This book was a truly magical experience I came across it almost by accident looking for something to satisfy Mysopoethic award winner category for my reading challenge I am very happy I did because The Orphan s Tales is definitely not something I would normally be interested in This book is an Arabian Nights inspired collection of stories that are nested within each other and cross over in the most unexpected places The stories are not simple re workings of old worn out fairy tales Now and then you come across a familiar character from Middle Eastern, Slavic, Asian, or Ancient Greek folklore but they are put in a completely original setting The writing style in the beginning seems a little purplish with a lot of description but gradually you come to appreciate its vividness as an integral part of the stories and you simply can t put down this book of monster princesses, witches, horse women, Stars, skin traders, dog headed monks, Selkies, satyrs, and priestesses.I wouldn t assume that this book is for everybody, but if you like everything fantastical, if you are a fan of dark fantasy, this book is a must read for you Reading challenge 1 O. Tales within tales within tales, all woven together like a magical, colorful tapestry depicting griffins, dead moon walkers, beastly princesses, princely beasts, pirate saints, Stars, snake gods, and so much , all written in dark ink around the eyes of a little girl Reading Valente s prose is like dreaming during the act, you understand everything and think you see the truth, but when jerked back into reality, the stories fade together into a colorful, abstract image It s pretty and meaningful, but you can t quite explain the story behind the image as well as you would like to The book begins with a lonely little girl who lives in the palace gardens A prince, curious and slightly afraid, meets the little girl, and soon after the two bond in a tender friendship punctuated by midnight meetings in which the girl spins her tales The tales she spins are myths of creation, journeys, religion, death, and life, but not as we have heard before Some of the myths are dark, involving death and violation, but others are whimsical and yearning A number of fantastical creatures inhabit the pages, all interacting in some way or another, as if existing on a great web They are spread apart along the plane of the web, but somehow, they are all directly or indirectly connected in this big tapestry of life In the Night Garden is one of the most unique books that I ve read in a long time it s a book that you read for the stories and the prose, a book in which to meander, not a plot dominated book that keeps you up at night with non stop action Valente s writing is flowery and imaginative, but purposeful She chooses her words carefully and does not write for the sake of putting words down on paper It takes a while to get used to the flow and rhythm of her prose, but once you do, you lose yourself in her words and stories, just like the little prince who loses himself in the girl s tales Sometimes, the tales within tales within tales got confusing, and I lost track of where I was I was tempted to even make a little map of what happens But I think that while the book is composed of stories, the stories come together to result in the symphony Would you attend a symphony orchestra to listen to just the violins or the cellos Would you try to isolate each section, analyze the single instrument s contribution to the overall whole Some may, but in doing so, we sacrifice the final symphony for just one instrument No, we listen for the finished product, to rejoice in how so many different components come together to create beautiful music That is how this book should be read, as a symphony of well crafted tales that create abeautiful whole Approach the book with patience and an open mind It will all come together in the end as something lovely and unique, I promise. I ve read parts of The Arabian Night about thirty years ago In the Night Garden succeeds in recapturing that sense of wonder, of exploring incredibly rich, exotic cities, meeting fantastic creatures, magicians, kings and vagabonds, sailing to mythical shores or descending into mysterious caverns And Catherynne Valente managed this without copying or borrowing from the original tales.Her world may be inspired from different folk tales I recognized Baba Yaga hut and people turned into birds, and I m sure there are others , but it feels original and modern in its self awareness, sometimes ironic treatment and dialogue Some of the tales are quite dark, others bring a smile or a laugh to the fore like the tale of the princess in the tower which is both at the same time Some tales may feel random, but in the end it all makes sense, when the threads of the plot are gathered together, and the reader finds out that every little detail has a part to play in the final outcome And some stories are carrying over from one major tale to the other making the overall worldbuilding a coherent project.The real strength of the novel for me is in the beautiful language Valente is a stylist, a perfectionist who believes a tale can and should be beautifulWe were just holes, after all, holes filled up with light, and deep in our secret hearts we worried that we were an accident, nothingthan puddles who stood up and gave each other names I could compare her style with Patricia McKillip or Peter S Beagle two of my favorite authors but she stands in a class of her own Maybe because she relies in her storytelling on the oral traditions and on the ancient mythologies, maybe because her imagination runs wilder and farther than the other authors I ve mentioned.Anyway, I would recommend this book to everybody I know, without reservations I would even say it is good for younger readers, who need to flex their imagination muscles, despite the relatively mature content The Arabian Nights are in fact a lotexplicit and raunchy than this one I would also recommend it to older readers like me, who like to remember that they were children once, and they loved to open the first page of a book and read a line like this In the fifteenth year of the second Caliphate, a child was born in the Blessed City of Ajanabh to a family of traveling spicers whose fingers smelled forever of cinnamon and coriander. Book as arabesque Short story leads to short story, each providing background and impetus for the next, characters answering questions to what led them to that intersection It s a beautiful technique that comes back around to many of the original story characters The trouble for me is that the short story makes it easy to put down and go do something else, as it s often a natural break in the plot and action, so it took me far too long to finish More clues or story in the background setting of the young wild girl in the king s garden could have helped give context to why she is there and keep me motivated perhaps the second book will bring the story telling back around to the real narrative of the young girl and the prince I find the language and ideas poetic and beautiful Some might find the prose purplish but I would say that fans of de Lint and Beagle will love it Valente deserves the James Tiptree Jr award with such interesting female characters and her ability to turn conventions sideways The story of the princess in the tower became particularly fascinating It s a very full, imaginative book that usually does not go too far into moralizing characters are created uniquely and quickly in the short stories, and subsequent ones even bring insight into villains and evil kings and sorceresses. 5.5 to 6.0 stars HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION and may make it on to me list of All Time Favorites This is an absolutely amazing novel that I believe could become a classic in years to come A modern fairy tale told as a series of interwoven stories within stories within stories that all come together in one fashion or another itself a brilliant achievement This is a one of a kind experience and I can not wait to read the sequel Nominee World Fantasy Award for Best Novel 2007 Winner James Tiptree Award for Best Novel 2007 Winner Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature 2008 Reading this book has left me practically speechless Almost anything I could say about it will fall flat in the sheer enormity of the experience.So what DID I experience Scheherazade Dark fables incorporating wide mythologies reminiscent of all the best obscure fairy tales twisted in wonderfully unique ways, couched as stories within stories, adding tiny slivers of fate within each until it brings us back, wholly, to our Scheherazade, our poor orphan telling her story from the words tattooed on her eyelids My particular favorites were the witches drowning in light, the ones who would not die, the irascible pirate mermaid, and all the selkie stories The dog monks were a great treat as well More importantly, this is VALENTE Everything she writes is lyrical and fascinating and careful and poetical From the words to the ideas to the characters and their ultimate fates, we run the whole line from vengeance to magical sex change love to living stars in the sky I personally can t understand why it took me this long to get to her earlier work It s fantastic. This has taken forever for me to finish I just didn t want to go back to it The first part is beautifully written, but her prose feels very effortful, as if all the beauty had to be hammered out, line by line, and she wants you to see each stroke It finally picked up, but the interconnecting stories create a jumbled mess of a plot, not at all helped by the fact that many characters live for centuries, therefore making a general timeline almost impossible to put together Very prettily described things happen in a very haphazard order. Never put your faith in a Prince When you require a miracle, trust in a Witch This post will be about Catherynne Valente s book In the Night Garden Spoilers follow So What s It About A girl lives abandoned in a sultan s garden, and her eyes are covered with stories When a boy ventures into the garden, he discovers the girl and the incredible magic of the stories she possesses her tales introduce him to a world of beasts and monstrosities, stars and witches, princes and princesses, each with their own history of adventure, suffering, love and loss.What I ThoughtI have never read a book like In the Night Garden before, and I expect that I will not read another book like it until I read its sequel I have seen it described as an arabesque in book form, and I think that is exactly the right way to describe it Its stories twist and twine, interrupt and intersect, and you never know when you will encounter a familiar character depicted in a fresh new light or a scrap of story that had been mentioned previously enhanced and complicated, breathed to new life I had no idea how each section would come together but both of them did so beautifully and amazingly in ways that I would never have imagined.Each story is a brilliant little gem, perfect in its own right but evenamazing when you step back and take in the overall tapestry of storytelling that Valente has deftly woven Some stories are incredibly funny, with the following being the one that made me laugh the most ONCE UPON A TIME THERE WAS A HANDSOME PRINCE who went to rescue his innocent sister from the fell beast The Leucrotta snapped his spine with one crack of its jaws, and wore his head and hands on its antlers for a fort night in celebration The Witch sat back with satisfaction By turns the other stories are ethereal, rich, strange, bloody, sad and haunting The underlying factor is their unceasing creativity, in that they offer twists to tired tropes, illuminate new voices and feature a dizzying variety of amazing beings It also helps that Valente s prose is powerful, leaving me stunned on a few occasions Here is a favorite You wanted Death This is it Dirt and decay, nothingDeath translates us all into earth He frowned at me, his cheeks puffing slightly Are you disappointed Did you want a man in black robes I m sure I ve a set somewhere A dour, thin face with bony hands I vebones in this house than you could ever count You ve been moping over half the world looking for Death as though that word meant anything but cold bodies and mushrooms growing out of young girls eye sockets What an exceptionally stupid child Suddenly he moved very fast, like a turtle after a spider such unexpected movement from a thing so languid and round He clapped my throat in his hand, squeezing until I could not breathe I whistled and wheezed, beating at his chest, and my vision blurred, thick as blood You want Death he hissed I am Death I will break your neck and cover you with my jar of dirt When you kill, you become Death, and so Death wears a thousand faces, a thousand robes, a thousand gazes He loosened his grip But you can be Death, too You can wear that face and that gaze Would you like to be Death Would you like to live in this house and learn his trade The F WordThe female characters of this book are a delightful bunch because of their sheer nonconformity they are hideous witches who delight in disgust, mutant princesses turned pirate, stars, snake priestesses andThey are rejects and outcasts, heritcs and monsters unwanted and unruly women who have been owned amd abused, imprisoned, rejected and denounced by a world that detests them They defy expectation by perservering, saving each other and even banding together When we hear of some ghastly beast, we snap her up as soon as we can I would also argue that the act of giving voice to their experiences through their story telling is an incredibly important and powerful one They take and take and what does it matter No one asks the taken they just forget, they just forget, they disappear and everyone forgets But by telling their stories they ensure that people do not forget They insist that they have the right to be heard they fight the narratives that limit and hurt them by creating their own.About the AuthorCatherynne Valente was born Bethany Thomas in 1979 in Seattle She graduated high school at 15 and went on to higher degrees in Classics, first publishing The Labyrinth in 2004 She is a poet and literary critic as well as a fiction writer, and has won awards such as the Andre Norton Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award She currently lives on an island off of Maine with her family. Tales within tales, tales out of space, tales that spring from stars that fall from sky to take human shape the writer writes like the dreamer dreams dreams some dreams yearning and romantic, others dark and tragic, each dream holding a little bit of the next dream in its heart the story as Oriental Ouroboros the Arabian Nights as template, as both starting point and point of resolution themes and metaphors and symbols slowly surfacing, to disappear and then reappear again, transformed, reborn a byzantine pattern of eastern arabesques and western curlicues, swirling together and then apart the writer weaves a tapestry of stories woven within stories tales that leap from earth in the form of beasts and birds, tales out of time, many tales within one great, enchanted tale. A Book Of Wonders For Grown Up ReadersEvery Once In A Great While A Book Comes Along That Reminds Us Of The Magic Spell That Stories Can Cast Over Us To Dazzle, Entertain, And Enlighten Welcome To The Arabian Nights For Our Time A Lush And Fantastical Epic Guaranteed To Spirit You Away From The Very First PageSecreted 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 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