Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer
Science Fiction/Fantasy

Readalikes to Catherynne Valente’s FAIRYLAND Series

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Sonja Palmer

Staff Writer

Sonja resides in Asheville, NC where she has a job she loves at a children’s nonprofit.  When she’s not working, she probably has a book or comic in hand as she tries to read her way out of the ever-growing stack in her small apartment.  On weekends, she’s probably clambering through the mountains with her husband and dog or trying to eat too much cake while watching Great British Bake Off.

So, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is fantastic, and the whole series by Catherynne Valente is truly one of my favorite things I have ever read. I find Fairyland life-affirming and honestly inspiring, with how it talks about growing hearts, choices, and the ability to revise your life.

The only problem is that it is REALLY hard to find books that measure up, in my opinion, so it can leave you with a bit of book hangover.

So here is a list for those of you are looking for something with the same kind of beautiful language and honesty, with a little magic thrown in for good measure.

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

This one may seem like an odd pick, because it doesn’t really have magic. The kind of magic it has is the magic of families, hot chocolate, and bravery. But this book feels like being wrapped in a warm blanket with someone you care about on a wintery night. Sophie was discovered after a horrible shipwreck in a cello case, and she was adopted by the eccentric Charles, who truly makes a fantastic guardian. When that relationship is threatened, Sophie has to set off an adventure to find her mother and save herself, and it is truly wonderful and magical with quotes like “Books crowbar the world open for you.” I loved this, and it felt like a classic adventure story that I loved when I was a kid.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Mcguire

This book revolves around the children and teenagers who come back from their magical lands. They often don’t fit in at home anymore, so they are sent to a home where many of them are simply waiting to be taken back to where they feel they truly belong. The language in this reminds me so of Fairyland, with the way it uses fairy tales to convey the truth of living. It is a short book, but don’t worry, I’m glad to say it is one of a series, because I wanted to stay in this world for a little longer. Also, with lines like “we notice the silence of men. We depend upon the silence of women,” it is sure to stay in your brain.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

I think this one is genuinely the closest in tone and in plot; it revolves around a girl named Alice and her adventures through a magical land while she makes friends and learns about the world and herself. It is captivating, in so much of the way that Fairyland was, while being wholly its own wonderful story. One of the things I loved best about Valente’s adventures was the fact that I felt I was learning along with September. Mafi conveys the same kind of wisdom in her books: “She’d decided long ago that life was a long journey. She would be strong and she would be weak, and both would be okay.” People need to be reminded of this, and it was something I definitely needed to hear as a woman. Sometimes you just need to be reminded it is okay to be weak, and Mafi is here for that and for so much more.

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood

In case you have ever wanted a book about a group of girls learning to stand up to the patriarchy and find their inner dragons, my friend, this is for you. Chantel goes to Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens, where she must learn to be biddable and obey the great patriarchs of the city. But when danger comes, she has to learn to stop being biddable and stand up for herself and her friends. “It was really difficult to believe you had a right to argue when you were confronted by wise-looking men telling you that you did not.” This book about trusting yourself and realizing that yes, some adults are wrong, and that girls are strong and deserve to be trusted and all of that, is a perfect follow-up to Fairyland.

Finally, if you haven’t read the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett, you must.

These books are warm and funny, and full of wonder and truth and wisdom. There’s things in these books about how you become the person you are, and how “coming back is not the same as never leaving.” As always, Pratchett is funny and wise, and fair warning-reading these books will make you even more sad that he is not still here writing more lovely things. Ah, Pratchett, we all miss you and your wry sense of humor with the kind truth behind it. This series is full of adventure and fun, and even if you haven’t read any other Discworld books, you’ll be just fine.

So there it is, a list of next places. If there’s something that you felt really gave you same kind of adventure and truth, please let me know, as I will need to immediately add it to my reading list.