narfna’s #CBR4 Review #39: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
Dudes, it’s been waaay too long since I read this book. This review is not going to be my best ever. (I am SO BEHIND in my reviews. For instance, this is my 39th review, but I am currently reading my 46th and 47th books. I’m sure this is a problem a lot of you are having as well. Please take this opportunity to whine in my comments. I will not mind.)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (longest title EVER, so good thing it’s so adorable) came to me very highly recommended from several sources, so I was extremely excited to read it. I even bought myself a shiny hardcover copy. I’m happy to say I enjoyed it very much, although it wasn’t as great as I was hoping it would be.
TGWCFiaSoHWM (!) is about a little girl called September who is spirited away to Fairyland one day for an adventure. She traverses Fairyland with an assortment of magical creatures and beasts, including her very own Wyverary (his mother was a Wyvern, and his father a library). She also encounters a woman made of soap, a town made of cloth, a herd of wild bicycles, and a race of half-people that I’m frankly at a loss to explain. Sure there’s an “evil queen” figure propelling her into all sorts of scrapes, and little whiffs of destiny here and there, but ultimately, it’s September herself who charts her own course around Fairyland and comes out the other side.
TGWCFiaSoHWM is charming and whimsical, and extremely imaginative, but for most of the book, it is a little light on character development. Valente packs so much imagination into her world-building that it’s breathtaking, and her sentences are frankly magical, but she spends far less time on the creations that populate this fantastical universe she’s created. For that reason, until the end of the book, reading TGWCFiaSoHWM felt like a bit of a shallow experience. All frosting, no cake. And other such metaphors.
And then the ending happened.
Until I read the ending, I was all set and ready to give the book three stars. And then the ending kind of knocked me on my ass. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that all the emotion and character depth that was missing throughout most of the book was packed into its last hurrah. The story of The Marquess was devastatingly sad and horrible in the best way possible. It made me rethink the whole rest of the book. I actually think this book would have been much oomphier with The Marquess as the main character, or with her story as a framing device or something. Something to let you know that September isn’t the real show here, that her journey into Fairyland signifies something more important when seen through the lens of The Marquess’s story at the end of the book.
But then again, this isn’t my story, it’s Valente’s, and her heroine is September. Anyway, the ending was awesome even though I think she could have worked it into the rest of the story somehow, so I’m giving this like 3.75 stars, but I’ll round up to 4 just because I’m feeling magnanimous.