In the Night Garden
Catherynne M. Valente. Spectra Books, $16 (482pp) ISBN 978-0-553-38403-1
A lonely girl with a dark tattoo across her eyelids made up of words spelling out countless tales unfolds a fabulous, recursive Arabian Nights-style narrative of stories within stories in this first of a new fantasy series from Valente (The Grass-Cutting Sword). The fantastic tales involve creation myths, shape-changing creatures, true love sought and thwarted, theorems of princely behavior, patricide, sea monsters, kindness and cruelty. As a sainted priestess explains, stories ""are like prayers. It does not matter when you begin, or when you end, only that you bend a knee and say the words,"" and this volume does not so much arrive at a conclusion but stops abruptly, leaving room for endless sequels. Each descriptive phrase and story blossoms into another, creating a lush, hallucinogenic effect.
Reviewed on: 10/30/2006