Monday, 29 October 2012

review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

by Catherynne M. Valente
Feiwel & Friends, April 21 2011
middle-grade fantasy

September is quite sure that the Green Wind chose the wrong girl to spirit away to Fairyland. After all, she's ill-tempered, her father loved them too little and went away to war, and her mechanic mother is never home. But once she's there, she might as well help a witch get her Spoon back from an evil Marquess, make friends with a Wyvern named A-Through-L, free a Djinn-like boy named Saturday and sail to the bottom of the world to restart a clock and end the evil Marquess's reign, right?
The cover:

This illustration was an excellent choice. The Wyvern is representative of the state of Fairyland with the chains, plus he's just plain adorable. And the relationship between September and A-Through-L is important, as is the key (though did anyone notice that the key's not there in the chapter illustration?), and the illustrator's style is shown clearly.

The book:

It takes a while to adjust to Catherynne Valente's writing style; it's rather full of Things that Are Capitalized, and random phrases like "Good-bye, shoe! September will miss you soon." Once you get into the flow of things, though, the writing helps establish the otherworldly, whimsical yet ominous atmosphere of the fantasy land. It's isn't without its faults, but it's perfectly bearable.

The characters and how they interact with each other are also influenced by the writing style: September, if taken out of context, wouldn't sound like any normal twelve-year-old; but in the story, she sounds her age. And the trio of friends is wonderfully charming; their interactions become each of their individual personalities (...but I hold a special place in my heart for the Wyverary).

The one major bend in the plot helps to keep the pace going, as the settings change and the faces around September grow baleful. It all wraps up neatly, but the idea of circumstance versus The Chosen One seems rather unresolved and undecided; in contrast, the theme of moving on versus staying still is well-developed. The ending is bittersweet, hopeful and surpising all at once, and definitely w ill springboard readers to the sequel (also of amibitous title, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There).

Rating: 4 out of 5