Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “In the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales, #1)” as Want to Read:
In the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

In the Night Garden (The Orphan's Tales #1)

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  4,702 Ratings  ·  643 Reviews
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
Paperback, 483 pages
Published October 31st 2006 by Bantam Dell (first published October 28th 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about In the Night Garden, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Sam There's actually only two books (four, if you consider that each book is split into two 'books'). They aren't short stories, and there is definitely…moreThere's actually only two books (four, if you consider that each book is split into two 'books'). They aren't short stories, and there is definitely pay-off from the two books. You really need to read both books to have the pay-off you're looking for, though. Although the four stories are wonderful on their own.

These are two of my very favorite books of all time. So good. So you should really give it a go if you're interested! :)(less)
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson LevineThe Goose Girl by Shannon HaleBeauty by Robin McKinleyThe Princess Bride by William GoldmanFairest by Gail Carson Levine
The Best Fairytales and Retellings
94th out of 1,944 books — 7,784 voters
Graceling by Kristin CashoreVampire Academy by Richelle MeadThrone of Glass by Sarah J. MaasAlanna by Tamora PiercePoison Study by Maria V. Snyder
Best "Strong Female" Fantasy Novels
168th out of 1,854 books — 13,699 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mar 01, 2008 Grace rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture," or so the old quote says. I can't help but remember this saying as I attempt to write down some of my fragmented, all too feeble thoughts regarding Catherynne Valente's masterwork, The Orphan Tales: In the Night Garden and In the Cities of Coin and Spice. To start out with a bang, I have to tell you what my reaction was upon completing the last page of the second book. It was 1am, and I set the book down, after having to re-read one of th ...more
mark monday
Jan 29, 2013 mark monday rated it it was amazing
Tales within tales, tales out of space, tales that spring from stars that fall from sky to take human shape; the writer writes like the dreamer dreams dreams - some dreams yearning and romantic, others dark and tragic, each dream holding a little bit of the next dream in its heart: the story as Oriental Ouroboros: the Arabian Nights as template, as both starting point and point of resolution; themes and metaphors and symbols slowly surfacing, to disappear and then reappear again, transformed, re ...more
Mar 17, 2016 Algernon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012, favorites
I've read parts of The Arabian Night about thirty years ago. In the Night Garden succeeds in recapturing that sense of wonder, of exploring incredibly rich, exotic cities, meeting fantastic creatures, magicians, kings and vagabonds, sailing to mythical shores or descending into mysterious caverns. And Catherynne Valente managed this without copying or borrowing from the original tales.

Her world may be inspired from different folk tales (I recognized Baba Yaga hut and people turned into birds, an
Tales within tales within tales, all woven together like a magical, colorful tapestry depicting griffins, dead moon walkers, beastly princesses, princely beasts, pirate saints, Stars, snake gods, and so much more, all written in dark ink around the eyes of a little girl. Reading Valente's prose is like dreaming; during the act, you understand everything and think you see the truth, but when jerked back into reality, the stories fade together into a colorful, abstract image. It's pretty and meani ...more
Jan 30, 2015 Carol. rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Carol. by: Fantacy Aficionados, undoubtedly

Book as arabesque.

Short story leads to short story, each providing background and impetus for the next, characters answering questions to what led them to that intersection. It's a beautiful technique that comes back around to many of the original story characters.

The trouble for me is that the short story makes it easy to put down and go do something else, as it's often a natural break in the plot and action, so it took me far too long to finish. More clues or story in the background setting
Aug 18, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Brian by: mark monday
Shelves: 2015_sow
Fans of creation myths, fractured fairy tales and stories in the key of If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler will find plenty to love in this wondrous book of interweaving tales.

Valente writes in a panoply of differing voices; her stories rich and unique in their telling – marvelously intertwined and displaying real writerly prowess. The reader is taken down the rabbit hole of tales, each telescoping deeper into a rich narrative replete with beautifully imagined monsters, the angels and devils of h
Dec 10, 2009 Tatiana rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in dark fantasy
This book was a truly magical experience. I came across it almost by accident looking for something to satisfy Mysopoethic award winner category for my reading challenge. I am very happy I did because "The Orphan's Tales" is definitely not something I would normally be interested in.

This book is an Arabian Nights-inspired collection of stories that are nested within each other and cross over in the most unexpected places. The stories are not simple re-workings of old worn-out fairy tales. Now a
5.5 to 6.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION and may make it on to me list of "All Time Favorites." This is an absolutely amazing novel that I believe could become a "classic" in years to come. A modern fairy tale told as a series of interwoven "stories within stories within stories" that all come together in one fashion or another (itself a brilliant achievement). This is a "one of a kind experience" and I can not wait to read the sequel.

Nominee: World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (2007)
Mar 01, 2009 Susan rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fairy_tales
This has taken forever for me to finish. I just didn't want to go back to it. The first part is beautifully written, but her prose feels very effortful, as if all the beauty had to be hammered out, line by line, and she wants you to see each stroke. It finally picked up, but the interconnecting stories create a jumbled mess of a plot, not at all helped by the fact that many characters live for centuries, therefore making a general timeline almost impossible to put together. Very prettily describ ...more
Kat  Hooper
Apr 16, 2009 Kat Hooper rated it it was amazing
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

I haven't read any fantasy quite like Catherynne M. Valente's The Orphan's Tales duology. This is the story of a young orphan girl who is shunned because of the dark smudges that appeared on her eyelids when she was a baby. She lives alone in a sultan's garden because people think she's a demon and nobody will claim her. However, one of the young sons of the sultan, a curious fellow, finds her in the garden and asks her about her dark eyes. She explains th
May 22, 2010 Siria rated it liked it
This is much the kind of book I would expect to be written by someone who changed her name to 'Catherynne', with that spelling—it's all fantastical creatures and quests and magic. It is a much more intelligent book than I expected, with stories nested within stories, and gender tropes are inverted (there are no damsels in distress here) to my great satisfaction. The maiden is the monster is the pirate; women can grow up to be fierce warriors.

However, the Arabian Nights-style format can be a litt
Kagama-the Literaturevixen
Feb 09, 2014 Kagama-the Literaturevixen rated it did not like it
I guess what I really have a problem with is how the tales are told in this book. I was expecting a 1001 nights approach to it all. One night,one tale. You know the thing.

But in this the stories just pile on top of each other, The girl starts out with a story and then someone in that story tells a story to another character and then we go into that story and so on.

It was maddening to me and I lost interest in trying to follow the increasingly more confusing story.
Jun 02, 2008 Nicole rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
The tales told to the young Prince come from the tattoos inked on the skin of a young woman. These same strange tattoos that are keeping her isolated from the rest of the sultan's household, make her seem fascinating to the prince. Each night he sneaks out to meet with her in the Sultan's gardens.

This book is two series of interwoven, short, personal tales told from the tattoos. Tales that ultimately braid together. Like Chaucer's Canterbury Tales there is a series of people's pilgrimages told i
Sep 11, 2015 Shadowdenizen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Another stunning book I couldn't put down...
Full review to come once I've digested this a bit more.

Jul 17, 2015 Giovanna rated it really liked it
“They were all whispers now, the two of them, conspirators and thieves."

Valente never disappoints. Such a marvelous writing and imagination.

Catherynne M. Valente is, in my opinion, one of the most talented fantasy author out there. Considering that In the night garden isn't one of her latest books, it's even more impressive. If I had to describe it I'd tell you that this is a matryoshka of stories. A story within a story whitin another story, a labyrinth in which it's easy to get lost. However i
aPriL does feral sometimes
It took millennia for the stories to be collected that eventually became the fairy tales we know: Grimm's Fairy Tales, The Eddas, One Thousand and One Nights. The unknown authors of these famous stories have been many, passing down oral tales for generations.

Now, Catherynne Valente has created an epic collection of new dark fairy tales (this anthology contains two books of interlocking stories, as does the sequel), which not only have the feel and sound of ancient myths and fantasy stories, they
An Odd1
Aug 20, 2012 An Odd1 rated it did not like it
"In the Garden" lives an almost woman abandoned as a toddler when an inky mask appeared across her eyes. Catherynne M. (Why? Are not middle initials customarily to distinguish common names?) Valente writes like a computer programmed to arbitrarily join a list of adjectives with nouns, and randomly extract one role as narrator to generate a new not-story.

Long lasting tales crossing cultures speak to basic eternal human emotions and conflicts. Soap operas are the most popular longest running show
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Aug 05, 2010 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it really liked it
Beautiful, like bedtime stories for adults. They practically demand to be read out loud, with voices. I enjoyed the many layers of stories within stories within stories.

I love the repeating strings of the stars' blood being magic passed on generation to generation, and flipping around the idea of monsters and beasts.

"Beautiful women rarely work strong magic."

"It is rarely the places that birth us that see our true worth."

"What calls is stronger and more inexorable than any current. I long for t
Oct 28, 2007 Res rated it liked it
Shelves: sff, tiptree_award
The one with the stories within stories within stories, many of them centering around a maiden who's been transformed into a monster.

I found the Arabian Nights-style format confusing and distracting a lot of the time (despite the helpful chapter titles: The Tale of the Prince and the Goose, Concluded), but in the end, as characters reappeared in new contexts, I began to see how the structure allowed for a more textured and interesting book.

I don't understand the Tiptree Award falling on this bo
Sep 01, 2016 Athena rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of language; fantasy, myth, poetry readers
Recommended to Athena by: Carol.
"Once there was a child whose face was like the new moon shining on cypress trees and the feathers of waterbirds."

An amazingly lush, rich, sensual read: a land of fantasy, myth, and epic poetry, the tales so primal and imaginative that they require Valente's almost poetic voice to be properly conveyed to the reader. Fierce steppe-tribe women warriors, cruel kings, shape changers, monsters in form or intent, wicked sorcerers, sea things, witches, swans, naive young princes, an orphan adopted b
colleen the fabulous fabulaphile

I thought this was a really intersting story.

Past Valente books, particularly Deathless, I've described like reading a dream, or what a dream would read like.

This story is more like a dance, the way the stories and characters weave in and out of each other. Dance partners that have sat down, and we think gone for the evening, crop up again from time to time, threading together the disparate pieces into a larger tapestery. Sometimes it would take me a second to remember who was who, but there
First Second Books
This is a book-inside-a-book-inside-a-book set of interlocking stories about the world, told by an orphan who never leaves her garden. And it’s fantastic.

The orphan’s stories – and the stories the characters in her stories tell – and the stories the characters in their stories tell – somehow make up the backbone of a marvelous world where wonderful things (and horrible things) can occur, against the backdrop of a new mythology where the stars have come to earth (accidentally).

You know the Arabi
Jan 24, 2009 Jeff rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
This is a lovely book of fairy tale(s) set in an interesting frame narrative. I don't want to say too much for fear of spoilers, but I was very struck with the way that all the stories blended into each other, as though the Arabian Nights (its obvious and overwhelming influence) were layered like an onion, instead of serial like a pod full of peas.

The book deals with broad fairy-tale-revisionist/feminist themes, such as the nature of heroism, the magic power of the non-beautiful and even the mon
Dec 30, 2009 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Five stars--not because the book is without flaws but because I think the uniqueness of its strengths makes up for its deficiencies. This isn't the most pleasant reading experience I've ever had. No doubt the responsibility for this is shared between the author's quirks and mine. I felt the prose was a bit (and sometimes significantly more than a bit) overworked. I know it's the sort of poetic, native-sounding style the author was going for, but I find it unpleasant to be suffocated by great hea ...more
I may go back to this book -- or I may not. As so many have noted, it is not a work you can pick up when you have a few minutes to read, and I simply don't have the hours to devote to reading it straight through. Although, frankly, I can't imagine doing that, either.

I can understand why so many rate it so highly, but -- the word "pretentious" keeps coming to mind. As well as "convoluted" and "needlessly complicated." Valente is clearly in love with language and words; her writing is deep and lay
Alix Harrow
Oct 02, 2013 Alix Harrow rated it really liked it
I reviewed this book for the Women of Genre Fiction challenge hosted by Worlds Without End. I also review fantasy books weekly on my blog, The Other Side of the Rain.
Illustrations by the talented and versatile Michael Kaluta

In the Night Garden is essentially Arabian Nights, if Scheherazade had been a feminist literary critic with a working knowledge of world mythology and a wicked sense of irony. Certainly, this Scheherazade wouldn’t have ended up marrying the Sultan who put his first 1,000 wives to the death.

It starts with a young girl with dark tatt
May 01, 2016 Beth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, to-buy
The strange beauty of this book is hard to define. It’s a tale of stars who bleed light, of towered maidens who turn into beasts, of seaworthy ships grown from live trees. Tales within tales are interwoven in a complex tapestry of story – held together by the motif of a mysterious girl with stories to tell to a runaway prince. The tales seem to flow from all languages and traditions: the sword and steed of European stories meet with the spices and tunics of the Arabian peninsula; Native American ...more
Tanja Berg
Feb 06, 2014 Tanja Berg rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fairytales
This was a difficult book to rate. On the one hand it is an amazing achievement - wonderfully wrought, beautifully told, full of fantastical creatues. On the other hand it is terribly difficult to read. The stories unfold like a Russian doll - there's a story in a story in a story in a story. Worse, the book is divided into two parts. It was laying a 5000 piece puzzle from two different corners and without the cover of the box to help. Phew! It's a relief it's done. And yes, I had to finish, the ...more
I've heard such great things about this book, but I'm finding it slow going.

It's basically one person telling a story about another person telling a story about another person, etc., etc. So far, the longest is 6 levels deep of story tellers. This has resulted in a disconnect for me. I don't feel engaged by the characters. It's like a series of fairy tales, where there is next to no character development. Don't get me wrong, there is some, but not enough for me to care about the characters. I c
May 28, 2014 Jlawrence rated it it was amazing
The first time I tried to read this, some years ago, I was intrigued by its structure of stories nested in stories nested in stories, and loved Valente's imagination, but the style rubbed me the wrong way, which kept me from getting fully into it. This time everything clicked, and I was completely sucked in.

Valente is telling her own kind of fairy tales - dark, funny, beautiful, mutated - twining them around related themes, often inverting familiar fairy tale tropes, and managing to make seeming
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • The Fox Woman
  • In the Forest of Forgetting
  • Cloud and Ashes: Three Winter's Tales
  • The Wood Wife
  • The Innamorati
  • The Changeling Sea
  • A Woman of the Iron People
  • The Etched City
  • Silver Birch, Blood Moon
  • Thomas the Rhymer
  • The Folk of the Air
  • The King of Elfland's Daughter
  • The House of Discarded Dreams
  • Tender Morsels
  • The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye
  • City of Saints and Madmen (Ambergris, #1)
  • Waking the Moon
  • Lifelode
Catherynne M. Valente was born on Cinco de Mayo, 1979 in Seattle, WA, but grew up in in the wheatgrass paradise of Northern California. She graduated from high school at age 15, going on to UC San Diego and Edinburgh University, receiving her B.A. in Classics with an emphasis in Ancient Greek Linguistics. She then drifted away from her M.A. program and into a long residence in the concrete and cam ...more
More about Catherynne M. Valente...

Other Books in the Series

The Orphan's Tales (2 books)
  • In the Cities of Coin and Spice (The Orphan's Tales, #2)

Share This Book

“Never put your faith in a Prince. When you require a miracle, trust in a Witch.” 420 likes
“We all have someone we think shines so much more than we do that we are not even a moon to their sun, but a dead little rock floating in space next to their gold and their blaze.” 58 likes
More quotes…