This one is a treasure to keep and re read, which is likewise true of the first book in the set, In the Night Garden Valente s reworking of tales taken from just about everywhere She is deeply knowledgeable about myths, fairy tales, and folklore is fresh, lively, vivid, and completely her own It is typical of my reading of Valente and I ve read a lot, but not yet all, of her work that I never think, Oh, I ve seen this before, because I haven t She began as a poet and the poet shines through in all of her prose, too, yet she also knows how to move a narrative forward so that the reader follows her thread as devotedly as Theseus followed Ariadne s Valente is masterful at creating lush settings and characters that make you love and fear them, with abiding reverence They have staying power, too, rather than fading a week after reading.
I do think of Angela Carter when I read Valente, but not because of derivation, because of a similar spark of genius, dark wildness, and sensuality that shimmers Like Carter, Valente takes tales we know from myth and legend and folk lore, and upgrades them to their 2.
0 version They both rewrite so that girls and women come forth as the bold and powerful beings we know they can be, rather than simply as manipulated victims or background support to males This is significant for one reason My usual response to such writing is that I loathe it because it smacks of superficial wish fulfillment Many of the writers who create modern re tellings of archetypal stories seem not to understand what an archetype is, or what function it serves in the human psyche If you do not understand this, you are very unlikely to reproduce a better version for modern readers Instead, what you will get are pretend females who are no than a superficial wish fulfillment fantasy, lacking depth and meaning These types of books are everywhere and they run roughshod over our actual natures, in favour of producing some sort of superheroines who triumph over every possible challenge, and who have no basis at all in reality If fiction is a lie that reveals truth, then these books are lies that reveal nothing but lies They are emotionally dishonest Girls and women may take the starring role in such books, but they are not really females at all they are like men, but with breasts Sometimes, they are not even that, but seem to lack any real connection with humanity at all.
Valente, like Carter, is too smart for that cheap trick Their heroines are fantastic, sometimes magic, and not necessarily human nevertheless, they resonate at the level of our deepest selves, stirring the murky pools of our psyches These heroines are courageous and loyal They are often kind and compassionate, yet can also be cruel and callous when something stands between themselves and what they need to do They make great sacrifices to achieve particular ends, which are not always fulfilled They love fiercely and deeply and some live short and brutal lives They all suffer enormously Valente shows us that even women made of starlight and grass yearn for their mothers even fire gods get lonely even girls who walk amongst the dead long for friendship These are rich and wonderful characters and, because they are the true to life emotionally and psychologically, if not actually they do not always triumph, in love or in their lives Yet their lives are not lived in vain but with resolve and reverence They have purpose and meaning.
As it turns out, I have come to prefer Valente s version of The Arabian Nights tales, on which this set of stories is modeled, to the original I do love the original stories but found I was able to predict their outcome easily, the I read them Also, frankly, the rending of garments and pulling of hair gets tedious after the first dozen stories I cannot guess Carter s mind, nor can I predict Valente, and that keeps me reading.
Catherynne M Valente Enchanted Readers With Her Spellbinding In The Night Garden Now She Continues To Weave Her Storytelling Magic In A New Book Of Orphan S Tales An Epic Of The Fantastic And The Exotic, The Monstrous And Mysterious, That Will Transport You Far Away From The Everyday Her Name And Origins Are Unknown, But The Endless Tales Inked Upon This Orphan S Eyelids Weave A Spell Over All Who Listen To Her read Her Secret History And Who Can Resist The Stories She Tells From The Lake Of The Dead And The City Of Marrow To The Artists Who Remain Behind In A Ghost City Of Spice, Here Are Stories Of Hedgehog Warriors And Winged Skeletons, Loyal Leopards And Sparrow Calligraphers Nothing Is Too Fantastic, Anything Can Happen, But You Ll Never Guess What Comes Next In These Intimately Linked Adventures Of Firebirds And Djinn, Singing Manticores, Mutilated Unicorns, And Women Made Entirely Of Glass And Gears Graced With The Magical Illustrations Of Michael Kaluta, In The Cities Of Coins And Spice Is A Book Of Dreams And Wonders Unlike Any You Ve Ever Encountered Open It Anywhere And You Will Fall Under Its Spell For Here The Story Never Ends And The Magic Is Only Beginning The stories continue in this second volume of The Orphan s Tales, and I am so ambivalent about what I m about to say I love Catherynne Valente as a writer, I do so very much, and yet There is beautiful prose in this book, intoxicating stories, brilliant twists, interesting characters And yet The stories flow and interweave, and usually I love this kind of meandering and intertwining And yet.
Note The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement You can read why I came to this decision here.
In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook In the Cities of Coin and Spice is the sequel to In the Night Garden by Catherynne Valente The books share the same structure, with stories nested inside of stories, up to seven levels including the framing story As for that framing story, it continues in this book and finally gets a satisfying conclusion.
I enjoyed this one as much as the first one The format has lost its newness factor, though at this point it feels perfectly normal It also didn t seem quite as complexly structured as the first book, but maybe that s just because I was so used to it It seemed like the stories were concentrated in a couple layers As before, the stories were interconnected There were also a lot of ties back to the first book, some obvious and some subtle.
The stories themselves were darker than in the first book, especially in the first half, and I think I liked them a bit better I did still occasionally lose interest in some parts, but not too much The author wove everything together from both books in a satisfying and intricate way I suspect a reader would enjoy the series as much if not on a re read, because the conclusion sheds new light on everything that happened before.
This was my first time reading anything by Valente, and I was impressed I ll likely try of her work in the future.
The second part of The Orphan Tales is every bit as enchanting as the first one Similar to In the Night Garden, this book is comprised of two major story arcs, one about a special brand of coins and a journey to the desolate shores of the lake where lost souls go the other in and around Ajanahb the city of spices Once again, the thread of the story jumps from character to character, each one adding a bit to the overall canvas Along the way, characters from the previous stories put in an appearance and fill in the gaps or add another level of complexity to an already intricate construction Honestly, I got lost than once, and I struggled from time to time to remember the particular story of a recurring character I would recommend reading this second book right after the first one, and even in this case try to pay attention to details, no matter how overwhelming they may seem Now that I have the final image revealed, I would compare this narrative tapestry to an oriental mandala or one of those huge celtic knotworks where you cannot discern clearly the beginning or the end of the thread, but the finished product is symmetrical, whole and hypnotizingCall me Lantern and don t laughI have already noted in the first volume how Catherynne Valente has mixed oral storytelling traditions and ancient myths with modern sensibilities, irony and humor If in first story we found out the equation governing the slaying of monsters in order to rescue maidens from towers, this time we will get an explanation of why dragons are kidnapping nubile girls Still, the major tone of the novel remains one of melancholy, of loss and loneliness It is after all, the tale of the orphan souls, be they human, animal or chimaera, most of the characters share painful childhood experiences and are on a journey of discovery for their place in an often hostile world I will not spoil the ending, other than to say it is spectacular in a Venetian carnival style colourful and poignant and very satisfying as far as I m concernedAre you lost he wispered Yes, I said fervently Poor lost things are a specialty of mine Follow the thread of blank ink unspooling from the lids of the girl hiding in a night garden and you will be found.
This review encompasses my feelings about both books, as they really belong together.
I have read so many hundreds of fairy tales in my life, but these are the ones that have stuck with me the most Catherynne Valente tells dozens of stories in dozens of voices that weave in and out of one another and somehow create not just a bigger story but a whole universe I haven t felt so much genuine surprise and interest and awe and horror and love since I got my first copy of Grimm s I have so much affection for every story and every character hidden within the traditional fairy tale patter are people and places and perspectives that change with the storyteller At its heart, The Orphan s Tales is about the fact that everyone has equal capacity for agency and everyone s story is important And in order to really understand the world, you have to listen to all of them A message that is perhaps especially timely now.
This duo of books but really just one incredible labyrinthine tale are without doubt one of the highlights of my entire reading life.
Clearly writing a review for such a story is near impossible I will attempt it eventually but not yet.
This continuation of the Orphan s tales very much continues in the same vein as the first Stories within stories, sheer, unbridled imagination a modern 1001 Nights with a very sophisticated and original sequencing of mythologies, from nagas, selkies, winged skeletons, and ever present hunger, of leopards, broken unicorns, women pared away to replacement parts, and most of allOf sorrow.
This novel takes a liberal superstructure approach over the first, continuing the tales of the Orphan in such a way that even the stories have stories and those have deeper stories still, and the recursion slowly rises back up until we can breathe in the ink under the eyelids once , gasping, shuddering in relief.
There is nothing that I can say that the book itself can t say better It is lush, gorgeous, lyrical, and it rewards careful readers Careful re reading Valente is something of a master storyteller and these two works are dense and epic Amazing.
I found this second book of The Orphan s Tales less engaging than the first one This is probably why I so easily put it down after reaching the middle and didn t pick it up until weeks later In the Cities of Coin and Spice was much darker and less enchanting than In the Night Garden and its characters less compelling I thought the first half The Book of the Storm was extremely disturbing for a book of fairy tales and the second The Book of the Scald was a little too scattered, as if Valente had run out of inspiration and energy I also felt that all the story threads should have been pulled together better, to tie in with the main orphan s tale In spite of my complaints, In the Cities of Coin and Spice still was a great book, which I enjoyed a lot for its originality and unconventionality I still don t think that it holds wide appeal, not everyone will be into this kind of writing However, if you are in a mood for some original and sometimes downright bizarre fairy tales which break all fairy tale stereotypes and celebrate women, Valente s both books of The Orphan s Tales are for you.