Title: The Girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making
Author: Catherynne M Valente
Genre: YA Fantasy
Opens: Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.
Blurb: Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went away to fight in a war and her mother started working long hours to support the family. Now September is bored. Until one day as she does the dishes she is visited by The Green Wind and The Leopard Of Little Breezes who asks her to come with him to save Fairyland. The leader of Fairyland – the Marquess – is not a very nice person and there is something she wants but can’t get herself. That’s where September comes in she is ordered to fetch it otherwise Fairyland will become even more impossible to live in – September has a quest.
My Thoughts: THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN is the first book in the fairyland series which is getting rave reviews across the world. However, I just didn’t get it, in fact I found it extremely difficult to get into the imaginative, but very odd, story and, importantly, none of the characters actually drew me in and demanded I stay. The closest character I came to like was the book-loving Wyvern called A-Through-L, and he was loquacious and boring.
Look, there was SO much going on in the story, often all at once, with lots of mentions of other past and future adventures being thrown into the mix every few paragraphs, making story was hard to track. Then on top of that there were lots of characters being thrown at me one after the other without me being given the chance to bond with any of them. But wait there’s more! The main problem was I didn’t even bond with the strange child who is the centre of the story, September. For me to really enjoy a story I need to have feelings about, or be able to relate to, the main character – even if it is a severe dislike – the character needs to evoke some sort of emotion from me. But author Catherynne M Valente aroused no emotions from me for September; in fact even September didn’t seem to care about what happened to September. So if the main character is apathetic to her own fate – why should I care whether she gets eaten by river monsters, or killed by a witch? Don’t get me wrong Valente obviously has superb mastery of the English language – but it was if she put so much effort into her words, and waxed lyrical about every little thing, that the story got lost amongst the descriptions. The world building was absolutely amazing – but then it was peopled with characters that remained as flat as the pages I was reading.
As I said, THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN has got rave reviews, so I am clearly in the minority here. It is listed for readers aged 10+, this stuns me as it would have to be a very advanced 10 year old who could read this. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under the age of 15. A lot of this is to do with the style in which it is written, not the concept of adventures in fairyland.
I kept think of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz – all bizarre stories if you think about them logically, but full of wonderful characters and words which pull you in – not leave you leaping for the dictionary every few minutes. In fact there is even mention made of a wardrobe that connects you to other worlds, so the author must be familiar with these works. Her version of a magical adventure just didn’t work for me – but as I have already mentioned it as lots of good reviews from other readers – so just but not my cup of tea
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D – Average – it was OK, but for one reason or another I found it a bit of struggle to stay focused and finish.