With a title like that we know we can assume two things: First, that the book is going to be an adventure tale; and second, that it is not going to be your traditional fairy tale. This, in part, was the reason I decided to read the book. That and it was recommended to me from my mother and since she has excellent taste in books (and is one of the three people I trust in recommending books) I decided to give it a go.
Looking back on the books I’ve been reviewing, and the reviews I’ve been writing, I’m glad I got away from them for a moment to talk about something completely different.
When young September is offered to travel to Fairyland and escape her boring life in Omaha she agrees without a second thought. Upon arriving in Fairyland it doesn’t take long for September to discover that something is amiss; everyone she meets is cheerful but share the same complaint about the Marquess who rules with an iron fist. She takes what she wants and makes everyone submit to her rules which make them no more than prisoners in their own homes. Soon September finds herself within the sight of the Marquess who has decided September is the perfect person to retrieve an artifact she needs. With the help of a scholarly wyvern and a blue boy with the power to grant wishes (only if you beat him in a wrestling match) she must set out across the whole of Fairyland to retrieve the artifact and save the world from the power of a dictator not much older than herself.
If Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland mixed with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe you would have something similar to this book. For those of you who are fans of books like Alice in Wonderland and The Phantom Tollbooth you will love this book. It is a story of pure imagination defying reality an everything you think you know about what a society needs to have. And I loved it. It’s quirky, comical, and a good time so long as you don’t require the real world to be present.
Her writing style can, on the other hand, has been met with both positive and negative remarks. These remarks are complete contradictions of each other. Some say her writing style is great, bringing the characters to life, while others found her writing impeding on their ability to visualize what is happening. In response to both I will say that Catherynne Valente did an excellent job of creating characters that are both silly, relatable, and memorable. What I personally found to be a problem was her characters personalities often overwhelmed their descriptions. It sometimes made it harder for me to picture the characters but it was never bad enough that it got in the way of the story.
For those of you who hate, despise, or are furious with fourth wall breaks, this book is not for you. The narrator has a strong part in the story and on multiple occasions will pull out of the story to explain something or reveal something that the reader would otherwise not have known about. Valente always writes these breaks at good points to minimize the break, but if this bothers you then be warned before reading.
If you aren’t a young adult or children’s literature reader I would recommend expanding your boundaries at least to give this book a try. It isn’t for everyone, but for those who enjoy the quirky or the different this is definitely one to look into.