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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making: 05/17/12

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M Valente is a modern day retelling of the Persephone myth with nods to L. Frank Baum's Oz, Lewis Carroll's Wonderland and Norton Juster's Phantom Tollbooth. September, stuck in Omaha washing dishes as her father is away fighting in a war and her mother is working late at a factory, is invited to Fairyland by the Green Wind.

September's adventures through there follow the classical path: land at the edge of the world or country, find the way to the center (and capital), be directed out on a new quest by the person in charge, accomplish extraordinary things all along the way, collect unusual but loyal friends and return home a changed person. I don't mean this simplistic description as a bad thing — it's a wonderful comfort for exploring the unique nooks and crannies of Fairyland.

Although September's initial quest is the "find her way home," she doesn't mean it. It's a lie to allow her entry into Fairland, as part of an intricate ritual to unlock the space between Earth and Fairyland. In that regard, then, September is more of an Alice, than she is a Dorothy. She wants to explore the world, if she can survive long enough to find her bearings.

Valente fills Fairyland with copious amounts of details. It may seem as though she is just filling the pages for a sense of rhythm or to make the mundane seem fantastical, but after listening to the audio twice, there is not one extraneous detail. The narrative is a complex and rich tapestry, befitting the capitol of Fairyland.

There are so many wonderful characters. I could write an entire separate post just on them. My favorite, though, is Ell (L-through-M) who is part Wyvern and part Library — Wyverary. Although September is dubious about Ell's background, I choose to believe him.

Like Dorothy and Alice, September will be returning to Fairyland. There's a short story already about Queen Mallow's adventures, The Girl Who Rules Fairyland — For a Little While and a sequel, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.

I happened to listen to the audio, expertly read by the author. Both times, the book has made me cry. I also have a hardback on hand to enjoy the lovely illustrations by Ana Juan.

Five stars

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 23:46:00


I have seen this title around several time. You've convinced me and I have added it to what I now call my "envy wish list" (Thanks to mailbox monday). Thanks for sharing.

Comment #2: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 14:19:34


It's definitely a book worth reading and owning if you're a fan of that type of fantasy. I actually own two copies: one audio and a hardback so I can have the illustrations too.

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