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#63 The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M, Valente

Alone in a garden lives a young girl filled with stories. Called a demon due to the dark markings around her eyes, she has never had a single person to share these stories with. That is until a boy creeps into the garden, and befriends her. Against the wishes of his tyrannical older sister, he continues to visit her night after night, all just to hear the wonderful tales she spins.

The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden is the optional second book for calico_reaction 's book club this month (the main book is Palimpsest, also by Valente. I am currently waiting impatiently for a copy though my library's inter library loan). Intrigued by the Arabian Nights inspired concept, I decided to give it a try. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All four hundred and eighty three pages of this fantasy novel are written with such exquisite care that I couldn't help being overcome with jealously for Valente's skills with the craft. The Orphan's Tales is also a much more complex novel than I suspected it to be. The book is divided into two sections, which tell two (mostly) separate stories. Within each section is a complicated net of interwoven tales. One message I got from The Orphan's Tales is that everyone has a story to tell. It seems like whenever we meet a new character, we get to here their unique back story. The inclusion of so many characters' points of view makes the book that much richer. One thing I appreciated is despite all of these layers, I never found myself getting confused over who's story belong to who. This was mostly due to a clear labeling of all of the tales at the beginning of each chapter.

Another thing I appreciated about In the Night Garden is that it always kept on surprising me. At first, I was drawn in by Valente's skillful handling of language, and unique format. That alone would have made this a solid book. But much to my surprise I also found myself becoming rather attached to the characters. A personal favorite of mine was Knife, the witch. Then the book would surprise me by throwing in some laugh out loud humor at me. Then the book would surprise me again by throwing in some unexpected curve-balls to the plot, connecting the stories in ways that I didn't expect. I also enjoyed the artwork provided by Micheal Kaluta, which had a whimsical and almost creepy quality to it.

The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden was a real treat to read. I am quite glad I picked it up and will be reading to sequel, In the Cities of Coin and Spice, as well.

Rating: five stars
Length: 483 pages
Source: Lewiston Public Library
Challenges: This book is not part of any challenges
Similar books: The stories within stories reminded me of Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (although this book very much an adult book, while Lin's is for children). The style of writing reminded me of Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels (my review)
Other books I've read by this author: this is my first

xposted to temporaryworlds , bookish , and goodreads
Tags: catherynne m. valente, fantasy, five stars, the orphan's tales, year published: 2006
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