The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making by Catherynne M. Valente is the kind of story I used to write in my head when I was younger. I would read the sanitised fairy tales we give to children these days and wonder why the princess didn’t fight the dragon. Why she didn’t kill the witch, or why she was so trusting of strangers bearing food when she knew someone was trying to kill her. This is why I love the Deltora Quest books by Emily Rodda. I still read them on occasion, and Jasmine is still one of my favourite fantasy heroines. She is so unapologetically herself, wildness and all, and that appealed to me as a child and still does. Valente’s Fairyland has September, a girl who is Somewhat Heartless and desperate for adventure. September and her Narrator show us Fairyland like we have never seen it before with chained wings, wild bicycles, women in fine hats, and a surprising amount of clothes-less-ness but no nakedness.
The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making is a fairy tale seen with rose-coloured glasses removed. There is cruelty, and wonderment, deceit, delight, and the deep sadness of leaving people and places that have changed us. To me The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making belongs in the same category as Gregory Maguire’s Wicked and Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, and Apples. It is a story that looks at the accepted folklore and asks ‘but what if …?’ and produces something that is completely new and deeply familiar. I loved it and can’t wait until I can get my hands on the sequel.