A young girl, shunned by her community, is forced to spend her days wandering the grounds of a palace garden. Considered a demon by many on account of the mysterious dark tattooing that covers her eyelids, hers is a lonely existence – until the day she is approached by a curious young boy. Touched by his kindness, she tells him that the tattoos are the work of a spirit. They are actually finely-scripted verses and song: “Together they make a great magic, and when the tales are all read out, and heard end to shining end, to the last syllable, the spirit will return and judge me.” The boy begs to hear the tales and she agrees, telling him the story of Prince Leander who runs afoul of a frightening old crone who tells him a story of her youth, when she was imprisoned with her grandmother who told her a story of her own…
Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden offers stories within stories within stories, fashioning an intricate web of myths and fairytales that weave in and out of a narrative that continuously circles back in on itself. The tales are at once familiar and unique, a colorful mix of reinvented European and Eastern lore. The story-telling structure is rich and complex and, as someone who forgets his co-workers names on a daily basis, I’ll admit to having been confused at times, especially early on when I found myself having to backtrack and re-read certain passages in order to keep everything straight. But a little patience and perseverance paid off and, eventually, it became easier to track the various stories and characters. The brevity of the individual chapters (no more than five pages in length) also helped put the various narrative pieces in perspective. If you’re looking for light summer reading, this aint it. But if you enjoy sophisticated storytelling, challenging imborglios, and fox-headed pirates, then The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden is for you.
Of the various tales that run through this book the melancholy Firebird’s Tale and unsettling Assassin‘s Tale were among my favorites. I was also intrigued by the relationship between the enigmatic young storyteller and the boy who befriends her, especially when the boy’s domineering older sister attempts to put a stop to their clandestine meetings. Which brings me to my only real problem with the book – the way it ends. Or, to be more precise, the way it doesn’t end. The author leaves us hanging but, thankfully, not for long as I’ve since discovered that the second and concluding book in this duology, The Orphan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice is already available.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t make mention of Michael Kaluta’s brilliant illustrations. Paired with Valente’s lyrical prose, they lend this edition the sense of a treasured tome unearthed in some dark attic corner. Magical.
So, those are my preliminary thoughts. What did everyone else think? Get your comments and questions in for author Catherynne M. Valente who’ll be dropping by later this week.
Speaking of dropping – the expected ratings downtick wasn’t as bad as I assumed it would be. Despite the fact that we were up against live same-day late-day coverage of Pakistan vs. Bornea in men’s field hockey, Ghost in the Machine pulled in a 1.2.
This morning, we were discussing the Olympics and talk turned to that ridiculous fast walk event. You know, the one where the participants appear to be walking but not really. Well, apparently there’s a whole technique to the fast-funny-walk and, after some heated back and forth, we decided to put our respective fast-funny-walking techniques to the test. Check out the video for the race highlights. Sadly, Special Features Producer Ivon Bartok, whose fast-funny-walk technique I liken to a Martini-toting Dean Martin hurriedly sashaying to catch a bus, was not among the participants. The race itself was not much of a contest but I’ve since filed an official protest against Alex Levine’s illegal traipsing. Watch the video all the way through and you will see me demonstrate the proper technique. Note: It’s all in the wrists!
Cat4444 writes: “Oh, and how come Jelly’s leg is shaved?”
Answer: She went in for her dental and they had to put her under. That’s where they attached the IV.
Telekineticforceblast writes: “Question regarding “Ghost in the Machine”:
are they just going to leave her out there?”
Belouchi writes: “1. So including Dr.Weir there were only 9 surviving replicators aboard that aurora class ship at the end of BAMSR? I would imagine a ship like that would contain more.
2. Will their Aurora class ship that we see grounded on the planet where they meditated ever gonna be found and used by our heroes or will it be forgotten just like the TRIA?”
Answers: 1. Only 9. Although it could have held more, they were the only survivors. 2. We don’t have access to that particular ship. As for the Tria, it’s not forgotten – only inactive.
Shawna Buchanan writes: “Why is it that the good guys are such pricks?”
Answer: The Atlantis expedition is asked just that question (more or less) in season 5’s Inquisition.
Ecoharmony writes: “How do you tell Bubba from Jelly?”
Answer: Unlike, say, babies or small children, dogs are fairly easy to tell apart if you spend some time with them.
Anais33 a ecrit: “1)Pour l’instant quel est la chose la plus horrible que vous avez manger?
2)Combient de scènes par jours peuvent tournée les acteurs de stargate atlantis?”
Reponses: 1) Un sandwich à graisse de poulet. 2) Cela dépend de la longueur des scènes.
Translation: 1) Grossest thing I’ve ever eaten = a chicken fat sandwich. 2) How many scenes can the actors shoot in a day? That depends on the length of the scenes.
Tina writes: “…the hardest thing to accept is why the team were even forgiving of the “new” Weir, considering how close she had come to destroying Atlantis…”
Answer: First of all, she was not the one threatening Atlantis. It was the other replicators. And while she may have been indirectly responsible for what happened, she didn’t have an active hand in attempting to sink the city. Secondly, whether or not Sheppard and the team actually fully trusted her is open to debate. In an early draft of the script, Weir doesn’t know what lies on the other side of the gate and steps through trusting our team. The fact that she sends the message back, all clear, in that case I thought made her sacrifice all the more poignant.
Tina also writes: “Teyla told her friend, I think the episode was Sunday, that she had a crush on someone from Atlantis and hoped he would make a move. But we are now to believe that Teyla at the same time also had a sparkle in her eye for Kanaan.”
Answer: People aren’t as simplistic as that. They can have their eye on someone without realizing that their love of their life could be right under their noses the whole time. I have many friends who ended up marrying a good friend in whom they’d hitherto shown no romantic interest.
Tamijb writes: “When is Lexa Doig going to be a guest on the blog?”
Answer: As someone pointed out, Lexa has been very busy of late, but I’m sure she’ll jump on those questions as soon as some time frees up.
MrsB108 writes: “1)Are there any mystical/magical elements to any of the storylines this year?
2)Do Teyla and Kanan have any serious issues coming up between them?”
Answer: 1) Nope. 2) Again – nope.
Steph writes: “In this case, you’re seeing the Puppia harness and the Three-in-one Safety Harness being modeled. Nice choices by the way, Joe!”
Answer: Thanks. They also allow me to belt the dogs into the backseat when we’re traveling.
Thomas Lompton writes: “Joe, I have a great idea for season 6 (complete story arc), how could I send it to you?”
Answer: Sorry, Thomas. We can’t accept unsolicited story ideas.