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Under in the Mere Under in the Mere by Catherynne M. Valente
reviewed by Mario Guslandi
Loosely inspired to the Arthurian legends, the novella recreates old myths, employing the author's imaginative power and her well-known, uncommon ability to carve exquisite phrasing and to delight the reader with her masterful wording. Her beautiful language has a musical quality that envelops the reader like an intoxicating melody, or, better, a complex, overwhelming symphony.

Palimpsest Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
reviewed by Alma A. Hromic
Palimpsest is a "sexually transmitted city." Those who have been there carry portions of it on their skin, the city's brands, a spidery tattoo which, on closer inspection, reveals itself to be a section of the city map, its streets and squares and intersections and train stations. The brand is passed on through the act of sexual congress, and at first you are limited in which parts of the city you can visit determined by which actual part of the map your lover has tattooed on their skin.

A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects by Catherynne M. Valente
reviewed by Amal El-Mohtar
In Antoine Galland's Arabian Nights, there's a story called "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp." In the story, Aladdin orders his Djinn to build a palace for the Sultan. He specifies, however, that he wants there to be one flaw in the whole, one window-frame of gems that is incomplete, in order to allow the Sultan the honour of finishing it. The Djinn complies. Then, when the Sultan's being led through it, his eyes light on the incomplete window, and he's relieved to have found the flaw, the one tiny thing that can give his soul a break from the otherwise overwhelming awe. That's what reading this collection is like.

In the Night Garden The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
reviewed by Mario Guslandi
In the Night Garden is the first volume of a duology -- entitled The Orphan's Tales -- in the tradition of The Arabian Nights, composed of a complex pattern of intertwining fairy tales featuring kings, princes and princesses, beast maidens, witches and wizards, tavern keepers, saints, assassins, living stars and so on. The narrator is an outcast little girl, living in the garden of a sultan's palace, whose eyelids are magically tattooed with stories written in very fine characters.

In the Night Garden In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
reviewed by Nathan Brazil
This book is the first in a two part collection of stories, narrated Arabian Nights style by a semi-wild 13 year-old girl who lives a lonely existence in sprawling gardens surrounding a sultan's palace. The other children are frightened of her, due to the marks that make her different to them. This, not unattractive disfigurement, was also what led to her being banished from the palace itself. In truth, the strange markings are the result of someone magically tattooing her eyelids and the flesh around her eyes when she was an infant.

The Labyrinth The Labyrinth by Catherynne M. Valente
reviewed by Matthew Cheney
This is the sort of book a reader will either hug to the heart or throw across the room. Even if someone finds the book itself pretentious and nonsensical, they are likely to praise at least some of the writer's skill with language, while even someone who adores the cascading imagery and narrative hallucinations is likely to recognize that the book has thin parts, that the entire endeavor is ethereal rather than material, more a matter of artifice than art. Line by line and page by page, it contains more beauty than all but a very few books published this year.

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