alice in town.
What to read next: The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
Books like this: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Rory by Ciye Cho