The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden

In the Night Garden - Catherynne M. Valente I came across this book via a recommendation by Kusheline Legacy author Jacqueline Carey. I am so glad I decided to try it! I have never read a book like this before. A bare bones plot summary would say that this is a riff on The 1,001 Nights. There are two central characters; one is a girl who has hundreds of stories imprinted on her eyelids, and is considered cursed by the rest of the palace. Because of this they are afraid to kill her and anger the spirit who cursed her. Instead, they leave her to fend for herself in the vast palace gardens. The other is a princeling who befriends her one night. To say that this is just a new take on the Arabian Nights is to deny the lyrical beauty of Valente's prose. Her words and images flow over each other to create a cascade of imagery and metaphor unlike anything I have ever read. Other reviewers have said that it becomes too much, that the narrative drown in its language, but I never felt that the prose was overwrought; it completely fit both the project and the unique cast of characters who give them voice. In this book, you will find many familiar tales told from a fresh perspective, as many of the tales seem based out of familiar European traditions. There is however a strong Eastern feel to the over-arching narrative, and this seems to come more to the forefront in the second volume. Valente never lets us get lost in too many layers of narrative, at most the stories run three layers deep at any given moment. I was honestly in awe of Valente's talent as a story-teller, let alone writer, and it is rare for this to happen with me (maybe I am too analytic; well, I am a grad student in English). I encourage you to let yourself be taken away by these stories, to let yourself be swept away by their beauty. This is pure enjoyment. I am excited to have discovered Catherynne Valente and already have several of her other books on my to-read shelf.