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The Fifty Year Sword

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  5,022 ratings  ·  694 reviews
In this story set in East Texas, a local seamstress named Chintana finds herself responsible for five orphans who are not only captivated by a storyteller’s tale of vengeance but by the long black box he sets before them. As midnight approaches, the box is opened, a fateful dare is made, and the children as well as Chintana come face to face with the consequences of a mali ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Pantheon
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Average rating 3.58  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,022 ratings  ·  694 reviews

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Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was ok


what's this??

okay, so maybe it's not as bad as all th
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Sep 26, 2012 marked it as to-read
Shelves: signed
Without providing a polemical piece on quantitative starrage ratings practiced so frequently in a consumer driven society, for THIS book, I've removed any trace of a star and imply no intention-to-mean by so doing. Sometime to revisit this objet d’art. But probably not until after Only Revolutions, and that one will be deferred.

The following is an execrable review written by someone who had already turned off his mind and did not bother to attempt to understand the book. For an inte
Oct 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa, fiction, fantasy
MZD, if nothing else, is an experimenter as much as he is a storyteller. His first and most famous book, House of Leaves, is a great bulk of a book, a maze within itself, brutally tearing at the art of the novel and our own fears. Only Revolutions, by contrast, is a rotten egg, forcing the reader to spin the book every eight pages for little reward. If you try and crack it open with further analysis, you get only a turgid rotten mass inside. Despite all of its attempts at technical innovation, it has instead becom ...more
Nov 14, 2012 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Masochists, Suckas
Shelves: disappointments, olio

"'Barf barf barf barf barf barf barf

barf barf barf barf barf barf.

"'Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb

dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.

"'I can't believe I spent money on


piece of crap.'"

"'Should have learned my lesson

Only Revolutions.

Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Danielewski altar worshippers/completists, if you must.
Formerly a status with comments, but reviewfied and expanded per NR'S request. I like this format better, anyway, because the character limits don't keep me down and limit my creativity as much as those status updates. Consider this my version of sticking it to the man, man! *Insert bong hits.*

The Fifty Year Sword is a special book. Not because of its content, which is as I suspected so average it's average, but because my reading of it marks the only time in my wunnerful wunnerful G
Caleb Ross
Jul 17, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: type-hardcover, own
UPDATE: I've re-read this book, this time in the form of the re-released version (the orange cover version). This re-released version is much better than the original "tall" version. Therefore, I'm changing my rating from 1 star to 3 stars.

I believe the orange version worked so much better because the length of each page was shorter. Really, it's that simple. The original tall version had a lot of text on each page, and with a story as intimating (language-wise) as this, the added intimidation
Jim Elkins
Nov 12, 2012 rated it did not like it
Let's strip this book of its components, one by one.

1. The book was done in collaboration with three "stitchers," who sewed the sometimes very elaborate patterns that are reproduced throughout the book. The problem here is that the stitching only intermittently connects with the narrative. The key moment when a box with five latches is opened (p. 212 ff.) is illustrated with full-page, full-color photographs of stitched rectangles intended to illustrate the latches. But there is no c
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am madly in love with this eerie, haunting little ghost story. I loved House of Leaves, of course, and this book has a similar intellectually playful style without the crass porn aspects of the other. It presents in the style of a folktale, the story of a woman making her reluctant appearance at a party and joining the audience as a mysterious figure tells a spooky story to five orphans.

Of course, like just about any ghost story worth reading, it's not really about ghosts or fantasy, even
Aug 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: no one, unless you're really really curious
Shelves: novella, 2014
This is a hard one. While I liked it and found it interesting, I'm not sure anyone else would because this book is the very definition of gimmick and novelty item. Evidence: the packaging (it comes in a wooden box with metal latches, need I say more?). More evidence: there's interesting needlework on the inside. Even more evidence: the original price and number of books printed (only 1,000). I should hate it for this alone, but I don't because it's quirky and sort of cute, like an inside joke. ...more
Amy Nicole
The story itself is short but morbid and fantastical. A mysterious storyteller visits a party one night and tells five orphans a story about the Fifty Year Sword: one that is invisible but deadly. Definitely recommend.

It's written using quotes (from five different narrators) that are pieced together in a poem-like way to create the story. It was difficult to adjust to that pattern at first, but once you get in the rhythm it's great. The plot really picks up about halfway through, and it becomes
Jan 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
'What I have to tell you,' he began slowly. 'I must show you. But what I show you I must also tell you. I have only myself and where I've been and what I found and what I now bring. And it will frighten you.'

I'm sure the majority of people that braved House of Leaves would likely never be willing to pick up another Danielewski book again. I know I wasn't planning to, but somehow this ended up going home with me. Quite similar to House of Leaves in that it also has strange formatting and a trippy story that doesn't
Dec 04, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's official. Mark Z. Danielewski has lost his mind.

Let's get my quick impressions out of the way first. This book is attempt at ee cummings in long form with little drawings throughout. It's nearly incomprehensible for half of the book, then resumes a fairly straightforward narrative that leads... NOWHERE.

"House of Leaves" was so good, so very very good and scary and different. Danielewski really proved himself to be a fresh and fascinating voice in literature... Then c
Apr 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Danielewski's ability to innovate and play with the form and the construction of the novel constantly amazes me. This fantasy/ghost story reminded me of a Neil Gaimanesque novella that has been cut, sewn, and interpreted by e.e. cummings. While not perfect, it is hard to not give Danielewski big props for pushing boundaries, taking risks, and putting himself out there with every single writing project. In an era of e-books and audiobooks, it will be writers/artists like Danielewski who will cut ...more
Aug 11, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Amy Barklow
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 10, 2015 rated it liked it
I have only myself and where I've been and what I found and what I now bring. And it will frighten you.

This a fascinating/frustrating endeavor.
The book is beautiful -- as an object.

Au Contraire

The slippery meanings of the words within this book are elusive and possibly overwrought. There is a gleaming poetry in MZD, there's just a poverty of such in The Fifty Year Sword.
Jaclyn Michelle
Oct 22, 2012 rated it really liked it

The Fifty Year Sword was originally published in 2005 as a limited edition, and is usually only performed on Halloween night as a live shadow show. This month, however, it was re-released by Pantheon Books and I jumped at the chance to get my hands on a copy.

Like Danielewski's previous work, the story being told is as important as how it's being told, which is as important as how it looks as it's being told. As in House of Leaves, which used multiple fonts, colors and text l
Nov 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
"Nesting quotation
"upon quotation
"upon quotation.
"Such weird stylishness seems to come from
"no other than

"yes, indeed,
"another turn is taken: more colours—
"less form.
"Yet even more vagishness, as a stepping stone
"to Only Revolutions.
"Really short, this one is,
"which suits its setting of a ghost story.
"Albeit an inventive, subtle one.

"It takes a while to become interesting,
David Schaafsma
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
Ghost story, a version of "a live shadow show performed only on halloween night," sets you up for something less experimental than it it. We are required to recall five different sets of quotation marks that correspond to five different characters in this "play" but I am not sure the distinctions between the "characters" matter all that much. House of Leaves was a big hit and this will not be, I suspect, though it is "illustrated" with stitched designs done by three different artists working tog ...more
Wiebke (1book1review)
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is not a book for story, although that is compelling as well, it is a book for experience. As often with Mark Z. Danielewski's books, it's about how the story is told and presented on paper more than the actual events happening. The design adds to the experience of the story.
Even though I loved it I can see people not enjoying it at all.

On a reread I discovered so many more things and understood what didn't make sense on a first read as I concentrated much more on the stor
Aug 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
Someone needs to remind me that either Danielewski is just a terrible author or he's just so amazing I don't get it.
Anna Janelle
A beautiful, breath-taking color edition. The embroidery illustrations alone are worth a look. The detail is awe inspiring - the pin holes in the book sleeve, the illustrations that surround the text, the blood-red binding thread inside. Gorgeous. There is artistry in this novel. I wish I owned my own copy - and I'll be sure to add this to my wish-to-own list. I'll going to attempt to read it one more time before I have to return it to the library. I'll be sure to include my later thoughts as we ...more
Jul 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big Danielewski fan, but I was always frustrated by the scarcity of this book. Only two thousand copies printed, and they were printed for the Netherlands market. But, finally, after years of lusting, I received a near-mint copy of the second printing as a birthday gift. I do not exaggerate when I say that this is perhaps one of the greatest gifts of all time.

But enough about my personal story. You want to know about the book and whether or not it's worth your time and/or money.
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
I just, like...I love Danielewski. I do. But something happened after House of Leaves. Instead of shifting towards the genius creepiness and complexity of his narrative, he focused on the weird design elements of the physical book. I know a lot of people beg to differ, but I'm of the opinion that this makes his work more art project than literature. That's not bad, obviously, but paired with the 'treasure hunting' intellect of the pomo target audience and Danielewski himself, it's clever. Excessively c ...more
Wyatt Packard
Nov 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
I don't normally rate books that I do not finish, based primarily on having suffered through some very bad beginnings only to be surprised and happy by the end. As a library aide, I also have no desire to discourage reading, that would be bad for business! I am making an exception to The Fifty Year Sword however, as this book is, quite frankly, a waste of the paper it's printed on. (And I do mean that, as only every other page actually has words printed on them and most pages only have a few sen ...more
Cymru Roberts
Dec 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
After House of Leaves, I will give any MZD book a try. 50YS didn't disappoint. Like a gothic E.E. Cummings, Danielewski spins the yarn of a spooky visitor on Halloween night. Like HOL, the intertwining tales spiral deeper and deeper, replicating each other and jumping from the page with marvelous inventiveness.

I enjoyed reading the story as a poem, and the physical syncopation and the strange illustrations (or "sewings") really brought me into the world. Before I was really sure what was going
Dale Jr.
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, 2-star
A first and possibly last venture into Danielewski pages. I was lent this book from a friend of mine. She thought that maybe I'd enjoy it. I can't say that there weren't moments or excerpts which I did, actually, enjoy. Some pieces I may have even found beautifully tragic: spite of so many climbing / figures / on so many / paths, I was completely / alone up there. / Far worse than the / petrified shadows and the falling / notes, the multiplication upon / multiplication of my own solitu/>
Dec 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
1) Objective description, 2) my review, 3) recapitulation of format.

1) Every other page is blank, the reason for this is not readily apparent (even after reading the book). The pages with text comprise at most 1/5th of a full page, and at minimum a single word "me." The margins (in all four edges) are generous. In total, the book comprises ~30 full pages of text, and that approximation is generous. The artwork is very fine, and the pages are printed on thick paper. The physical quali
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is the first Danielewski I've read, and I definitely dug it. Thread and blades and some beautifully crafted lines. Plus I love a book that feels expansive but still reads in a single gulp. The art component is a great touch too. For those in the indie scene, this reminded me in parts of Shane Jones's The Failure Six. Give it a read. Even if you hate it it will only take about an hour or so of your time.
Oct 05, 2015 rated it did not like it
Mar 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own, fiction
Those were the fastest 288 pages of my life.
The text is laid out very sparsely on the page, like a poem. Every other page is filled with embroidered "illustrations" and left empty of text.
The narrative itself, too, felt more like poetry than prose. I feel like I just received a series of nearly-detached, more-felt-than-thought impressions, rather than a concrete, concise story. And I like it. One of those books that leave you questioning what you just read, and what it all perhaps meant.
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What's the Name o...: CHILDREN DIE IN WOODS /s 15 160 Apr 12, 2014 08:45AM  

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Mark Z. Danielewski is an American author best known for his books House of Leaves, Only Revolutions, The Fifty Year Sword, The Little Blue Kite, and The Familiar series.

Danielewski studied English Literature at Yale. He then decided to move to Berkeley, California, where he took a summer program in Latin at the University of California, Berkeley. He also spent time in Paris, preoccupied mostly with writing.