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The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 31, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
However, I did not stop reading. The book had been recommended strongly by someone I really respect, so I decided that I would give it an honest try. After the irritation, I was interested, and after that I was entranced. By the last few hundred pages of the book, I literally could not put it down. I read it late in 2006, but I would be willing to include it as being among my best reading experiences of the year.
Valente's prose may seem labored and precious at first, but if you give it sufficient time it settles into its own rhythm. Her diction fits beautifully with the structure of her work. Some writers who try the same kind of prose miss any sense of lightness or humor. Valente, by contrast, is as often wickedly funny in her stories as she is full of descriptive symbolism. I liked it every much in the end, and I was left with the strong sense of wanting to read more.
The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden is dark fantasy, structured as a series of interlocking stories. It should appeal to both younger and more adult readers although the themes can be quite adult. Highly recommended, particularly if you are fan of darker fantasy.
This is not to say that the tales are dour, Hans Christian Andersen morality plays. Far from it. There is much joy and passion in the stories, but there are many surprises as well.
The Orphan of the title is a girl of noble descent who was born under an unfortunate curse - she is marked in a way that incites fear in the extensive household of the Sultan, and no one will claim her for their own. Eventually abandoned to the garden, she does not die but instead thrives, living there as a sort of spectre until a young son of the royal family stumbles upon her and she begins telling him the tales that are her destiny to tell. The story of a prince's quest is brought short by the witch he encounters, who tells her story to him, which necessarily includes the story of her teacher, and so on, tales within tales like the layers of an onion.
You will recognize the skeletons of some fairy tales beneath Valente's rich layering of interpretation. Others are obscure (the woman has done her homework) or obscured to the point of being completely fresh. There is a feminist twist to the tales, but not the kind of heavy-handed moralizing that frequently burden such retellings. Instead, the layered tales take you deeper and deeper into an amazing world that you really regret leaving upon turning the last page.Read more ›
There's only one point that I wish to point out: this book has a truly staggering amount of blood in it. Murder, rape, treachery, torture, human experiments, genocide, incest, patricide, even deicide... If an atrocity can be imagined, well, it is here.
I have heard it said that when the likes of Andersen and Grimm first compiled their tales of folklore and fairy tales, they had to first bowdlerize them, "scrub them clean," as it were, to make it palatable for the consumer habits of a rising European middle class. For example, in some earlier versions of Snow White, the young woman's chief antagonist is her mother, not stepmother. The Orphan's Tales is the world unscrubbed.
It's not just that magic must be paid for in blood. Here, magic literally is blood. And no, there is no other way to get blood.
There are, at most, a handful of writers currently working who are as much on love with the English language as Catherynne Valente. Each of her novels is a small jewel for the linguaphile, as much an experience as it is a book. Her early novels tended to run about one hundred fifty pages, and with language that demands lingering over and pondering, one hundred fifty pages seemed just about perfect. Now comes the pair of books known as the Orphan's Tales. The first of them is as long as Valente's first three novels put together (and the second longer); no surprise, then, that I ended up lingering over this book for an entire year. Actually, one day shy, to be precise about it. I can't imagine doing it any other way; this is a book that demands to be lingered over, pondered, enjoyed.
The book is told as a series of nested (very nested) fairytales; there is one large frame, concerning a girl whose body is tattooed with tales and the prince fascinated with her. Within that frame are two large stories the girls tells the prince. Within each of those are dozens of subtales, as characters within the stories tell tales (and characters within those stories... you get the idea).
The most impressive thing about the book by far is that things never get out of hand. If you get the idea of the structure here (the thing it most reminds me of, oddly, is modular bookshelves), you can probably see how easy it could be for a reader who isn't paying attention to lose his place. Despite the complexity, it never happens. Whether this is because I was just paying more attention than usual or whether it's Valente's storytelling skills I don't know. Oh, of course I do. I have the attention span of a whelk.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of the most brilliant works of fantasy I've ever read. Valente twists some predictable fairy tale concepts into something unique and fascinating. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Deborah McHugh
Very engaging. But you get lost sometimes. A story within a story within a story. But it is definately a good book.Published 4 months ago by Kristine
Enjoyed the prose but following the story line was a chore. I kept getting lost. I will not read the second in the series. This is not fantasy just fairytales.Published 4 months ago by G. Lee
this has become one of my favorite book series. I heard some of S.J. tuckers songs and had to find out their origin. Valentes work is excellent ,definitely for the heavy reader.Published 4 months ago by Robert Kovarik
It's been a long time since I couldn't put down a book, but this one kept me coming back every chance I had until I was finished. Read morePublished 5 months ago by M for Mischief
This book was pure entertainment. The concept of a story within a story within a story and on and on was delightful. I loved it and will probably read it again.Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
Confusing to follow at times because it dives several levels deep into different peoples stories, but very very good!Published 6 months ago by Maud
Uh uh uh uh.... Don't really know what to say other than I could not put it down once started.Published 7 months ago by Red Merle