|Tell me a story
||[Dec. 4th, 2006|08:12 am]
I finished reading Cathrynne Valente's The Orphan's Tales yesterday.
You want to buy this book.
For those of you who don't know, Cathrynne Valente is catvalente here on livejournal. This is her sixth novel, and her first one with a major publisher. It is a gorgeous retelling of fairy tales--not the sweet and Disneyfied version but dark and mysterious versions where evil is not readily thwarted and salvation does not immediately equate "happily ever after."
This is not to say that the tales are dour, Hans Christian Andersen morality plays. Far from it. There is much joy and passion in the stories, but there are many surprises as well.
The Orphan of the title is a girl of noble descent who was born under an unfortunate curse - she is marked in a way that incites fear in the extensive household of the Sultan, and no one will claim her for their own. Eventually abandoned to the garden, she does not die but instead thrives, a spectre until a young boy of the royal family stumbles upon her and she begins telling him the tales that are her destiny to tell.
You will recognize the skeletons of some fairy tales beneath Valente's rich layering of interpretation. Others are obscure (the woman has done her homework) or obscured to the point of being completely fresh. There is a feminist twist to the tales, but not the kind of heavy-handed moralizing that frequently burdens such retellings. Instead, the layered tales take you deeper and deeper into an amazing world that you really regret leaving upon turning the last page.
The writing itself is a confection of imagery, rich and sumptuous. It's a book to luxuriate in.
I can't think of a better Christmas present for someone who loves fantasy, particularly since it is illustrated with gorgeous drawings as well.
Go now. Buy. You'll thank me.