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The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice (edition 2007)

by Catherynne Valente

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5402718,588 (4.53)34
Member:calmclam
Title:The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice
Authors:Catherynne Valente
Info:Spectra (2007), Paperback, 528 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****1/2
Tags:fantasy, frame narrative

Work details

In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne Valente

  1. 00
    The Drowning City by Amanda Downum (ligature)
  2. 00
    The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (clfisha)
    clfisha: Modern, intelligent re-workings of fairy tales. Short stories rather then nested.
  3. 00
    Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (AmethystFaerie)
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» See also 34 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Beautifully written fairy tales told within a fairy tale. These stories wove together a little better than in the first book (or perhaps I'm just more used to the style). Each story chills, thrills, and comforts; each is sensual and imaginative in a way very few authors even attempt. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
Valente’s Oprhan’s Tales are simply amazing. Continuing with the same theme as The Orphan’s Tales Vol. I (In the Night Garden), In the Cities of Coin and Spice follows the tales spun from the inked eyelids of a displaced Orphan. This book oozes imagination and creativity. It permeates it in much the same way as the that a rich spice flavors your favorite dish. If you have a penchant for strange and mythical creatures then this is a one stop shop. They spring out at you on every page, winged skeletons, loyal leopards, hedgehog warriors, sparrow calligraphers, firebirds, djinns, manticores, unicorns, and glass women. The book kept me turning the pages fast enough to risk paper-cuts, all just to see what came next. Plus, the prose is beautiful, the writing fluid, and the stories unforgettable. I really can’t recommend it highly enough. ( )
  SadieSForsythe | Feb 24, 2016 |
In the Cities of Coin and Spice is a continuation of Valente's Orphan's Tales duology that began with Tales from the Night Garden. The girl in the garden continues to read the stories from her tattooed eyes to the sultan's son in the garden. The reader is once again transported into stories within stories that resemble fairy tales, myths, and folklore. The stories start to come together as the words on the girl's eyes near their end. Once again I loved Valente's beautiful descriptions and imagaination. She took familiar fantasy elements, such as unicorns, dragons, and djinn, and reimagined them in a way that was both faithful to tradition, yet different. I am looking forward to reading more of Valente's works. ( )
  Cora-R | Jan 17, 2016 |
In the Cities of Coin and Spice is the sequel to In the Night Garden, which you really must read first. In fact, I think they’re more of one book split into two parts than sequels. I’d definitely recommend reading them close together – I was wishing that I’d read Cities immediately after Night Garden. If you’re new to these two books (known collectively as The Orphan’s Tales), I highly recommend them. They’re beautiful, fantastical, imaginative stories that are unlike anything I’ve read before in their construction. You see, this isn’t a short story collection with a framing device – it’s a woven tapestry of tales, all looping back into each other.

In the garden of a palace, there lives an orphan girl with stories written on her eyelids. She has been completely alone until she is befriended by a young prince, whom she tells the stories to. These stories are all set in the same world, with an immersive mythos and sense of wonder.

“Another creature’s tale is like a web: It spirals in and out again, and if you are not careful, you may become stuck, while the teller weaves on.”

All of the stories she tells are interlocking, like nesting dolls, and they all relate back to each other. Practically each character you come across has the chance to tell his or her own story. Stories will be framed within stories up to six or seven layers. For example, here’s one point early on in the book:

First layer: The orphan in the garden tells a story to the boy.
Second layer: A one arm man travels on the ferry through the underworld. Third layer: He tells the ferryman the story of his past, where he met a girl. Fourth layer: The girl he met long ago tells a story about when she was a child and encountered a hedgehog.
Fifth layer: The hedgehog talking about how one day he came up from his burrow and met a solider.
Six layer: The solider tells how she was recruited and what happened to her.

In the Cities of Coin and Spice is heavily related to In the Night Garden, as I said before. Threads left in Night Garden are picked up and woven back into Cities, and stories from Night Garden are constantly referenced.

“We like the wrong sorts of girls, they wrote. They are usually the ones worth writing about.”

Something I love about The Orphan’s Tales is how it has such a variety of female characters and how it really deconstructs the “Pure Maiden” trope. Take the story of the good sister who has pearls drop from her lips and the bad sister who has toads drop from hers. Cities reverses the normal order of this completely, with the unruly, rebellious daughter becoming far more of a heroine than her sister.

Female characters are also allowed to be non-human. Among the major players of Cities, there’s a djinn queen, a manticore singer, and a talking she-leopard. A major theme of The Orphan Tales as a whole involves the “monstrous” character, such as the manticore, being heroic. Beauty and heroism are not correlated.

Reading In the Night Garden and In the Cities of Coin and Spice was an utterly immersive, magical experience. It does require a certain amount of work from the reader, as it’s up to you to keep track of how all the stories relate, but the result is more than worth it. I would highly recommend these books to anyone looking for a beautiful and fantastical read that channels folklore and fairytales.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Aug 3, 2015 |
I honestly feel that books one and two should be put together, because it is not so much a sequel but the progression of the book. In this way, my review of the first book is very much relevant for this book as well.

And perhaps this is simply me reading more into stories than is actually there, but I was completely enamoured with the stripped down version of Hansel and Gretel, if you can even call it that. Whereupon a boy and a girl fall into a witch's home and death is the only thing in their future - but by shoving a part of themselves into the machine, the furnace, they are able to make their way out. It is similar, it is not similar. There are elements there that make me close my eyes to puzzle out the flavor and see if it is truly a fairy tale. Or if it is something new entirely.

I loved the story of the older sister in which she is desperate to hear of a happy ending for the Black Pappess, because she sees herself in that character. A character within a character. It is almost more honest in a way because it feels less like a story.

Beautiful and brilliant.

I was not that thrilled with the ending because I could have imagined the first layer of the story in a completely magic-less world. The first layer felt like reality, like it could happen to anyone. But weaving all of the haunting tales into the first story made it flatly into just another magical story. And I think it detracts.

But ultimately, this is one of the most beautiful tales I have read.
Five stars (maybe a 4.75 because of the ending, but whatever). ( )
  NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
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Dedication
For Sarah, who, when she was older, wanted the World.
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The paths of the Garden were wet with fallen apples and red with their ruptured skin.
Quotations
"I speak the tongues of death," she whispered, her voice mingling with the wind. "I am translated, and I do not know myself, save that I have become what I have eaten, and it has become me."
It is the first thing I remember, the lonely shore and the ferry. And the bones and the lizards -- we are all translated on these shores, and I am sure I don't understand it, but there is a kind of poetry in metamorphosis.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 055338404X, Paperback)

Catherynne M. Valente enchanted readers with her spellbinding In the Night Garden. Now she continues to weave her storytelling magic in a new book of Orphan’s Tales—an epic of the fantastic and the exotic, the monstrous and mysterious, that will transport you far away from the everyday….

Her name and origins are unknown, but the endless tales inked upon this orphan’s eyelids weave a spell over all who listen to her read her secret history. And who can resist the stories she tells? From the Lake of the Dead and the City of Marrow to the artists who remain behind in a ghost city of spice, here are stories of hedgehog warriors and winged skeletons, loyal leopards and sparrow calligraphers. Nothing is too fantastic, anything can happen, but you’ll never guess what comes next in these intimately linked adventures of firebirds and djinn, singing manticores, mutilated unicorns, and women made entirely of glass and gears. Graced with the magical illustrations of Michael Kaluta, In the Cities of Coins and Spice is a book of dreams and wonders unlike any you’ve ever encountered. Open it anywhere and you will fall under its spell. For here the story never ends and the magic is only beginning….

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:25 -0400)

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