This book started off life as an imaginary book. I suppose all books do, but this book belongs to the subset of books made up and mentioned in other books. This book is mentioned in Palimsest, also by Valente, also good. A small section of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland appears in that book, and that was intended to be the end of that.
Then, the author started writing the rest of the book. Many of us donated money for that project, and the results were posted online for all to read. While there are only the first eight chapters on there as I type, the entire novel was available for free, to everyone, for quite a long while.
This was the version I read to my mother from when I was visiting her in the nursing home. I read it on my phone, only while visiting her, as an incentive to make sure I did that regularly. I got as far as the end of chapter twelve, which ends beautifully. Then, I switched over to a different book, trying, futilely, to read all of the 2010 Hugo Nominees, and then to singing, which made my mother less restless than being read to.
In the meantime, Feiwel and Friends made an agreement to publish The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland. As part of this agreement, the author had to take down most of the novel after a certain point. I managed to miss the announcement about this, despite Valente making is loud and clear and more than once. So it goes.
Then, she received permission to put the entire online version back up again, for a brief period of time, for free download. This was about two weeks before the actual book was due out.
Naturally, I downloaded it, and I finished reading it yesterday. And, of course, now that I have the hard copy, it's time to start reading it again.
It's very good. You probably already knew that. Wonderful prose, characters, fairyland logic, plot, blending of older and newer tropes, all of it. And, as pocketnaomi noted, this is a book that managed the delicate act of not merely being excellent in its own right, but also of being exactly the kind of book that the character from Palimpsest would have fallen in love with when she first read it. And, like many of the best stories, it is not simple. It tackles a lot of difficult questions, it avoids easy answers, and such answers as it gives and chooses not to give are satisfying.