The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – Catherynne M. Valente

“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…”

A couple of sentences into this book, I knew it would quickly become a firm favourite of mine – and I wasn’t wrong. Beautiful and magical, the tale blends childlike innocence and vivid imagination with dark and sinister undercurrents, making for a gripping read.

Join September, Saturday and A-Through-L as they navigate Fairyland on a mission. The world has been torn asunder by The Marquess who has brought all of the worst bits of the human world – taxes, rules and regulations – into this delightful, enchanting land. All of the creatures are bound to this tiny tyrant, who ruins lives on a whim. She gives September a task to complete, sending around the weird and wonderful world of Fairyland to carefully navigate dangerous situations and difficult decisions.

Catherynne M. Valente uses evocative descriptions to set the scene of Fairyland, explaining enough of the characters and ways of the world to enlighten the reader – but not every little detail, which leaves the imagination to pleasantly run riot. Catherynne has an enviably delightful turn of phrase and I raced through the story, which is peppered with lovely illustrations (drawn in the same vein as the gorgeous cover).

This rich tapestry of a tale is complete with imaginative, ingenious characters that September encounters on her journey through Fairyland to find Goodbye’s spoon. It’s the kind of book I hope they never make into a film because I don’t think they could ever do it justice – even though the city of Pandemonium, weaved out of different types of material, does remind me slightly of Coraline. Catherynne M. Valente has set the book subtley and expertly up for a sequel, which I hope appears soon, as I can’t wait to read it and pass around my friends, as I have this one.

The only complaint I have about this book is the length of its title; I felt it could have been summed up much quicker and simpler. If that’s the worse thing that can be said about a book, then that says a lot about the content. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (and breathe) is an absolute gem of a read.

Many thanks to Constable & Robinson for the review copy.

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