Book Review: ‘The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making’ by Catherynne M. Valente

Image from Amazon

Blurb from 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 crushed by the iron rule of a villainous Marquess – she soon discovers that she alone holds the key to restoring order. As September forges her way through Fairyland, with a book-loving dragon and a boy named Saturday by her side, she makes many friends and mistakes. But while she loses her shadow, her shoe and her way, she finds adventure, courage, a rather special Spoon, and a lot more besides . . .

Having never read any of Valente’s work before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and for me, this work has both negative and positive aspects- perhaps if I had read more of her work, I’d have been able to recognize motifs/ways of writing, and thus anchor myself to the experience, but all in all I felt a little stranded by the thick veins of whimsy throughout the book- at points, as abandoned as September, the feisty little heroine, on an imaginary brick road that seemed endless… it more ways than one. It was full of zest, verve and originality, with fantastical creatures popping up like mushrooms- a golem made entirely out of soap particularly lodged in my mind- but it seemed, at times, rambling and a little aimless. I loved the sweeping, swooping grandiose imagination of it all, and a special gold star is awarded for the charming illustrations…but to be honest I’m struggling to write out a brief synopsis of the plot because I’m struggling to remember it all- it veered and twisted into flights of fantastic that I felt, sometimes, were confusing. However, originality must be praised in anything, and this work has it in spade loads, so if you feel like an experiment, sit back, close your eyes and let September and her companion, the Green Wind, fly you away to new lands…just don’t forget to bring a map.

Overall rating: 5.5 out of 10


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