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The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice
Catherynne M. Valente enchanted readers with her spellbinding In the Night Garden. Now she continues to weave her storytelling magic in a new book of Orphan’s Tales—an epic of the fantastic and the exotic, the monstrous and mysterious, that will transport you far away from the everyday….
Her name and origins are unknown, but the endless tales inked upon this orphan’s eyelids weave a spell over all who listen to her read her secret history. And who can resist the stories she tells? From the Lake of the Dead and the City of Marrow to the artists who remain behind in a ghost city of spice, here are stories of hedgehog warriors and winged skeletons, loyal leopards and sparrow calligraphers. Nothing is too fantastic, anything can happen, but you’ll never guess what comes next in these intimately linked adventures of firebirds and djinn, singing manticores, mutilated unicorns, and women made entirely of glass and gears. Graced with the magical illustrations of Michael Kaluta, In the Cities of Coins and Spice is a book of dreams and wonders unlike any you’ve ever encountered. Open it anywhere and you will fall under its spell. For here the story never ends and the magic is only beginning….
Original, delightful, gorgeous
By Richard R. Horton
- February 21, 2008
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... read more
Fairy tales for adults which capture the experience of being a child.
By frumiousb "frumiousb"
- November 14, 2009
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... read more
A satisfying conclusion, and a must-have fantasy...
By S. S. White "Calico Reaction"
- February 27, 2008
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... read more
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In the Cities of Coin and Spice and In the Night Garden introduced readers to the unique and intoxicating imagination of Catherynne M. Valente. Now she weaves a lyrically erotic spell ...