Review Blog

Jun 14 2016

The girl who raced Fairyland all the way home by Catherynne M. Valente

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Atom, 2016. ISBN 9781472112835
Recommended for fantasy lovers. Fantasy. Adventure. Fairies. Magical world. This is unlike anything I have read before, although there is an essence of Alice and a looking-glass world, a hint of a crossover with a Wardrobe world, and a dose of psychedelic fairy-tale adventure within its idiosyncratic style. My desire is to write a review that reveals a little of the cloudburst that has occurred within me as I read. This is a book with a magical maelstrom of characters that are woven in a kaleidoscope of fantasy magic, adventure and mystery, mixed with a pandemic of inscrutability. The windstorm of characterisation of features and follies is at first very difficult to follow, and the ultimate fantasy 'Race' to sort out who deserves to be the current reigning Royal takes the reader to places that no one knows or can fathom. The confusion of plot and characters at first floored this reader - it was hard to create a mental image of all that was exploding onto the page in this unique fantasy creation. However the idiosyncrasies and inherent humour of the language used, and the quirks of expression were so unique that they had an irresistible charm that created a desire to keep reading. (I am not so sure that this would be enough for some younger readers, who would find the worlds and wordsmithery confusing.) Note the following early descriptive example to describe the world in which we find the central character, September.
'A vast and hungry country takes tea somewhat differently than you and I. Fairyland's teatime consisted of a dollop of rain in the Autumn Provinces, a particular delicate icing of clouds over the Painted Forest, a healthy squeeze of blazing sun in the Hourglass Desert, and a fresh, green wind blowing wild through the streets and alleyways and secret corners of Pandemonium.' (p2)
The winner in this incredibly unique telling is the language use; metaphor, simile, word-play, personification and a general licking of alliteration at every turn. The characters are also given exceptional features, costumes and skills by the author Valente, who obviously has a very verdant imagination. Each chapter has a Dickens-like preamble to guide the reader into the next panoply of wonder.
This can be recommended to those who love fantasy deeply, but who also are inspired by words and wordplay. It might be confusing for those who lack persistence or who devour books in small bites! This is the last of the Fairyland series... but the first I have read. It may be that those who already love this world would not be as likely to be confused.
Carolyn Hull

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