Friday, March 15, 2013

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
by: Catherynne M. Valente
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland.

Okay. So this was one of the most inspired pieces of fantasy that I have ever read. It had the classic fantasy feel, but with a very intended twist. The writing was just beautiful and the dialogue was brilliant. And it's the kind of story that leaves you smiling. As this was a bit of a different kind of book and is just too wonderful to be described in my normal review format, I'm just going to list off and explain the things that I loved.

1. September
I loved that this was a book about a book about Fairyland and adventures about a girl who had read all about similar adventures and wanted some just like it. I think it added an interesting twist to the normal fantasy dynamic. Also September was a great heroine, way better than my 12-year-old self could have been. And that was the point, she was an "irascible" heroine who wanted to be an "irascible" heroine. And she succeeded.

2. Wyverary
A-Through-L is easily the most awesome Wyverary in the world (but considering that there are only three... that's not exactly hard). In case you haven't read the book (in which case you really should ;) ) I will explain what a Wyverary is. Basically Wyvern + Library = Wyverary. And from there you might be able to guess that A-Through-L inherited the knowledge of things that begin with anything between A and L. I'm not gonna lie, I want a Wyverary of my own now (can you say best pet ever?).

3. Saturday
He may not say much, but when he does say something, he's a sweetie. And that last thing that he said in this book? Yeah, I need the next book.

4.The fact that this book used phrases like "enterprising turtles".
This one needs no explanation.

5. The Gorgeous Writing
This is honestly the kind of writing that makes you ashamed of both the way you use the english language and the way most people use the english language. Also it makes you feel like your vocabulary is the size of a two-year-old's. But it makes you feel all of that in a good way. I loved the paragraphs that made my mouth hang open wide because I didn't know that words could be as phrased as beautifully as that. I literally want to be Catherynne M. Valente when I grow up. Here are some examples of paragraphs where I just could not wrap my head around the complete gorgeousness of this writing.

"Autumn is the very soul of metamorphosis, a time when the world is poised at the door of winter--which is the door of death--but has not yet fallen. It is a world of contradictions: a time of harvest and plenty but also of cold and hardship. Here we dwell in the midst of life, but we know most keenly that all things must pass away and shrivel. Autumn turns the world from one thing to another. The year is seasoned and wise but not yet decrepit or senile."

"The trees go all red and blazing orange and gold, and wood fires burn at night so that everything smells of crisp branches. The world rolls about delightedly in a heap of cider and candy and apples and pumpkins, and cold stars rush by through wispy, ragged clouds, past a moon like a bony knee."

And really sometimes I would just close the book for a second and bask in how beautiful these words were. The descriptions were always fantastic and really painted a picture of the scene for the reader.

6. Its shout-outs to other fairy-tales
This wasn't the only one, but here is one of the more obvious examples (talking about other kids who have stumbled into Fairyland),

"..and there's those that Stumble through a gap in the hedgerows or a mushroom ring or a tornado or a wardrobe full of winter coats."

7. All of the Wonderful Side Characters that September Meets
Calpurnia and Penny. Citrinitas, Rubedo, and Doctor Fallow. Mister Map and Neither/Nor/Not. Hello, Goodbye, and Manythanks. These funny creatures/people made the adventures that much more enjoyable. 

8. The Jeweled Key
It never failed that the Jeweled Key was always brought back into the story as soon as I forgot that he was following along. His sections were perfectly placed. I loved that it took you out of September's story for just a second, even while you are still technically being told September's story.

9. The Omniscient Narrator
It's been a long time since I've read a book with a really good Omniscient Narrator and I didn't realize how much I missed it until this book. A narrator, when done correctly, is a fantastic addition to a story to stir in a bit of whimsy. You know, narrators that say things like,

"It is true that novelists are shameless and obey no decent law, and they are not to be trusted on any account, but some Mysteries even they must honor."

10. The Chapter Heading that Explained Things, but Not Really.
At every new chapter the book gives a chapter title and then a brief description of what is in the chapter, but in very mysterious ways. For example, this is the summary for chapter two,

"In Which September Passes Between Worlds, Asks Four Questions and Recieves Twelve Answers, and Is Inspected by a Customs Officer."

I absolutely loved these. They are adorable and were charming to read and look for how they were fulfilled throughout the chapter.

11. The Fantastic Illustrations
All of the drawings at the beginning of each chapter were absolutely wonderful. It always gave you a hint into what was coming up in the next chapter and they were just beautifully drawn as well. (This also includes the gorgeous cover).

12. The Fact that there are Two More Books in this Series.
This ending was brilliant and I shut the book smiling. But I want more of this beautiful world and more of this beautiful writing. So I'm glad that more is available.

with such gorgeous writing, I'm sure you can imagine that I have a lot of quotes to add to this review.

"(It is well known that reading quickens the growth of a heart like nothing else.)"

"That's how you get the future: You mix up everything you did today with everything you did yesterday and all the days before and everything anyone you ever met did and anyone they ever met, too. And salt and lizard and pearl and umbrellas and typewriters and a lot of other things I'm not at liberty to tell you..."

"But no one may know the shape of the tale in which they move. And, perhaps, we do not truly know what sort of beast it is, either. Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to deliquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble."

"It will all be hard and bloody, but there will be wonders, too, or else why bring me here at all? And it's the wonders I'm after, even if I have to bleed for them."

"However unlikely it may seem, it is the truth and, therefore, one hundred percent likely."

"Well, very splendid and very frightening. But splendid things are often frightening. Sometimes, it's the fright that makes them splendid at all."

“... but as has been said, September read often, and liked it best when words did not pretend to be simple, but put on their full armor and rode out with colors flying.”  

"When one is traveling, everything looks brighter and lovelier. That does not mean it is brighter and lovelier; it just means that sweet, kindly home suffers in comparison to tarted-up foreign places with all their jewels on."

"When you are born...your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off of staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk and crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you're half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it's so grunged up with living.

"..and though you can have grief without adventures, you cannot have adventures without grief."

"That stirring, which had fluttered in her on first glimpsing the sea, that stirring landlocked children know so well--moved in her now, with the golden stars overhead and the green fireflies glinting on the wooded shore. She carefully unfolded the stirring that she had so tightly packed away. It billowed out like a sail, and she laughed despite herself, despite hunger and hard things ahead."

"All stories must end so, with the next tale winking out of the corners of the last pages, promising more, promising moonlight and dancing and revels, if only you will come back when spring comes again."

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