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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making Paperback – 17 Jan 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Much-in-Little (17 Jan. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178033981X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780339818
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 71,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A glorious balancing act between modernism and the Victorian Fairy Tale, done with heart and wisdom. (Neil Gaiman )

An Alice in Wonderland for the 21st century... So effortless, so vivid, so funny. Every page has a phrase or observation to savour and her characters are wondrous creations. (Sunday Telegraph )

A charming modern fairytale...with a knowing twinkle in its eye (Telegraph )

Bundles of imagination and wry wit... This is a sophisticated world of forfeits, paradoxes and tricks. (Financial Times )

A mad, toothsome romp of a fairy tale - full of oddments, whimsy, and joy. (Holly Black )

If you haven't heard of Catherynne Valente, give it time. She's only 32, and she's writing at a furious pace. Valente brings fathomless inventiveness to her fiction... A book for young adults, rich and strange enough for grown-ups, too. (Lev Grossman )

A whole esoteric world of whimsy - Alice meets the Wizard of Oz meets the Persephone story with a whiff of Narnia. (Independent on Sunday )

...it is in fact one of the most extraordinary works of fantasy for adults or children so far this century. (Lev Grossman Time )

Sweet fairytale, shot through with salty tears - magic! (Cory Doctorow )

Get swept away by this charming book (Vogue )

Pure escapism (Bliss magazine )

Book Description

Prepare to be swept away to a land unlike any other, with a cast of friends you'll have for life. A charming modern fairytale with crossover appeal, full of 'oddments, wisdom and joy' (Holly Black)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very occasionally, a book comes along which grabs you from title to blurb and this was one of them.
I am a sucker for a twisted fairytale, and in a sense I suppose this qualifies as that. It's narrated in an utterly delightful and direct fashion and is much more realistic (if that's possible) than most fairy stories.

I adored every second of it, and highly recommend it.
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Format: Paperback
Catherynne M. Valente is a name it's hard to miss in the SFF community. She's been twice nominated for a Hugo, won both the Tiptree and the Andre Norton Award and has won or been nominated for numerous other awards. She's also one of the SF Squeecast regulars, a podcast I listen to with pleasure every month. I follow several bloggers who adore her writing, such as The Booksmugglers and The Little Red Reviewer. Still, despite reading rave reviews and having my interest peaked every time I did so, I never got around to reading any of Valente's work. Until now that is. And after having finished The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, all I can say is "WOW!" and "Now I get it." I was blown away by this book and Valente's writing and story-telling.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making - hereafter referred to as The Girl Who... - is gorgeously written. Its prose is stunning and was made for reading aloud, chock-full of alliterations, rhyming and just generally beautiful passages. And that is just the words on the page; the text is heavily layered with different meanings. Plus there are lovely allusions to other classical works such as The Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. I had a lot of fun spotting these and making the connections. The Girl Who... would probably be a very rewarding book to reread, as I'd guess you'll find new things in it every time. The narrative is also quite self aware, with a narrator that addresses the reader directly and talks about the conventions of story-telling and warns the reader when he is about to break them. I really liked this aspect and the narrative voice, which was warm and at time gently mocking the goings-on in the book.
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Format: Paperback
Apparently Time Magazine, Neil Gaiman and everyone else in the world but me loves this book. I must admit Valente can conjure a gorgeously lyrical turn of phrase. And if you appreciate novelty, nearly every sentence has at least one new idea the reader must pause to visualize. Having said that, I came away from this book feeling like Valente has taken a big steaming dump on Narnia, Wonderland, Neverland, Hogwarts and Oz, without ever catching the slightest glimpse of their true value and beauty, while also fluttering within a hair’s breadth of openly supporting inequity and child abuse. I found myself absolutely Hating this book.... Hating it so much I had to capitalize the word Hate and still half-considered tacking on a few extra H’s... HHHHHHHHHated.

My initial frustration was with the relentless bombardment of inventions, which while omnipresent were not especially imaginative. It's as though Valente took Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan, Harry Potter and a few others, threw them in a blender, and then poured the mixture arbitrarily into chapter-sized saucepans. One example that jumps out: in the Narnia books C.S. Lewis created the incredibly evocative 'Wood Between the Worlds.' Valente adds the thinnest coat of varnish imaginable to his idea, calling it 'The Closet Between Worlds.' Seriously?!? If this is meant to parody Narnia, I don't get it. If it's not meant as parody, it's hard to think of a less imaginative piece of literary theft; why not just name one’s villain 'Snarth Vader'?

What is that makes Oz, Wonderland, Narnia, and Middle Earth so wonderfully alive and evocative while the oodles of imitations always feel so lifeless and emotionally tone-deaf?
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Format: Hardcover
Every child wants to be whisked away to a magical land, have adventures, and set out on a fantastical quest against a tyrant.

It's a pretty typical fantasy storyline as well, and it takes something special to make such stories stand out. Catherynne Valente's "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making" is an enchanting example, filled with delightful nonsense, wryly witty prose, and a wonderfully oddball world that reminds me of a more lyrical Lewis Carroll.

A young girl named September is whisked away from her boring Nebraska home by the Green Wind, who takes her to Fairyland. But September soon finds herself traveling through Fairyland herself, encountering a soap golem, a half-library wyvern named A-Through-L, a wairwulf, the Perverse and Perilous Sea with its golden beaches, The House Without Warning, gnomish customs agents, a jeweled key, a migration of bicycles.

She also is given a quest by a pair of witches -- find the magical spoon that the cruel Marquess stole from their dead brothers. So she and the Wyverary set out to the city of Pandemonium, but soon find themselves (and a flying leopard named Saturday) on a new quest, with overwhelming results for all the people of Fairyland.

Normally, Catherynne Valente has a lush, lyrical, sensual writing style, and there's a fair amount of that in this book ("... the moon slowly fall down into the horizon and all the dark morning stars turn in the sky like a silver carousel"). Her Fairyland is a weird, sometimes dangerous place filled with countless oddball creatures (migrating bicycles!), making her story feel like a more plotcentric "Alice in Wonderland.
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