The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M Valente
|The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M Valente|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Wildly imaginative, but perhaps a little too grown up for younger readers.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: January 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
A while ago a friend recommended a book called The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. I have to say, the title alone intrigued me, but somehow that title sat on my 'to get' pile and I never actually got around to reading it. Since then several other people (all adults) have suggested I might like it, so when I saw the latest book in this series was available I decided to give it a try. I really should have read the first two books, I think. This is the third in the series, and I believe there are going to be five altogether. There are some series which you can dip into without feeling too lost, but this isn't one of them!
Our heroine, September, is a young girl growing up in America who, we are told, has had previous trips into fairyland and is carried there by different coloured winds. In this episode, September hasn't been back to Fairyland for a year, and she's beginning to worry that she might be too old to get there now, for isn't it widely known that only little children can get into Fairyland? However, whilst out driving a neighbour's car one day (this is mid-twentieth century America - it's allowed for teenage girls to do this!) she comes across an unusual character and finally, after her long wait, finds a way back into Fairyland.
Valente's writing is wildly imaginative. It reminded me of Lewis Carroll, because it's quite bizarre in places, and creatures and items are used in unusual ways, so that familiar things become strange and fantastic. I think some readers might find this off-putting. I had a definite feeling, as I read, that these books would be an acquired taste, and that if you loved them you would really love them, but if not then you probably wouldn't make it through the first chapter. I did struggle to get into the story, but I gave it a chance since I knew I was being unfair in coming at the series part-way through. There are characters who are obviously very dear friends of September's, which is one reason why you need to read the previous books because otherwise there is no reason to feel anything for them. Her friends aren't introduced in any helpful way that sums up their previous history, although as the book progresses you can see the connections that they have.
I think my main criticism of it as a story is that the plot seems to take a good length of time to actually get rolling, and September plays a very passive role. I had imagined, from what friends had said, that she would be dynamic and vibrant and off on wild adventures all the time. She is travelling to the moon, which is of course an adventurous situation to be in, but she spends a lot of time being told things by other characters, and not a lot of time doing anything about it. Hopefully the earlier books in the series see her doing more, and readers should note that even with some slight disappointment with this story I still intend to go back and read the series from the start.
The other issue that struck me whilst reading was who, exactly, Valente is writing these stories for? From the style and tone it feels like young adult or adult fantasy fiction, yet they seem to be being marketed as children's books. I was unsure if young adult readers would be put off by the Fairyland aspects of the novels (though they shouldn't be!) but I'm certain that younger, confident readers would be put off by the style of the writing. They might work better being read aloud by a parent, but sometimes it actually felt like the things being written about were actually aimed at that parent reading aloud, or an adult solo reader, rather than any pre-teen readers. I really like the authorial voice that interjects throughout the story, and I really like some of the things she raises. For example, this comment made me pop a little bookmark in on this page:
Marriage is a wrestling match where you hold on tight while your mate changes into a hundred different things. The trick is that you're changing into a hundred other things, but you can't let go. You can only try to match up and never turn into a wolf while he's a rabbit, or a mouse while he's still busy being an owl, a brawny black bull while he's a little blue crab scuttling for shelter. It's harder than it sounds.
So, this story wasn't as wonderful as I had thought it would be, and the richly imaginative characters she's created with their bizarre names and outlandish adventures might be a little too much for some readers, but there's definitely some magic here. If you'd like my advice, don't read this book until you've tried the first two in the series. That's where I'm heading now!
The series starts with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M Valente at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M Valente at Amazon.com.
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