Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne M. Valente

The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne M. Valente

Completion Date: May 20, 2011
Reason for Reading: Carry on with series.
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….
This book is a perfect example of reading series in a timely manner. I still enjoyed the book overall, but I am sure there were details that I missed because it had been so long since I read the first book. There really was no reason for the delay, either. I am pretty sure I have owned this book since it came out, so I could have read it right then. Instead, I was getting a copy of her newest book and decided I should read what's on my TBR pile by her first. I still remembered the overall story, so it wasn't an entire disaster, but in the future I plan to read both books near each other so I can see if I missed anything.

This duology has always appealed to me because it is like you are sitting around a campfire listening to a story. I have always enjoyed having stories read aloud to me, and this is written in such a way that you can hear the story in your mind like someone is reading it to you. It is a refreshing change, too. I am all for things that are different. This story makes use of other elements from stories, but in an original way that will appeal to readers. I read it at a good time because I was in the mood for something different. I feel like I have been reading the same thing over and over again lately. I felt that this was a satisfying end to the set, too. I enjoyed the ending and how the story progressed to that point. This was a story with lots of fantastical moments that worked really well overall. There was nothing that didn't fit the story even if it seemed like a strange idea. I enjoy when an author can blend things together and make them work.

Overall, this was another great book by Catherynne Valente. A young woman sits in a garden and tells a story to an upper class young man. He lives for the stories and sneaks away to hear more of them over time. To many she is considered an outsider and to be avoided, but he makes her feel like she belongs. I strongly recommend reading the other book first. This is not a series that you should read out of order. I recommend it strongly, though, and look forward to more from Valente in the future.

This book counts for the Once Upon a Time V challenge.

I received this book from Random House Canada to review.

In the Cities of Coin and Spice


  1. I read the first book in this duology a couple of years ago, I think, and what I remember most vividly is that the writing on the girl's body MOVED and that for some reason really creeped me out. I really enjoyed the book, but I still get the shivers when I think of what the girl's skin must have looked like...

    I'll have to pick this one up, though! I really liked her Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland.

  2. I am now so excited to read this duology. The fantastical elements sound fresh and far from the ordinary fantasy. The way in which you describe it makes me aching to go buy it. If I had any money. I love the whole telling stories aspect.

    I cut my teeth writing with a writing partner. We were so young we wrote long hand and couldn't read each other's writing! Thus began a long standing tradition of reading out loud to each other that continues to this day. My family, even before then had a long tradition of reading out loud. It started when my parents were reading books my brother and I couldn't yet, but continued on past that point.

    Both my brother and I still read out loud, now to my boyfriend (when I have one) and my brother reads to his fiancé! Oral tradition is so highly under-rated, I love to see it, even when it is written.

  3. I read and really enjoyed the first novel, and when the second one was published, I ordered it. For some reason, I just couldn't get into it, and
    In the Cities of Coin and Spice remains unread.

  4. Thanks for the reminder that I need to pick up the first one! :)

  5. I remember you saying that you felt like you were reading the same thing over and over again. Maybe it's time to read something totally different? The Orphan's Tales sounds like a good read. I'll see if my library has it. Have a great week.

  6. Ok! I'll get it! It's been on my To-buy list for a while now, so it's just finding it that's a challenge now. It sounds really interesting, and as you say, a little different. Good review, Kelly!

  7. I've loved some Valente novels, but the first Orphans Tales didn't work as well for me. But i must have liked something about it, as I will, someday, read the 2nd book. because I wanna see what happens with the girl, and the boy, and the boys sister!!

    and someone said the words on her body move? totally creepy cool!


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