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

2 September, 2012 Reviews 28 comments

Review: The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. ValenteThe Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making Series: Fairyland #1
Published by Feiwel and Friends on May 10th 2011
Pages: 247
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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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.

God I wanted to like this book so much. Honestly I did. I loved the idea of a modern fairytale written for the cynical youth of today. I was excited. I was intrigued. I wanted it to be engaging and captivating. But mostly I wanted it to be entertaining.

And for me, this just wasn’t. I stopped at page 135 and just couldn’t go on any further. I was bored beyond belief and for the life of me I can’t actually figure out why. And this has confused me that much that I am blaming it for the headache that I have at the moment.

Now my first real issue with Fairyland (yeah that title is just way too long for me to type out all the freaking time) was that it didn’t have an introduction, it didn’t ease the reader into it, there was no real back story… It just started with September, what a fucking name, climbing out of her kitchen window the Green Wind.

And from there it just got more and more surreal. Now don’t get me wrong I’m all for surreality but this was mind bending to the nth degree. I can see where it was aiming for, but for me it just fell short of the mark. About a country mile short. It was aiming for dryly witty… and it ended up just being dry.

And I’m English… If there is one nation on the face of this planet that embrace dry wit and take it on as a bosom buddy… it’s us. It’s our comedians bread and butter. The irreverence was there, the set ups were there but the punch line just never seemed to be delivered to the many micro gags that were set.

And this disappointed me y’know? It made me feel like the author was kinda writing the book whilst thinking “Look at how clever I am, you’ll never be as clever as me”. And that tone irked me. I couldn’t read more than 5 or 10 pages at a time before I had to put it down. And when I put it down I really didn’t want to go back to it. At all.

I was quite happy to watch it sit on my bedside cabinet and collect dust. And if it was badly written I wouldn’t care, at all. I’d toss it and go Ah well, live and fucking learn. But this was beautiful. The writing itself was gorgeous. But that alone does not a good book make. I don’t know about anyone else but for me, a good book needs to make me care about the Main character. And September?

I didn’t feel connected to her at all. She was merely ambling through random meetings with gnomes and witches and other kinds of magical creature. From what I could gather her one goal was to find a spoon, for a witch… Which I suppose is more of a plot than some fairytales, hell it’s more than a plot of some TV shows, but I want to be entertained by a book. If I want to be bored then I’ll go to church.

And you want to know what has me really scratching my head about this book? Ok I’ll tell you… I am pretty much the only person out of my circle of friends who read this book who feels this way as far as I know. So I’m seriously wondering if I missed something or if we read the same book at all. Because I don’t get it. I don’t get what was so good about this book that has gotten so many people going nuts over it.

Maybe I caved too soon, maybe I’ll give it another go in the future and my mind will be changed but as it stands I’m just leaving this on the shelf and finding something that will actually draw me in and engage me.

I don’t think that that is too much to ask for from a book do you?

Happy reading,

Archer

Archer

Archer

Reviewer at Cuddlebuggery
Archer is a scouser currently residing in Australia, yes he does realise that he is about as far from home as it is possible to get. He enjoys reading anything that can hold his attention for more than the first chapter and he doesn't really care what genre it is either. Reading has been something he has done since he was a child and it is still, in his mind, one of the best ways to kill time. Outside of reading and writing book reviews, Archer is a serious gamer and he reviews the games he plays when he gets a chance. He is also a very keen amateur photographer, an enthusiastic cook and enjoys spending time watching films and essentially trying not to stress. Find him on GoodReads.
Archer
- 1 month ago

28 Responses to “Review: The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente”

  1. AnimeJune

    Well, that’s pretty much Cathrynne M. Valente’s style. I quite enjoyed it, but I have heard from other people (like my mother) that it was too stylistic. I love the old-fashioned scare-the-pants off you Victorian middle-grade so I enjoyed it – although, to be fair, I like her adult-written stuff more (THE ORPHAN’S TALES OMG!).
     
    I’m guessing though if her stylistic choices here leave you cold, you might not like her other stuff (although … Orphan’s Tales….changed my life forever…).

    • Archer

      @AnimeJune Lol I normally like the Victorian stuff too but this just didn’t engage me. Maybe it was the blending of Victoriana with contemporary. I dunno. I just couldn’t gel lol

  2. Kara_M
    Twitter:

    It’s totally okay that you don’t like a book that all your friends like. People are just different. Though I will admit to being disappointed that this one didn’t work for you, I am currently in a similar situation so I can empathize. Two of my best blogging buddies didn’t like Stormdancer. They couldn’t even finish it. And I’m really upset over this and wondering why because I usually agree with their tastes. So…yeah. Disappointing but totally  understandable. 
     
    You still articulated your thoughts very well though, and I say that from the POV of someone who adored this book.

    • Archer

      @Kara_M This book and Stormdancer share one thing in commn, they’re either gonna be loved or they’re likely not even going to be finished. And sadly for me… this became the latter

  3. linda

    OMG THIS. (I have to admit I’m usually not a huge fan of your reviews/posts but I give you 5 stars for this one.) Most people I know loved this book, but I couldn’t get into it at all. Totally agree with you about not being able to connect with September or enjoy the weirdness/cleverness of Fairyland. (And I didn’t even like the writing.) I was super tempted to give up halfway, but one reviewer mentioned that the ending was worth it, so I forced myself through. But while the revelation at the end was kind of interesting and thought-provoking, it wasn’t really worth slogging through more of the book. So yeah, I think you made the right call. 

  4. elwoodcock
    Twitter:

    Yeah, I’ve been stalled around p90 … for about a month. I have a vague intention to go back to it, but have not yet summoned anything like the necessary enthusiasm. As you say, it is so perplexing because this is *so* up my street! Everything about it screams that I will love it. I even have two copies of the damn thing because two people bought it me for my birthday! But it’s too stand-offish. I don’t care about any of the characters in the slightest. I might still give it another go. *might*….

    • Archer

      @elwoodcock You have no idea how comforting it is to hear others are having the same issue with this book that I had.

  5. Stephanie Parent

    I’m pretty scared to start this one, because I’ve tried some other Cathrynne M Valente and have found her stuff a bit too intellectual and difficult to get into for my taste…but I will try this one eventually!  If I don’t like it, though, at least I’ll know I’m not the only one!

  6. Lexxie
    Twitter:

    I really hope it just means you didn’t get it Archer! I have this on my wish-list, and the reviews are raving 5 stars! However, having one review that is a little more negative might actually do this book a whole lot of good! It will lower my expectations a little bit, so I won’t be thinking I’ll be awed from page 1 and through to the end 🙂
     
    I think this is something that happens every now and then – books that have only rave-reviews have a lot to live up to for other readers. When we get a review (or more) that points out some difficulties, or like you, just didn’t like it at all, it helps us to start the book with just ‘normal’ expectations and not ‘oh yeah, this is going to blow me away’ expectations.

    • Archer

      @Lexxie I definitely had very high expectations from this book and was severely let down by it

  7. Bookish_Belle

    Oh man, I really want to read this one! I still will at some point, I wonder if I’ll feel the same.

  8. mel59lawrence

    I’m so glad to have stumbled upon your review. I thought I was the only one in the world feeling that yes, the writing is lyrical, but that isn’t enough– and I was so depressed thinking this, surely there must be one other soul who has similar thoughts…
    Thanks, ditto your review. Well done. I still haven’t bothered to finish the last 50 pages. Can only stand it for about 10 pages at a time.

  9. Elisha

    “And you want to know what has me really scratching my head about this book? Ok I’ll tell you… I am pretty much the only person out of my circle of friends who read this book who feels this way as far as I know. So I’m seriously wondering if I missed something or if we read the same book at all. Because I don’t get it. I don’t get what was so good about this book that has gotten so many people going nuts over it.”

    You’re too grown up.

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