cover image Speak Easy

Speak Easy

Catherynne M. Valente. Subterranean (, $40 (144p) ISBN 978-1-59606-727-1

The Artemisia Hotel is a very hot spot in New York City sometime in an alternate version of the Jazz Age. Its rooms are inhabited by writers, artists, and everybody who’s anybody, and its basement is run by Al, who is both a king of Faerie and the lord of the dead. Valente (Six-Gun Snow White) follows Zelda Fair, who lives in the Artemisia and wants to become great at something; she isn’t sure what yet. The busboy, Frankie Key, loves Zelda and follows her into Al’s basement when she disappears. But Valente’s novella-length take on fairy tales is more complicated than the plot of any single traditional story, and Frankie and Zelda may not be destined to be a fairy-tale romance. Valente’s language is extravagantly rich, and her world is filled with fascinating details. The amount of story packed into this slender volume would easily fill a novel; unfortunately, it is somewhat cramped in its smaller setting. Agent: Howard Morhaim, Howard Morhaim Literary Agency Inc. (Sept.)