Kim's Reviews > In the Cities of Coin and Spice

In the Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherynne M. Valente
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's review
May 24, 2008

it was amazing
Recommended for: lovers of fairy tales
Read in May, 2008

Another beautifully written and intricately woven tapestry of stories, this second and final volume of The Orphan's Tales features basilisks and sirens, a creature made of teeth and a woman made of glass, djinni and duchesses, and some answers about the origins of the story-teller herself. Some of the tales are harrowing (particularly in the first half of the book), some are humorous, and all are remarkably lovely and clever. Again, there are sly references to familiar fairy tales (like "Beauty and the Beast," " Brother and Sister," and, my personal favorite, a witty take on "Toads and Diamonds"); knowledge of these tales is not necessary to enjoy the book, although it certainly helped my own appreciation. In fact, Valente's work may inspire readers to seek out her sources of inspiration; I know I'm itching to go back to my copies of Grimm and the 1001 Nights and see what treasures I can find.
In my review of The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden, I neglected to mention the fine illustrations by Michael Kaluta, a grave error on my part. Not only is Kaluta's artwork gorgeous, its inclusion in these two volumes enhances the reading experience by recalling the great fairy tale illustrators of days gone by, including Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane, and Maxfield Parrish. I was reminded of reading the Andrew Lang books as a child, adding a nostalgic element to my reading of Valente's books.

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