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

November 29, 2012

Wow.

I first discovered Catherynne M. Valente through a short story on the Internet that I cannot, for the life of me, find anymore.  It was a story about a demonness who got kicked out of Hell and plopped into New England long before any European settlers arrived there.  Since she’d been Hell’s baker before, she plies her trade with the mortals as the continent industrializes around her.

The story was dark and complex, just the way I like them.  It’s kind of like Gormenghast, the original Grimm’s tales before they got bowdlerized, and Gothic horror.  So I decided to pick up Valente’s latest novel, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.  It’s a quick read.

At first I thought, oh, okay, Valente’s taking a break from her dark stuff to write a fluffy book.  The story starts off with a girl named September, who grows bored with her life in Omaha, Nebraska and gets whisked off to Fairyland on a green wind.  Hijinks ensue as she makes friends with a Wyverary and a Marid and gets tasked with stealing a spoon from an evil Marquess.  But then the story gets darker, and darker, until you realize that it’s not a fluffy book at all.  I won’t tell you the kicker of an ending, but I’ll share with you my favorite passage from the book:

Of course not.  No one is chosen.  Not ever.  Not in the real world.  You chose to climb out of your window and ride on a Leopard.  You chose to trade your shadow for a child’s life.  You chose not to let the Marquess hurt your friends – you chose to smash her cages!  You chose to face your own death, not to balk at a great sea to cross and no ship to cross it in.  And twice now, you have chosen not to go home when you might have, if only you abandoned your friends.  You are not the chosen one, September.  Fairyland did not choose you – you chose yourself.  You could have had a lovely holiday in Fairyland and never met the Marquess, never worried yourself with local politics, had a romp with a few brownies and gone home with enough memories for a lifetime’s worth of novels.  But you didn’t.  You chose.  You chose it all.  Just like you chose your path on the beach: to lose your heart is not a path for the faint and fainting.

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