There are stories that restore faith in humanity, in truth and beauty and the whimsy of a clever imagination. I’ve found one. I can tell it’s going to stay with me forever, and that I’ll reread it in times when comfort and hope and magic seem far away. I don’t know if I can convey to you how lovely I found this book, but I’ll try.
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. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t…then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.
With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is a classic, adventurous fairy tale. Its heroine is September, a somewhat heartless twelve-year-old, who still knows that the fantastic is possible and that the world may change beyond recognition at a moment’s notice. It is with this knowledge (helped along by a bit of boredom) that she accepts the offer of a trip to Fairyland and begins adventures many and marvelous.
Catherynne M. Valente has created not only a fantastic fairy world; she has written it so beautifully that the words themselves seem to glow and pulse with enchantment and allure. September’s adventures might seem absurd and strange to an adult – but only an adult who no longer remembers the joy and cheer found in make-believe. I think that if you have a speck of magic still in you somewhere, you won’t be able to escape Fairyland’s enchantment.
A bit of the Green Wind’s whimsical dialogue from page five, just to give you a taste:
“The earth, my dear, is roughly trapezoidal, vaguely rhomboid, a bit of a tesseract, and altogether grumpy when its fur is stroked the wrong way! In short, it is a puzzle, my autumnal acquisition, like the interlocking silver rings your aunt Margaret brought back from Turkey when you were nine.”
Add in Ana Juan’s beautiful and eerie illustrations at the start of every chapter, and you’ll find that magic and a quest were just what you needed, even if you didn’t know it. What more can I say about Fairyland? I left my heart somewhere in its pages.
Recommended for: fairy tale fans of all ages, those looking for an exquisite story to treasure in their hearts and stave off sorrow, anyone who has taken stock of the here-and-now and wondered when it would be their turn to stumble into a patch of magic.
Fine print: I received a copy of this book for review from Zeitghost Media (courtesy of Macmillan).