Friday, September 21, 2007

In the Cities of Coin and Spice-Catherynne M. Valente

In the Cities of Coin and Spice
Catherynne M. Valente
Bantam, Nov 2007, $14.00
ISBN: 9780553384048

In THE NIGHT GARDEN of the sultan, the nameless female exile, whose eyelids are tattooed with stories, continues to tell tales to the heir. As the boy sits in rapture listening to the saga of seven, the seventh son of a seventh son, his family prepares the palace for his sister’s wedding.

On his seventh birthday, Seven awakens to find himself with other children, many of whom are dead in a city of garbage; the other residents are inhuman wraith like creatures, but they are not part of this tale. The foreman directs the children including Seven to an abyss under the ground where they slave at the Mint, a machine that transforms the bones of the dead children into coin. As the years pass, he and his friend Oubliette (a hybrid cow, tree and human) plan to escape their enslaved incarceration by converting the arm of Seven into a dozen coins. They succeed, but over time are separated. With his last coin he buys passage one way for one from a skeletal boatman to take him across a lake where his beloved Oubliette is imprisoned.

Perhaps the most complex fantasies around, the second of the Orphan's Tales is much more intricately interwoven than that described above as there are so many delightful sidebars going on; yet with all that Catherynne M. Valente spins a perfect double helix. Readers who appreciate multifaceted entertaining stories will cherish IN THE CITIES OF COIN AND SPICE as well as its predecessor THE NIGHT GARDEN as these delightful renditions of Scheherazade and the Arabian Nights are incredibly creative and enjoyable.

Harriet Klausner

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