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The Labyrinth Hardcover – 4 Apr 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Prime Books (4 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1894815653
  • ISBN-13: 978-1894815659
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,610,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. D. MacFarlane on 14 Jan. 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Look closely. This is not the Way."

This is what you need to know about this book:

The language is beautiful, poetically so. The plot is tucked away within it, not always apparent.

Do not read this book if you want a simple, linear plot, with straightforward language. Do not read this book if you are afraid to think.

If you want to enjoy Valente's skill with language, to admire the way she weaves a plot into and out of it, then read this book; if you're not afraid to take a risk with something that's probably very different to anything else you've read, then read this book.

I was absolutely blown away by it; other people don't get it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rubbah on 12 April 2009
Format: Hardcover
I finished the labyrinth a couple of days ago and I'm still thinking about it, which is a good sign. This is certainly not a book that you can just read through, or even read more than 2 or 3 chapers in a row., and so despite being a short novel, it took me toe same time as it would to read a book twice it's size. plot? basicaly the unnamed narrator is trying to escape the doors and meets various creatures along the way;chess pieces who can't play chess, etc. She cannot remember ever not being in the labyrinth and she is slowly descending into madness.
Overall, I enjoyed the Labyrinth and I'm glad I read it, though I love the Orphan's Tales books a lot more. I'm definitely going to look out for more of valente's work.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 13 reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
not a high brow review 22 Oct. 2004
By Valentina - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I'm not a big reviewer, but that is also because I used to read for a living. You get sick of talking about books. But this one is different from the run of the mill and it deserves a review.

First let me say, (because this is a small press book) I was entirely satisfied and more with the physical copy itself. It is beautiful. You have nothing to worry about there.

now on to the STORY....

If you're interested in this book, you're not seeking a 'typical' read. Don't expect to learn about someone's terrible divorce or quarky family. This is not that kind of book. It is more experimental but I found that invitational, not offputting. I found myself itching to underline certain parts of it and to mark it up in general just so I remembered my thoughts as I read through it. In short: it is rather inspiring. You are guarenteed to have a strong opinion on the work.

The story is of a woman who has swallowed the Compass Rose and has been traveling through a Labyrinth filled with snapping, dangerous doors that threaten to take her off the true pathway. As you follow her, you are treated to glimpses of who she might have been at one time. These tangents are fascinating...the one that stands out in my mind the most is "I came of age during the plague years." Yet despite these tempting offshoots, I didn't feel cheated following the narrator. I was compelled to see her destination.

Valente uses a lot of strong images and sometimes s contrasting images to convey her vision of the Labyrinth and its inhabitants. Her style is distinct and intentional and her voice is very feminine. You will either love it or hate it, but she will never commit the crime of leaving you uncertain.

I checked out her website. This is her first book and she has some others in the pipeline. If you're at all interested in poetry I was quite impressed with her poetry...she has some of it up on her website.

I won't bother you with all my other personal opinions on the work...that's what the gold stars are for. :) But I won't lend out my copy because I have the feeling that I wouldn't get it back from my friends.

'nuff said.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
The Labyrinth 30 Dec. 2004
By Emily Monroe - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have finished The Labyrinth by Cathrynne M. Valente. I devoured it, like a Door. It was beautiful, a lyrical epic poem in prose. The language was amazing, it gave me a tingly feeling in my spine, and in my throat. I know some who might have thought it was excessive, but this story could only have been told in language such as that. An ordinary story demands ordinary language, and this is no ordinary story. It's an extraordinary journey through psychologically charged image after image.


I highly recommend this book, for anyone who loves the English language, and the myriad of ways in which it can be used. I recommend this book for anyone who loves mythology, and I'm going right away to email my mythology professor to tell him he should read it, too. I recommend this book for anyone who loves things that are out of the ordinary, because this book is extraordinary.

I warn you, once you read this book, your perception of reality won't be the same again. Life will seem dull and grey compared to the vibrant visions and characters that Valente describes.

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
From my website, 21 Oct. 2004
By William R. Granberry - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In the world of literature, there's a lot of the same- a lot of mediocrity, a lot of good, and a lot of bad. The fact is, however, that in all that diversity, there's an awful lot of uniformity. Books, no matter their quality, tend to be whatever they are in one of a limited number of ways. While the convenience of categorization and familiarity might be nice, sometimes it's nice to have a little departure. Soon after I recieved an advance copy of The Labyrinth for review, I realized that I was going to go on a little trip.

Enter The Labyrinth. There are some books whose language can evoke images that transcend mere vivid visuals- they can inspire waves of emotion and empathy with its protagonists that wash over you in unexpected, engrossing ways. It sets forth on an unconventional and perhaps daunting literary course, one that demonstrates a powerful command of language, as well as a rapt knowledge of the classics. The style is poetic but not poetry, written in cantos so beautifully yet succinctly constructed that they seem as the lost lyrics of an arcane epic song. Valente does so with such captivating skill that the book quickly becomes difficult to put down, if your first appraisal might tell you that this is not your cup of tea.

It tells the story of the Walker, once a woman, no longer so, on a surreal quest in the underworld-like Maze. There, the Walker encounters a host of the surreal- predatory Doors that consume those who enter, strange talking beasts, and odd helpers reminiscent of the archetype established by myths modern and ancient. The tale is told with refreshing femininity, but it is a savage, wild femininity that often disturbs as much as it enchants.

As you might have determined by now, the book is damned intense, and damned different. It is filled with surreal sights, sounds, and speeches; it distorts reality with every turn and unapologetically disorients the reader. With what becomes a trademark skill, however, Valente provides relief with her decidedly quirky sense of humor, inserting quixotic characters and dialogue that self-effacingly reminds us that the world of The Labyrinth is not entirely deeply meaningful and sweeping. She reminds us that she doesn't take herself too seriously, and in those moments, neither do we. It's appreciated.

Any reader who rigidly prefers conventional styles and plots of their chosen works will likely find The Labyrinth not to their liking, but I won't dissuade anyone who considers themselves a lover of literature from picking up this book. It is fantastic and dark, but in an age where classification is key, perhaps an author as truly different as Valente deserves a classification of her own.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Another winner from Valente. 30 May 2008
By Robert Beveridge - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Catherynne M. Valente, The Labyrinth (Prime, 2003)

I'm not sure there's anything I can say about Catherynne M. Valente's writing that I haven't already said. Which gives the irony of Valente's first novel being my fifth review of her work a little extra added piquancy. Here's a fresh, new voice in fiction, and I've already told you all about how great that fresh new voice is in my reviews of Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams (her second novel) and The Grass-Cutting Sword (her third). Yeah, I didn't get round to reading this one till later, more fool me.

This one gives us a nameless narrator (often compared to Alice in Wonderland, though by my estimation it's the Alice of American McGee's videogame or Svankmajer's brilliant film, not the one originally concocted by Carroll) trapped in a labyrinth-- of her own devising? One can never tell-- and the oddments she meets as she traverses it. It's a quest narrative, but a quest narrative turned quite on its head, where the hero doesn't have any inkling of the goal, the collected detritus of the meetings with helpful entities seems to have no value whatsoever, and no good deed goes unpunished. It's a tough life.

The plot, though, is not the reason to read this, as it never is with a Valente novel; you read Valente for the richness of the writing, the startling images that somehow never stretch the bounds of believability no matter how outrageous they get, the tempering and tweaking of old stories and mythic types that have been begging for such for centuries, if only we could hear it. Valente is one of those who can, and should be revered for same. *****
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Poetic, amazing, and deep. 20 Dec. 2005
By David - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In her debut novel, "The Labyrinth," Catherynne M. Valente has set out at once to define her own work, and to redefine the form. "The Labyrinth" reads more like an epic, surrealist poem, or an obscure Eastern religious text than it does a novel. The richness of the imagery, and the depth of thought injected into these words should bear the warning label "concentrated, take only in small doses."

I believe it would be doing this work a disservice to read it in one sitting, though this might be tempting. Rather than being dragged from chapter to chapter, if chapters are what the breaks actually represent, by cliff-hanging real events, the reader is caught by the leading and trailing edges of visions. Endless spiraling roads, decision brought to form as character, aggressive doors that hunt the traveler, rather than waiting passively to be tried, or bypassed.

The protagonist morphs before the reader's eyes from goddess to slave and back again in a sometimes erotic, sometimes intensely symbolic, and always intriguing journey through a maze of poetic imagery. Sometimes in charge of her own fate, sometimes the whimsy of greater powers that sometimes turn out to be herself, your guide through surreality has fed upon the Rose Cross and is all direction, contains all direction - and is lost.

While I doubt this work will appeal to a mainstream audience, it is an intensely powerful debut. The work is introspective, and yet, the lens of that introspection turns on the reader in unexpected ways, much as the doors in the Labyrinth itself turn on the protagonist. Lewis Carroll intrudes with rabbits and philosophical statements that blend and melt back into the landscape with an elegance that makes you wonder if Mr. Carroll himself - or the white rabbit of his construction, might not have indeed walked the trails of The Labyrinth, finding guidance and confusion on those dark roads before departing through their own doors, into their own insanities and inanities.

This singularly lyrical novel is highly recommended for dark evenings and reflection, and while its classification as a novel may remain in question, the impact it will have, and the memories it will cause to linger in the corners of your mind, will not. Highly recommended.
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