The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden Library Binding – 22 May 2008
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" Cathrynne Valente weaves layer upon layer of marvels in her debut novel. In the Night Garden" "is a treat for all who love puzzle stories and the mystical language of talespinners." -- Carol Berg, author of "Daughter of Ancients
"" Fabulous talespinning in the tradition of story cycles such as The Arabian Nights. Lyrical, wildly imaginative and slyly humorous, Valente's prose possesses an irrepressible spirit." -- K. J. Bishop, author of The Etched City
" Astonishing work! Valente's endless invention and mythic range are breathtaking. It's as if she's gone night-wandering, and plucked a hundred distant cultures out of the air to deliver their stories to us." - Ellen Kushner, author of Thomas the Rhymer
" Refreshingly original in both style and form, In the Night Garden should delight lovers of myth and folklore." - Juliet Marillier, author of the Sevenwaters trilogy
" While the obvious comparison is to "One Thousand and One Nights, ..". These are fairy tales that bite and bleed. Every moment of lyricism is countered by one of clear-eyed honesty, and sometimes the moments combine.... Valente weaves an intricate, exquisite web that ultimately binds each story to the other." -- "Washington Post Book World"
"Cathrynne Valente weaves layer upon layer of marvels in her debut novel. In the Night Garden" "is a treat for all who love puzzle stories and the mystical language of talespinners." Carol Berg, author of "Daughter of Ancients
""Fabulous talespinning in the tradition of story cycles such as The Arabian Nights. Lyrical, wildly imaginative and slyly humorous, Valente's prose possesses an irrepressible spirit." K. J. Bishop, author of The Etched City
Astonishing work! Valente s endless invention and mythic range are breathtaking. It s as if she s gone night-wandering, and plucked a hundred distant cultures out of the air to deliver their stories to us. Ellen Kushner, author of Thomas the Rhymer
Refreshingly original in both style and form, In the Night Garden should delight lovers of myth and folklore. Juliet Marillier, author of the Sevenwaters trilogy
"While the obvious comparison is to "One Thousand and One Nights."... These are fairy tales that bite and bleed. Every moment of lyricism is countered by one of clear-eyed honesty, and sometimes the moments combine.... Valente weaves an intricate, exquisite web that ultimately binds each story to the other." "Washington Post Book World"" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Catherynne M. Valente was born in the Pacific Northwest, grew up in California, and now lives in Ohio with her two dogs. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Catherynne M Valente's latest novel begins in the vast garden of a Sultan's palace and with a girl who has been banished from the palace into the garden because of a peculiar marking: her eyelids and the skin around her eyes are stained black. When a plucky boy approaches her, she tells him that the markings are stories written in tiny handwriting; and at his request she begins to tell him the first story, from the crease of her left eyelid. These stories are the focus of the book, although there is an important subplot of the boy getting in trouble for his growing association with the girl.
The stories she tells have a fairytale, mythical quality about them; there are stories within stories within stories, weaving in and out of each other; and it is all told in Valente's flowing, beautiful prose. She takes some basic archetypes - the prince, the maiden and the witch, for instance - and turns them on their head in an oft-peculiar way, sometimes subtly and sometimes not, with ideas drawn from a wide spread of cultures and a fair few from the imagination-rich world inside her own head.
This is a dazzling, original, interesting book, and I recommend it to everyone who wants a taste of something fresh and fantastic.
Although I have never read The Arabian Nights, I hear The Orphan's Tales duology is of a similar structure; each volume is comprised of two main stories, each of which consists of a net of connecting stories. I had never read a book with this stories-within-stories structure -- at first I was left a little confused as to who was telling the story and whether each story connected to each other, but a couple of pages in and I came to love this structure. This book is full of amazing depth because of it; almost every character the reader is introduced to has their own story to tell and so you come to know each character on a personal level, which is rare among fantasy fiction. It is often the case for me that even in the best books, there are characters that bore me to death and I would happily skip through parts that focus on them; In The Night Garden is very different. I cared about most of these characters, I actually felt a sense of loss when some stories ended because I felt I needed to read more, I needed to know more about this well-written character.
It is a testament to Catherynne M. Valente's utterly amazing writing ability that there are almost no two-dimensional characters, they hardly ever fall into tropes of typical fantasy and almost all of them has an interesting characteristic or feature that conflicts with what you'd expect. Not only are these characters interesting and well-written, they are downright weird.Read more ›
And therein lies the problem, and the reason I didn't finish. As clever as the structure is, as beautiful the prose, layers upon layers of very short tales do not a compelling narrative make. As soon as I became invested in one character, off we went to learn the stories of another. I kept reading, hoping for hints that a payoff was coming. At about the halfway point, when I'd reached the fifth layer of storytelling, the book collapsed for me under the weight of its own cleverness. I realised I couldn't wait for a payoff, as I just didn't care what happens to the boy, the girl, the prince, the witch, the bear/bartender, the beast, the princess, the stepmother and all the rest of the characters whose names I can't recall.
I bought the book on the strength of its glowing reviews, and am disappointed that it didn't work for me. So I'm adding my voice to the small chorus of people who wanted to love this book, but bounced on The Orphan's Tales. If you're one of us, I'm here for you, friend. Don't feel bad. I did not get this book either.
Undoubtedly influenced by the fantasy, horror and satirical stories in One Thousand And One Nights; the book's opening thread is of a supposed demonically possessed young girl living in a palace garden. Shunned and feared by nearly all around her, the nameless girl tells stories to an equally unnamed boy of the royal court. This allows a linear flow into tales that are vivid, elaborate depictions of magic, blood vengeance, quests, fabulous cities and an incredible range of mythical beings as well as princes, kings, witches, deities and more. There is a touch of a reminder of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, as well as Jorge Luis Borges' The Book of Imaginary Beings, for me.
What I love are the twists to the characters' stories as they appear, disappear and then are encountered again (akin to music where the refrain is heard once, vanishes, then returns to be touched on again, growing resonant with added details). Also, as another reviewer notes: there are wonderfully depicted female characters and, delightfully, they are all different with none being decoratively simplistic.
However, for all the wondrous prose, I do find some elements less satisfying. I like flashes of wit and humour in fantasy writing to add dimension to themes that can, sometimes, become portentous. There are a couple of moments where I smiled or had a quiet laugh (a questing Prince obsessed with formulas and theorems and Grog the Magyr lambasting the uselessness of mermaids), but for many of the stories it seemed absent or it was lost in my reading of it.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Happened across this in my local lirbrary, and found myself completely taken by it. Wonderful story telling.Published 16 months ago by Kirsty Purnell
The most beautiful story filled with even more beautiful stories. My new favourite book, this story is really something special.Published on 16 Feb. 2014 by Emily
In a far off garden, cloistered away from the Sultan's harem lives a girl with exotic tales tattooed on her eyelids. Read morePublished on 24 Nov. 2013 by Sadie Forsythe
this author is almost unbearably good. the depth of her imagination leaves me spinning. though i loved this book, i didn't find it a real page turner, as the... Read morePublished on 24 Feb. 2013 by sparrow
One of the most amazing books I have read for a long time. I could not put it down. Valente's prose is poetic and lyrical and never strays into cliche or flowery territory. Read morePublished on 4 Oct. 2012 by Adam
I do believe that we have here a whole new genre: art house fantasy. Never mind the content, see how clever we are! Read morePublished on 12 Sept. 2012 by phoebes_mum
Stories within stories like matryoshka dolls, intertwined within a complex tapestry. The tales of the titular orphan will bring you into a world of fantasy and wonders, perils and... Read morePublished on 20 May 2011 by Amazon Customer