In Which I Decide Too Much Genre Savviness is Off-Putting

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

Or: in which I realise Sophie Hatter has ruined adventurous fictional females for me for all time.

The truth is that I do like Catherynne Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland with a Ship of Her Own Making. It took a bit of getting into it, though, because I figure I'm such a child when it comes to adventure stories. I like things that are straightforward and interesting right off the bat.

Maybe it was the narrator that threw me off at first. It had a wink-wink-nudge-nudge quality to it (something I associate with Chuck Palahniuk's later work, and definitely not something I enjoy) that I just couldn't get into.

Also, September isn't Sophie Hatter. Now isn't that something? I think she might have ruined me for good. See, I was reading, and at the back of my mind was this snotty little voice saying things like, “well isn't this September just so freaking special” or “does this little girl have to be so insecure and constantly dramatic” and “how the fucking fuck does a wyvern get it on with a library?”

On and on and on with the questions and the constant reminder that September isn't Sophie. I am ruined.

But then again I have to say that maybe it was the constant genre savviness. You know it's fun, generally, when someone makes remarks that point to the genre. It's cute. It's hilarious, even, when done perfectly. But sometimes you want your adventure story to be straightforward. You don't want snide reminders that September is a smart girl and she's read books before and she knows how things go.

It makes sense in context, because obviously the girl is literate and knows her fairy tales. But I suppose it's the way it was written that can throw people off. You know how when The Princess Bride has its fun poking jokes at the usual knight-in-shining-armour story it's actually funny? Here it sort of undermines the thread of the story. You get someone who knows so much already and instead of enriching the adventure it sort of grounds it and renders everything sort of sour.

But I have to say massive props to that twist with the Marquess. I did not see that coming. Let's hope M. Night Shyamalasomething never does either.

One good thing about the book is that for all of my complaints it still managed to be an engaging read, especially once you get past the first few chapters. It picks up and by the time you get to the end you're hooked and want to see what happens next.

I won't go so far as to say I care about September now, because obviously my little black and faulty heart only has room for Sophie at the moment, but at the very least I'd like to see what happens to her when she returns to Fairyland, and also how that thing with the Marid happens. I mean, seriously?

This is a twelve-year-old girl. I say let's keep the pregnancy hints to a minimum till she at least hits sixteen and can get a reality show of her own.



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