Review – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Cover of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. ValenteThe Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente

The whimsical nature of this is classically Valente; you can tell it was written by her, if you’re at all used to her style, but the style is less pronounced — it requires less concentration to be rewarding, to be enchanting. Which, given that it’s essentially a young adult book, makes sense. It’s still gorgeous, but more like cream and less like treacle.

It’s exactly as charming as the cover copy suggests. There’s a Wyvern who may or may not be the son of a library, there’s wild herds of bicycles, there’s witchery and magic and strange transformations. It’s Fairyland, as dangerous and bewitching as it should be, and not saccharine-sweet at all. It has a bit of the same tone as The Hobbit, with a definite narrator who has a personality and is telling the story direct to you, with the same lightness of touch (and much less moralising than, say, C.S. Lewis). I really like it when people are clever with their narrators, and this definitely worked for me.

There are, of course, deliberate parallels to folklore, but also to classic fantasy fiction — Narnia in particular, and it’s interesting that the main character of Fairyland has a father who is away at war, and so has that war background. Shades of the Pevensies, a little. And the antagonist’s issues, well, they seemed to me a direct commentary on the disappointments of leaving Narnia, never to return.

Rating: 4/5

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8 thoughts on “Review – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

  1. Wyverary! ^_^ (I would like to meet a Wyverary.)

    So glad to see you enjoyed this! Are you thinking about reading the others as well? There’s more shades of the antagonist’s issues in them as well for, um, potentially minorly spoilery reasons, but they definitely walk a really strong and nice balance between Fairyland and our world, whether it’s the effects of war or whether it’s simply growing up.

  2. I’ve been debating this book for a while, but your review actually makes it seem interesting, so I guess I will actually have to go to the library and grab it.

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