Book Review: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente

In The Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales #1) By Catherynne Valente
In The Night Garden (The Orphan’s Tales #1) By Catherynne Valente

Title: In The Night Garden (The Orphan’s Tales: #1)

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Short Stories, Young Adult, Science Fiction, Speculative Fantasy

Publisher: Spectra

Published: October 31st, 2006

Page Amount: 483 pages

Blurb from Goodreads: Every 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 page.

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.

Why Read: I chose The Orphan’s Tales to read simply because of Catherynne Valente. It may seem silly to keep reading books by her, but I can’t get her writing style out of my head. It’s too fantastic and who doesn’t love a bit of speculative fiction in the morning?

Review: When I began The Orphan’s Tales, I wasn’t quite in the mood for anything even reaching the realm of fantasy. However, I was pleasantly surprised upon reading The Orphan’s Tales. It took me quite a few chapters to really delve into the characters and plot, but ultimately – I’m very glad I took the time to finish reading it.

From a character perspective, the book is a little jumpy. Although we do get to learn a lot about every character (due to their every backstory), I would often forget that the girl in the garden was telling a story at all. It seemed difficult, if not impossible, to focus on the main idea in the story. However, the amount of detail and preplanning that must have gone into figuring out each character in all of the overlapping stories was impressive, and I ended up loving what I was reading.

I don’t have enough compliments to talk about the plot. I’m a fan particularly of books that are adept at mixing plotlines that seem to have nothing to do with one another. The Orphan’s Tales was great at doing this. The idea of stories within stories is one that many authors like to utilize in their books… sometimes to catostrophic effet. Luckily, Catherynne Valente did a great job of lightly sewing together pieces of one story to another and the ending was well appreciated.

It’s a difficult book to rate. Because although I have many complaints about characters, I’m very much in love with the plot and the way the book was written. To pacify myself, I’ll chose a heady 4/5, because really – I do recommend the book. Just make sure to pack your patience.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Review Coming Soon: Mediterranean Winter: The Pleasures of History and Landscape in Tunisia, Siciliy, Dalmatia and the Peloponnese by Robert Kaplan

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