Two trade paperbacks by Catherynne M. Valente:
- The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden
- The Orphan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin & Spice
And two hardcovers:
- Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
- Enchanted Hunters by Maria Tatar
The bad news is that Under Heaven will probably need to be returned. It’s a little banged up, and for some odd reason the text on the back of the book jacket is smeared.
A new(ish) Kay novel is always cause for celebration, and it has gotten rave reviews just about everywhere I’ve looked.
Enchanted Hunters has been on my radar for a year or so, since I read a review by AS Byatt in The Guardian. Tatar is a Harvard University professor, and the book is a study of children’s stories, of what children want and need from stories, and how what they take away from those stories is not always what adults (parents) imagine it to be. The risqué title is taken from the name of the hotel in Lolita where Humbert Humbert first debauches his nymphette (or, as Humbert says, “Frigid gentlewomen of the jury…I am going to tell you something very strange: it was she who seduced me.”)
The central argument of the book seems to be that the mind of a child feeds on a mix of beauty and horror. Nothing exceptionally new there, though I think she wants to show that the darker sides of fairy tales and children’s literature – those things that we so often try to sanitize for children – are the very things that give the stories their power. But I’ll withhold further comment until after I’ve read more than the jacket blurb.
The two books by Catherynne M. Valente have also been on my “want” list for a while. The first of the two, In the Night Garden was a 2007 World Fantasy Award nominee and the pair won the 2008 Mythopoeic Award. I’ve not previously read any of Valente’s novels, but I have experienced (yes, that’s the right word) some of her short fiction in Clarkesworld Magazine.
Her prose is beautifully surreal. Dreamlike. I strongly recommend you check out her short story, available online, “Urchins, While Swimming”. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to these.