Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reading: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

I was reminded, to a certain degree, of the works of Angela Carter in Catherynne M. Valente's lovely The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. This might well be a YA kind of story but, as with most of Valente's work that I've read - and like Angela Carter - there are sufficient heapings of gloom and doom (uhh...not that YA can't have that or something; remember M.T. Anderson's Prince of Nothing duology or Sue Towsend's hilarious but ultimately heartbreaking The Secrety Diary of Adrian Mole, to name a couple?). So I guess what I'm saying, in a very roundabout way, is: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making rocks.

September, our heroine, is transported to Fairyland upon by the Green Wind - who has taken pity on her. Once in Fairyland and after having chosen the cruelest of three paths, Setpember sets out on a quest to return a spoon stolen by the Marquess - the current ruler of Fairyland - from the witches Hello and Goodbye, and their wairwulf husband Manythanks. The journey becomes much more than a spoon's quest, however, as September learns that something is terribly amiss in Fairyland and it seems the Marquess is to blame. Along her way September gains companions A Through L - a wyvern fathered from a library - and Saturday - a sea creature called a Marid who eats stone. The journey for the spoon - and then later for a sword - will take them across Fairyland, though it isn't like any Fairyland you've seen before: this Fairyland is dangerous and, afraid of angering the Marquess, many will do her bidding, making it hard to know who to trust. By the end, even September is not the innocent, young girl she was when the Green Wind whisked her off from her parents' house. Highly Recommended.

Here is an excerpt of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making:

In Omaha, signposts are bright green with white writing, or occasionally white with black writing. September understood those signs and all the things they pointed to. But the signpost before her now was made of pale wind-bleached wood and towered above her: a beautiful carved woman with flowers in her hair, a long goat's tail winding around her legs, and a solemn expression on her sea-worn face. The deep gold light of the Fairyland sun played on her carefully whittled hair. She had wide, flaring wings, like September's swimming trophy. The wooden woman had four arms, each outstretched in a different direction, pointing with authority. On the inside of her easterly arm, pointing backward in the direction September had come, someone had carved in deep, elegant letters:

                              TO LOSE YOUR WAY

On the northerly arm, pointing up to the tops of the cliffs, it said:

                              TO LOSE YOUR LIFE

On the southerly arm, pointing out to sea, it said:

                              TO LOSE YOUR MIND

And on the westerly arm, pointing up to a little headland and a dwindling of the golden beach, it said:

                              TO LOSE YOUR HEART

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