The Literary Horizon: In the Night Garden, Wicked Gentlemen

The Hathor Legacy isn’t a review website, but then again, it’s not a fansite; the Hathor Legacy looks critically at depictions of women in the media as well as female representation in the big media industries. The insights of the Hathor Legacy crew are always interesting and refreshing, and I’m glad to have them around. (Although I do miss the old layout with the blissed out female nerd deity image). Today, we’re looking at two books that have come to me via this website.

In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente

A Book of Wonders for Grown-Up Readers

Every once in a great while a book comes along that reminds us of the magic spell that stories can cast over us–to dazzle, entertain, and enlighten. Welcome to the Arabian Nights for our time–a lush and fantastical epic guaranteed to spirit you away from the very first page….

Secreted away in a garden, a lonely girl spins stories to warm a curious prince: peculiar feats and unspeakable fates that loop through each other and back again to meet in the tapestry of her voice. Inked on her eyelids, each twisting, tattooed tale is a piece in the puzzle of the girl’s own hidden history. And what tales she tells! Tales of shape-shifting witches and wild horsewomen, heron kings and beast princesses, snake gods, dog monks, and living stars–each story more strange and fantastic than the one that came before. From ill-tempered “mermaid” to fastidious Beast, nothing is ever quite what it seems in these ever-shifting tales–even, and especially, their teller. Adorned with illustrations by the legendary Michael Kaluta, Valente’s enchanting lyrical fantasy offers a breathtaking reinvention of the untold myths and dark fairy tales that shape our dreams. And just when you think you’ve come to the end, you realize the adventure has only begun….

via Amazon

While the Hathor Legacy has never exactly looked at In the Night Garden (I refuse to append The Orphan’s Tales to it, since that’s the series title), Valente has been mentioned approvingly and I keep hearing wonderful things about her works around the blogosphere—especially the nature of stories. Mmm, metalicious.

Robert at the Fantasy Book Critic enjoyed how the different fables were interwoven, but found them to be less than timeless. Dan Hartland, writing for Strange Horizons, found it enjoyable on several layers; I direct you to his review, which is lovely and articulate.

In the Night Garden was published on October 31, 2006.

Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale

Belimai Sykes is many things: a Prodigal, the descendant of ancient demons, a creature of dark temptations and rare powers. He is also a man with a brutal past and a dangerous addiction. And Belimai Sykes is the only man Captain William Harper can turn to when faced with a series of grisly murders. But Mr. Sykes does not work for free and the price of Belimai’s company will cost Captain Harper far more than his reputation. From the ornate mansions of noblemen, where vivisection and sorcery are hidden beneath a veneer of gold, to the steaming slums of Hells Below, Captain Harper must fight for justice and for his life. His enemies are many and his only ally is a devil he knows too well. Such are the dangers of dealing with the wicked.

via Amazon

Sometimes I feel that I don’t look at books from smaller publishers enough. Wicked Gentlemen sounds, excuse the pun, wickedly original—steampunk, religion, and the supernatural. Hale also has a book series out (Wicked Gentlemen is technically a conjoined pair of novellas) that I’d like to investigate, but I think I’ll start here first.

Maria at the Hathor Legacy loved it, especially the fact that Belimai gets the first person narrative novella and Harper the third person narrative novella, which forces the reader to identify with Belimai instead of the privileged Harper. Kristen at Fantasy Cafe found it to be “an excellent debut“.

Wicked Gentlemen was published on October 1, 2007.

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