And Then I Read: THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING by Catherynne M. Valente

GirlFairylandCover and interior art by Ana Juan.

I’d heard good things about this book, and the cover quote from Neil Gaiman made it sound promising, but my review of this fantasy novel aimed at younger readers is mixed.

September (no last name) is an ordinary girl who longs for adventure, and finds her way to Fairyland, but one that is very different from what she and we might expect. Traditional fairies and their usual high spirits and trickery have been brutally suppressed by an evil ruler who goes so far as to chain the wings of flying creatures like the Wyvern pictured on the cover to prevent them the joy of flight. September has lots of unlikely adventures, meets many unusual beings, makes friends and enemies, and eventually finds herself face to face with the evil Marquess who has taken over Fairyland. But that’s only half her story, as she must then take on a hopeless quest to save her friends before having any hope of defeating the Marquess. The sailing event mentioned in the title is a rather short section of the book, not sure why it became the title. Throughout, September learns lessons, solves mysteries, uncovers evil, and tries her best to do good. It all wraps up nicely in the end.

While author Catherynne Valente writes well, it’s showy writing, drawing lots of attention to itself rather than the story, including authorial interjections and comments that only served to pull me out of the plot. There’s lots of inventive ideas and creations, but in rather a jumble of old and very new, making for an uneasy mix.

The illustrations by Ana Juan didn’t help the storytelling in my eyes, as they are cartoonish and cutesy, undercutting the drama and the suspension of disbelieve that any good fantasy requires.

So, in all, I didn’t dislike the book, I guess I liked it pretty well but didn’t love it. Probably if I was a kid myself I’d be less critical and more enthusiastic.

Mildly recommended.

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