Book Review: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Catherynne M Valente)

Details:Publisher: Corsair
Pages: 328
Release Date: 7th June 2012
Blurb (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 . . .


I think I have mentioned this book a few times on the blog before. It’s one that popped up as an Amazon recommendation and I couldn’t resist with a title like that!

The book is as amazing as its title. There is such a clear, quirky writing style: it’s all very whimsical, a little Alice in Wonderland like, full of weird logic, magical characters and always underlying threats of danger.

September is a wonderfully protagonist. She is brave but not afraid to cry, a little ill tempered sometimes and a little Heartless (but then all children are, according to the book’s logic) and she is quite prepared for all the adventures one might expect in Fairyland.

And she gets them.

September makes friends with some truly strange creatures – a Wyverary (a kind of dragon bred with a library), a Marid, and a lantern that’s 112 years old – she charms her way out of some situations, stumbles into others and faces down her own Death, all to save Fairyland.

While this could easily be another twee, Alice aspiring story, there are some darker moments that can be very creepy. September’s adventures in the Autumn Provinces were a particular favourite, where she gets herself into a predicament that still makes me shiver to think about.

The villain of the story is not a disappointment either. The Marquess is equal parts charming and terrifying, and she has one of my favourite back stories to match as well. Her reasons for being rather awful are almost understandable, and it’s sad to see how she got to be that way.

Another little detail I really enjoyed is the start of each chapter, which has a wonderful little diagram and a description of the chapter under the title (In which September meets…etc). It gives the book such a lovely, old fashioned feel that makes me want to gobble it up.

This is a thrilling start to what I imagine is going to a wonderfully whimsical and beautifully dark series, and I’d recommend everyone to give it a go, if not just for the narrative voice, which is superb.

My Verdict:

OMG GEE WHIZZ How have you not read this yet?!

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