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

On one of our many trips the local library I found myself in the kids/young adult section hanging out while my kids used the computers or browsed for new books.  I stumbled on the audio book section and figured this was a good time to pick out a book to listen to in the car. I had tried some more serious non-fiction of late, to mixed results, and figured some creative YA might be just the thing to make the commute more enjoyable.

As luck would have it, my inspiration paid off. I had been wanting to read the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente for some time and figured listening to the audio version would  be the next best thing. So I grabbed The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and added it to our pile. When the work week started I popped it in and began my adventure.

If you are unfamiliar with the story here is the publisher’s blurb:

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.

I have to say I enjoyed this book immensely from start to finish and gave it the rare Five Stars on Goodreads. (In fact, when it was over I panicked a little and rushed to the library to grab what I thought was the next book in the series so there wouldn’t be any gap in my listening pleasure. But I accidentally picked up the third not second book.

Bluntly, I loved everything about this audio book. The story is a wonderful blend of fairytale, epic quest, and fantasy adventure. It is full of gorgeous language, imaginative characters and world building and a unique combination of hilarity and human wisdom and compassion. Everything is just right: the blend of action and character, the balance between world building and language, and the mix of friendship, adventure and tragedy gives it a depth and beauty that is rare these days.

To top it all off, the author herself reads it in just the most perfect voice (or voices) I could imagine. [I will admit I developed something of a crush on her during the process of listening to this book in the car.]

It was just an amazing experience to dive into this world and the characters Valente has created. I never wanted to get out of the car but wished instead I could embark on a long journey so as to continue listening to the story and the voice spinning the tale.

This has immediately jumped to the top of my list of young adult fantasy books. Which is interesting because I wasn’t exactly blown away by Six Gun Snow White.  As soon as my daughter is a little older I will be reading it again with her. It has the sound and feel of a classic to be read and enjoyed for years and years. Not sure why it took me so long to start the series but I am glad I finally did.

So if you have not yet experienced this amazing series, what are you waiting for?

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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