Favourite female character: September from Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland Series

Kettlemag, Books, Womens Season, Catherynne Valente, Fairyland
Written by Laura Noakes

Although there are many female characters in literature that I love (Lizzie Bennet, Hermione Granger and Matilda Wormwood spring to mind), there is one less well known character whom I would LOVE to be and it’s one many people haven’t heard of. Her name is September, and in Catherynne Valente’s excellent Fairyland series, she is spirited away to the magical land of, you guessed it, Fairyland, to have all sorts of amazing adventures.

The Fairyland series is the perfect combination of my favourite childhood classics, Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Wizard of Oz, but turned completely on their heads. Simultaneously a homage and a parody of the fairytales that inspired it, Fairyland is a wondrous and imaginative world that is full of whimsy and magic. The books are beautifully written, so much so that it feels almost like poetry. The mischief and magic that September and her friends get up to is enchanting and hilarious.

But what I really love about this series is our protagonist, September. September is a twelve year old girl, living in Omaha in the midst of World War Two when she is whisked away to Fairyland by the Green Wind. September is a richly drawn character, she makes numerous mistakes throughout the series and solves problems using her smarts. September is for me, what separates this series from the classics. Because, although I adore Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, I was always slightly baffled as to why she was so desperate to escape the magic of Oz and return to the dusty and boring Kansas. And whilst The Chronicles of Narnia will remain one of my favourites, I was always so angry on behalf of Susan when she was unjustly thrown from Narnia for the crime of discovering boys and makeup. And it really annoyed me when Alice woke up just as the Queen demanded her head, and Wonderland was revealed as a dream.

Why is September my favourite female character?

If I was any female character I would be September not only because she gets to go to Fairyland (duh!) but because she is a more complex character than these three. She is not a passive damsel in distress, but a hero, a knight in her own right. She is smart, determined and yet also naive. September seems real, and that is what separates her from other young heroines. September is a kick-ass female character, and refuses to let her gender stop her from being restricted in any way. There is an emphasis on September’s ability to problem solve, and she grapples with her personal morales and beliefs throughout the series.

September is very much a feminist main character, and this is another reason why I adore her so much. If you like imaginative, well crafted fantasy reminiscent of the classics, but with a strong female lead that is constantly developing throughout the series, you NEED to read the Fairyland series.

If you’ve read it let us know what you thought in the comments below!

Read our Women's season magazine, kettle mag,