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The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 30, 2007

35 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Orphan's Tales Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The second and concluding volume of Tiptree Award–winner Valente's Orphan's Tales (after 2006's In the Night Garden), structured as a series of nested stories, is a fairy tale lover's wildest dream come true. A mysterious orphan girl, whose eyelids are darkly tattooed with the closely packed words from a seemingly endless number of fantastical tales, lives secretly in a palace garden. The girl shares her stories with the enthralled young heir to the Sultanate, who returns again and again to hear incredible yarns about one-armed heroes, hunchbacked ferrymen, giants, voracious gem eaters, conniving hedgehogs, harpies, djinns and singing Manticores. But with the wedding of the prince's sister Dinarzad (a not-so-subtle homage to The Arabian Nights) quickly approaching and harsh reality encroaching on the surreal garden, the orphan girl's stories finally run out. Cleverly examining and reconstructing the conventions of the fairy tale, especially the traditional roles of men and women, Valente has created a thought-provoking storytelling tour de force. (Nov.)
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“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

“Weaves layer upon layer of marvels...a treat for all who love puzzle stories.”—Carol Berg, author of the Bridge of D’Arnath series

“A fairy tale lover’s wildest dream come true.... Valente has created a thought-provoking storytelling tour de force.”—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Series: Orphan's Tales (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (October 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055338404X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553384048
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Catherynne M. Valente is an author, poet, and sometime critic who has been known to write as many as six impossible things before breakfast. She is to blame for over a dozen works of fiction and poetry, including The Orphan's Tales, Palimpsest, Deathless, and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. She has won the Tiptree Award, the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award, the Lambda Award, the Rhysling Award, and the Million Writers Award for best web fiction. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, an enormous cat, and a slightly less enormous accordion.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Horton on February 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a book (or, with its predecessor, pair of books) written on an old model: The Thousand Nights and a Night. Yet I found it as original, and delightful, as any book I've read in years. It consists of fairy tales, yes, but not retold fairly tales. Rather, entirely new tales, abundantly imaginative, gorgeously written, and stunningly and intricately framed.

The outer frame is set in the garden of a Sultan's estate. The Sultan's daughter is about to be married. The Sultan's son has befriended the orphan girl who lives in the garden. She tells him stories written on the inside of her eyelids (and eventually he tells her the stories written on the outside). The Arabesque setting of this frame immediately suggests The Thousand Nights and a Night, and so too does the way the stories do not come to immediate conclusions. But Valente's design is more complex than Scheherazade's: instead of simply ending stories in the middle and completing them the next day, these stories encounter other stories in their midst. So the character in one story will meet a new character with their own story to tell, and the first story will pause as the subsequent tale is recounted ... and so on.

The book is divided in two main parts, "The Book of the Storm" and "The Book of the Scald"; each dominated, to an extent, by one story. "The Tale of the Crossing", in the first part, concerns a one armed boy crossing a lake in the company of a ferryman in search of the girl who has been his companion during a terrible childhood. The lake is clearly enough analogous to the Styx, and the ferryman to Charon ... but of course he has his own story.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on November 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
In the Cities of Coin and Spice gives us The Book of the Storm and The Book of the Scald, completing The Orphan's Tales.

Probably nothing Valente could have done would have matched the impact that In the Night Garden made on me. I read it at a personally very difficult time, when for a few brief days her prose lifted me out of my grief and gave me something new to consider. That book was a blessing for me-- execution and timing interacting perfectly.

Even if it cannot (for me) match the first, In the Cities of Coin and Spice would still be something that I would very much recommend. The Orphan's Tales deserve to be read as a whole. The achievement is impressive-- fractured fairy tales, seemingly completely new; nested stories; characters and motivations both dark and strange.

I have not been a fan of Valente's other work, to be honest, but these volumes are just wonderful. Fairy tales written for grown-ups which still capture the experience of being a child.

I loved this volume just a little bit less. The gap was largely seated in the Tale of the Scald. It felt just a touch too long-- somehow did not catch me as much as the other three sections. But this is a minor quarrel.

Valente is such a good writer. Her style doesn't always work for me, but in these books, it works perfectly. If you haven't read anything in the series, then begin at the beginning.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. S. White on February 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
There's actually not a whole lot I can say about the concluding volume of Valente's The Orphan's Tales. I loved it. I was satisfied. I didn't want to put it down, and thanks to a four-day weekend, I really didn't have to. I did find myself wishing that I'd had the chance to read this volume immediately after volume I because there's a lot of subtle detail and symbols and entangled storylines that I found myself straining to remember. But the good thing is I love these two books so much I look forward to reading them again in the future, back to back, just like I wanted.

The Orphan's Tales is the kind of story that rewards re-reading. I know that when I go back to volume I, I'll get far more out of it now that I know how the whole thing ends. There's a certain kind of joy in that knowledge, and I don't say that lightly, because I don't like re-reading stuff. But this, in its own way, it reminds me of The Lord of the Rings: something rich and developed enough to return to year after year. Granted, the two stories couldn't be more different: Valente's world is rich with diversity, symbolism, feminism, fairy tale, and magic. The way these stories weave themselves together is nothing short of beautiful, and I hear, again and again, that The Orphan's Tales are structured after The Arabian Nights, which I've never read, so I don't know how it really compares, only that Valente's work is a jewel and any fantasy reader's library is sorely lacking if these two volumes aren't a part of it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yolanda S. Bean VINE VOICE on June 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Just as lushly written as the first book, I was initially so excited to see what would become, not only of the tattoo-eyed girl and sultan-prince boy, but also more of the lavish world that her tales created. I immediately bought it on the Kindle, and I think that something was lost in the digital translation. The drawings that were so intricate in the first one were blurry and hard to decipher on the screen (excluding the smaller drawings - those were blown up and actually easier to see) and there was just something missing... I am not, of course, entirely sure if that feeling is due entirely to the nature of sequels or due to the nature of digitization, but I do suspect it is the latter. Either way, this is a darker collection of tales and while it does include a nice conclusion, I do still have lingering curiosities and questions. Regardless, this was all in all, a wonderful and mythical addition to the tradition of fairy tales and one that I genuinely enjoyed reading. I will keep an eye out for the print version, too and keep my fingers crossed that an audio version will some day be produced.
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