The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland (In A Ship of Her Own Making)

Note: If you haven’t taken a look at my Review policy, you can check it out here.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland
(in A Ship of Her Own Making)
by Catherynne M. Valente
Feiwel and Friends (May 2011)

First off, can we just take a second and marvel at how awesome the book trailer is?

(Confession: I bought that song on iTunes.)

Every once and a while, a book will come along, and it is so powerfully vivid that when it sketches out a magical land, the fictional world does more than just entertain. When you begin to read, the rules of the mundane world falls away, and suddenly, you’re swept away into a fantastical place which has a particular delicious flavor, which makes its own particular sense. One author’s imagination can create its own logic. One story can build a world with its own gravity, drawing readers back to that imagined realm again and again, over decades and generations, until many years and rereads later, you realize that world has grown inside of you.

You know the books, I mean: Alice in Wonderland has…well, Wonderland. Peter Pan has Neverland. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – and the other six book in the Chronicles – have Narnia. Haroun and the Sea of Stories belongs in this category, and Abarat, and the Golden Compass.

Today, I’m gonna add The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland to those ranks.


Yes, it’s that good. This is a book that comes with words attached – words like Whimsy, and Awesome, and Flit, and Joyous, and Loverly, and Pandemonium (see below).

But here’s what edges this novel out of the good category and into the great: Valente wrote a story that deserves the world it takes place in. Seriously. (Confession: I even got a little teary-eyed at the end, and that almost never happens.)

Blend one enchanting, mesmerizing Voice, many vivid and telling names, and an assortment of oddball characters. Stir in one main character’s stubbornness, as well as her sacrifices. Add some themes on Choice, and the Burden of Hearts, and Leaving/Returning Home; deliver a wham-bam punch of great storytelling, and you’ll get The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland.

5 out of 5 on the KVOT scale, peeps. For sure.

*Writer Tip Takeaway:

(No, British peeps, it has nothing to do with food. :-P)

*Okay, I can’t resist. I have to share something Useful and Awesome that this book taught me in the Realm of Writing Skills.

Proper Nouns can develop setting in the most delightful and efficient of ways.

Here let me list some that Catherynne M. Valente used:

Dramatis Personae
(as listed right before page 1)September, a Young Girl
Her Mother
Her Father
The Green Wind, a Harsh Air
The Leopard of Little Breezes, His Steed
Hello, a Witch
Goodbye, her Sister, also a Witch
Manythanks, their husband, also a Witch, but Additionally, a Wairwulf
A-Through-L, a Wyvern
Lye, a Golem
Good Queen Mallow, Former Ruler of Fairyland
Charlie Crunchcrab, a Fairy
Several Glashtyn
The Marquess, Current Ruler of Fairyland
Iago, the Panther of Rough Storms
Saturday, a Marid
Calpurnia Farthing, a Fairy
Penny Farthing, her Ward
Numerous Velocipedes
Doctor Fallow, a Spriggan
Rubedo, a Graduate Student, also a Spriggan
Citrinitas, an Alchemical Genius, a Spriggan as Well
Death
Two Lions, Both Blue
Mr. Map, the Royal Cartographer
Nor, a Nasnas
An Unfortunate Fish
A Shark (Actually a Pooka)
Hannibal, a Pair of Shoes
Gleam, a Lamp
Place Names
(for the sake of brevity, I’ll only list the ones I found between pages 1 and 100)
  • The City of Westerly, “where all Six Winds live in nothing at all like harmony” (6)
  • The Closet Between Worlds
  • the Perverse and Perilous Sea
  • the House Without Warning
  • the Barleybroom, a River
  • Pandemonium, the Capital of Fairyland, with four districts called Idlelily, Seresong, Hallowgrum, and Mallowmead
  • the Switchpoint, a gate into Pandemonium
  • Groangyre Tower, “home of the Royal Inventors’ Society (Madness Prerequisite)” (51)
  • Janglynow Flats, “where once the Ondines waged their algae wars” (51)

Now, just with those 200-some words, can’t you already kind of picture what kind of Fairyland this is?

Doesn’t it make you want to dive right into the pages and find out more about “Hannibal, a Pair of Shoes” or “the House Without Warning”?

2 Comments

  1. storyqueen August 2, 2011
  2. Shelby Bach August 3, 2011