The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden
by Catherynne Valente
Review by Barry Newton
Spectra Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0553384031
Date: 31 October, 2006 List Price $14.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
It is easy to lose track of how many levels deep you are in any given tale, but this is of little consequence, as each story stands well on its own, even while being linked in a long, fascinating chain, with drama at all levels. The prince is not supposed to associate with the wild girl who tells him tales, but he cannot resist. From childbirth in dungeons to the belly of a monster, the characters in the garden tales know suffering, joy, death and starlight. There is magic, used for good and ill. These are tales as fairy tales once were, before being gentled for modern children. The orphan's tales are not gentle.
Princes in the Tales are callow youths, witches good and wizards evil. Kings come in all flavors, from purest evil to fishy, forgetful, and well-intentioned. Monsters may be debonair, or oblivious. And bears are adventurers.
What Valente has accomplished in this book is far more than a collection of stories; she has sown the seeds of an entire mythos, all her own. The blooms in her night garden dazzle and bewitch, and are wondrous fair.