Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making (damn, that's a long title! I'll just call it The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland from now in in the interests of not giving myself RSI) by Catherynne M. Valente started life as an online project, and in fact won the Culture Geek Best Web Fiction of the Decade award. The book has already picked up the Andre Norton award. I first heard about it at the 2010 Worldcon where the author spoke about it in a conversation with friend and fellow author Seanan McGuire (it was a public conversation, I was not eavesdropping). It's also referenced in the book Palimpsest, and that may have been where it was conceived.

As a book The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is beautifully presented. Feiwel and Friends (an imprint of MacMillan) have outdone themselves here. There's a perfect marriage between Cat Valente's words and the whimsical drawings of Ana Juan that adorn the front and back covers as well as the opening of each chapter.

I knew I'd like it before even opening it, because I don't think Cat Valente is capable of writing a bad book. This woman's facility with language is stunning. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is one of those rare volumes that can be read across generations and ages, and everyone will find something in it. Adults will be swept away by the words and the imagery and children will find wonderment in the creation of Ms Valente's imagination.

The story is quite simple. 12 year old September is taken by the Green Wind; a Harsh Air, on his steed; the Leopard of Small Breezes away from her boring life and deposited in Fairyland, where she meets a vast array of all sorts and with the help of a frinedly Wyverary (kind of like a Wyvern, but much better read); A-Through-L (September calls him Ell for convenience) and a young Marid; Saturday, she saves Fairyland from the evil Marquess.

I was blown away by this book. It is a stunning tour de force from beginning to end. The style is rather reminiscent of a bygone age where key events from the chapter are presented at the beginning in italics. There are elements from classics such as The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, but it is still remarkably original and complusively readable.

Seanan McGuire informed me at Worldcon that a sequel is in the works, so that's something to look forward to. As for now The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is the best thing I've read this year, or for the last 2 for that matter. I'll be pushing for it to get a Hugo at next years Worldcon.


  1. I put Valente in the same camp as VanderMeer and Mieville: if I see that name, I want to read the book, simple as that. Just as you said, she is incapable of writing a bad book. which means, I have got to get my hands on a copy of this!

    If everything goes well, I'll be able to vote at the Hugo's next year as well.

  2. Redhead, I'm yet to see a bad book by Cat, yet, although I still have a few to read. I picked up Deathless at Worldcon, so looking forward to that. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland is a must get. It's an instant classic. Seanan McGuire is also working on doing a musical version of it.
    You can get an associate membership for Worldcon for about $50 and that allows you full voting rights. Any full attending member of this years Worldcon is also granted full voting rights next year.