Despite the fact that over a year had passed since I read the first volume of these interconnected short stories, I was sucked right back into the evocative world of the tale-telling orphan who lives, alone and neglected, in the lush wilderness that is the sultan's garden. This second volume begins a new cycle of interconnected stories, but it continues the events in the lives of the storyteller and her ardent listener, picking up where the first volume left off. If you love intricate stories with a fairy tale flavor - tales that pull no punches, contain soaring flights of fancy and veer into dark and disturbing realms, I advise that you pick up The Orphan's Tales, Vol. 1: In the Night Garden immediately.
There is not much to say that I did not mention in my review of the first volume in this series. I continue to enjoy Valente's deft and lyrical prose, and I was once again caught up in the fantastical stories told by the orphan. This story cycle takes the reader to the City of Marrow, a ghost town that will forever eclipse all ghost towns in my mind, as well as to the Lake of the Dead. There are firebirds and manticores, stars and spiders, poisoners and sentient shoes with an agenda. And throughout the stories is the sense that the orphan's own story is about to come to a surprising conclusion, somehow connected to the characters and events that have been so mysteriously inked onto her skin. I highly recommend these two volumes of unforgettable stories within stories within stories.
The Orphan's Tales, Vol. 1: In the Night Garden
The Orphan's Tales, Vol. 2: In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne M. Valente (Bantam Books, 2007)