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Review: The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente

>>Saturday, August 28, 2010

Title: The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Pages: 483
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: A+
Challenge: Calico Reaction's Book Club - August Challenge (Bonus)

From Goodreads:Secreted away in a garden, a lonely girl spins stories to warm a curious prince: peculiar feats and unspeakable fates that loop through each other and back again to meet in the tapestry of her voice. Inked on her eyelids, each twisting, tattooed tale is a piece in the puzzle of the girl’s own hidden history. And what tales she tells! Tales of shape-shifting witches and wild horsewomen, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars–each story more strange and fantastic than the one that came before. From ill-tempered “mermaid” to fastidious Beast, nothing is ever quite what it seems in these ever-shifting tales–even, and especially, their teller. Adorned with illustrations by the legendary Michael Kaluta, Valente’s enchanting lyrical fantasy offers a breathtaking reinvention of the untold myths and dark fairy tales that shape our dreams. And just when you think you’ve come to the end, you realize the adventure has only begun…

This volume collects two books: The Book of the Steppe and The Book of the Sea. In each there are many tales interconnected through the many different characters. It has a very mythological and fable feeling to it which Valente executes perfectly. I really became absorbed in these tales and their many characters and their many stories.

Since I also read Palimpsest by the same author for this same challenge I have to make some comparisons. I don't think it is as poetic or abstract as Palimpsest but it is just as magical and special. I think Palimpsest was more of an experience whereas the craft of the tales in In the Night Garden really stood out. I loved both immensely. Also, I think Palimpsest is the type of book not everyone would like and In the Night Garden I would say most would enjoy and should read once in their lives.

One thing I also noticed with the stories in In the Night Garden was that I think Valente didn't try to pretend that fables or other tales did not exist and she often made small tweaks that left me smiling. For example, on page 128 the stepmother says "Didn't you know? All stepmothers are witches. It is our compensation for remaining forever an intruder in another woman's house." Valente is very creative and I think that's what I love most about her stories, other than the exquisite writing.

I think this month's challenge was well worth it. I'm glad I ordered both of Valente's books because I think she has become one of my favorite authors. I will definitely read more from her especially the next volume of The Orphan's Tales, In the Cities of Coin and Spice.


  1. I have this book on my tbr stack. I have tried to read it once earlier this year but got distracted. It sounds like I should give it another go.

  2. It did take me a few chapters to get into it, but once I did it was great.

  3. Glad you liked it! I think this is my first comparison review in which the reviewer actually likes Palimpsest over In the Night Garden. Very interesting! :)



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