I rated this book as four stars at first. That made my brain sob so I switched it to five. That extra star is solely for the quality of the writing. It’s superb. A lot of reviewers complained that it was too charming or tried too hard to endear the reader. I understand how people could feel this way but I though Valente’s prose and storytelling style was spot on.
At times I thought the story moved slowly and that’s why I initially rated it 4/5. The beginning, when she’s first taken from Nebraska, has little detail and asks a lot in terms of immediate suspension of disbelief. September is at home in Nebraska during the war, waiting for her mother to come home from the factory, wishing to go away on an adventure then suddenly a flying panther and a wind show up. See? I can Disbelief Suspend with the best of them but that still made me cock my head to the side and expel a “neh?” From the time September arrives in Fairyland on, however, the detail and storytelling are wonderful , if slightly slow. I could accept and enjoy the slowness eventually because of the writing, oh, the writing. Near the last third of the book the pace accelerates and the ending is really amazing.
I enjoyed September as a main character. She felt very real to me. She was sweet but flawed. She was a little selfish. She didn’t always have the answers but was brave when she really needed to be.
A-Through-L. My favorite. Not just because I like dragons (or Wyverns, in this case) but because he believes he’s a Wyverary. That’s a Wyvern/Library. His mom was a Wyvern and his father a library. His specialty is the dictionary from A through L, hence his name. He’s very sweet and loyal and he was the character that made me smile the most.
Later on, we meet Saturday, a marid from the sea. Saturday is extremely power negative even though he’s very strong. He’s very shy but also loyal and extremely intelligent even while a bit helpless.
The last character that really struck me as important to mention was the Marquess. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: kids, especially little girls, are the creepiest. Besides dolls. If she’d been an animated doll I’d still be having nightmares. As it is, this character left me with a case of the chills and looking sidelong at my youngest niece who is of an age with the Marquess. Her sweet demeanor that quickly changes to cruelty is well done but when I learned her story I felt genuine empathy for her.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fairytales and/or beautiful writing and am looking forward to reading the sequel. Even if I hadn't enjoyed the story, I’d read the sequel cause The Writing.
P.S. I really love that title. Anything more condensed just wouldn’t match the book.