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The Labyrinth

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  274 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Here Monsters are hidden ...

A lyrical anti-quest through a conscious maze without center, borders, or escape--a dark pilgrim's progress through a landscape of vicious Angels, plague houses, crocodile-prophets, tragic chess-sets, and the mind of an unraveling woman, driven on by the mocking guide who seeks to destroy as much as save.

Enter the world o
Hardcover, 184 pages
Published April 17th 2006 by Wildside Press (first published August 15th 2004)
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Lauren Adults, although the mature 16-18 might also enjoy it.

This book would be best suited to college aged and above as it often makes literary references…more
Adults, although the mature 16-18 might also enjoy it.

This book would be best suited to college aged and above as it often makes literary references to the Illiad, the Odyssey, Shakespeare, and others. (less)

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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  274 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
May 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
'... my book is so much cheaper than LSD, and nearly twice as legal' - says the author.

Like an early Delany - The Einstein Intersection or The Jewels Of Aptor, or even like Crowley's debut novel, The Deep, this book is an enigma. There's something going on, but like Mr. Jones I don't know what it is.

No, actually, I do. It's magic. Magic with words, magic with meanings. A Zen/Buddhist parable about a woman on a quest through a maze, the meaning of the parable is that there aren't always easily
Dec 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
While the language is rich and poetic, I wouldn’t recommend this particular title to just any fantasy reader. Instead, I’d recommend it to any reader who has a love of poetic language, a love of metaphor. It’s hardly a fantasy so much as it is a myth, a fairy-tale (which is a fantasy in some regards, but not traditional). The chapters are short and grouped together in Cantos (see? Big!Long!Prose!Poem!). This is something I’d recommend to lovers of myth and fairytale, philosophy and metaphor, and ...more
Nov 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This was, I think, Valente's first book. It's probably my least favourite of hers that I've read. It's very classically her work -- her motifs and preoccupations, her way of plotting, her half-poetical writing -- but it just didn't get hooks in me like Deathless or The Grass-Cutting Sword. There's amazing imagery and I actually liked the cyclical nature of the story, but...

If you tend, like me, to be most drawn by strong, well-delineated characters, and a plot which moves from A to B
Mar 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
(From my review of Valente's 'Myths of Origin' :

Reading The Labyrinth was an experience that really opened my eyes to what could be done with fantasy, with myths, and with language in general. I realise that that sounds vague and flippant, it isn’t meant to. Truly, I was in awe. The Labyrinth stunned me with its rich, sensuous, and surprising imagery
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This is not a book for people looking for a quick easy read, or for those that are looking for a sharply defined, concrete plot. It is a book for people who can appreciate complex, beautiful language surrounding a mythological tale. The book tells us about the Seeker in the Labyrinth, who no longer seeks the Center. She has swallowed the Compass Rose which helps her direction. She has been here a long time and has learned to avoid the snapping jaws of doors and other dangers. Along her journey s ...more
Mikko Karvonen
Jul 13, 2009 rated it liked it
I absolutely adored Catherynne M. Valente's In the Night Garden, so picking up The Labyrinth was a no-brained. However, it proved out to be a very different creature.

The flowery, metafora heavy writing style is there, but the story itself is more of an exercise of a literacy student. Symbolic, poetic, sometimes utterly bizarre, it went from absolutely charming to not-quite-following-you-here along the way. In both situations, however, the language itself was enough to keep the experi
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2007
This was a very interesting book. Really, it was. It's told in the first person and is about a woman who's trapped in a Labyrinth. She's being chased by doors and we follow along as she searches for the mythical center. But it's the writing and the way the story is structured that makes this book so interesting. The writing is painfully structured, as if every word was CAREFULLY chosen. In some places the story reads more like a poem than modern-day prose. The structure, folds in on itself and d ...more
Dec 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed Catherynne Valente's book Palimpsest, as well as the short story she contributed to Troll's Eye View. So I was eager to read more of her works. I am so glad I did, I absolutely loved this book, it read more like a gothic epic poem than an actually book but was absolute enrapturing. The content is very dreamy and may not be for all readers; those readers who don't enjoy abstract stories and poetry should probably stick with something else.

This book tells the story of
Morgan Maria
Mar 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: free-ebook, abandoned
The books of Cat Valente's that I've loved, I've REALLY loved. The Labyrinth does not fall into my "I will adore it forever" pile.

The Labyrinth struck me as a collection of run-on sentences and purple prose - quality purple prose, but purple nontheless. This is the writing of a self-indulgent wordsmith, still honing their craft and dazzling both themselves and their readers with the sheer quantity. The words could be beautiful, but lose their meaning and impact without any relief fro
Feb 06, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: myth, fantasy
This is a difficult read, heavy in language and word accretion, an interior monologue wrapped like a Quest through a Labyrinth at times fantastical, other times not unlike a journey through a deranged mind. It is Cat Valente's first novel, possibly her most poetic and lyrical, but also raw like an unpolished gem - full of whatever it could be, but not quite there yet. And as hard as it is to talk about the plot of a novel which doesn't have much of one, the (view spoiler) ...more
Kat Lombard-Cook
Labyrinth is like a lace-work of words. It's definitely surreal, and there are explosions of paragraphs that describe nothing so much as madness. It a story of a quest that isn't, a journey to a center that's not there. It's slightly insane and cyclical, but it's beautifully wrought. The plot is certainly secondary to the tale-telling, and the times that the book drops out of the narrator's head and dips into dialogue serve as resting points for your sensory-overloaded brain. At times, it can be ...more
Oct 25, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2009
Despite some well-turned phrases, half of the book was incoherent internal monologue. It had the effect of obscuring the story for pages at a time. This was disappointing after being wowed by Palimpsest.
Sep 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: o, fa, sfhf_challenge
CMV's first book. Probably not as impressive as her later stuff but still a fun read. You can get it for free from CMV's website.
William Leight
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
(2.5 stars really)

This was Valente’s first novel: previously, she was a poet, which may perhaps be the reason, or at least part of the reason, why the focus of this book seems to be more on words and images than character or plot. (Further evidence: the book is split into cantos, rather than chapters.) The titular labyrinth has no beginning and no ending, and hence no real room for story or character development: instead of inner change, the main character literally changes color to
Sarah Anastasia Andrews
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The Labyrinth is a linguistic gem; I am truly in awe of the author's use of language and her descriptive powers, because her simile and metaphor combinations are an eternal well of wealth.

The story is piece of art. One of my favourites for the risks and pure command of the English language the author has, using it to its full potential and some. Sometimes the narrative is confusing, and you wonder at times if there is indeed one, but I think that is the beauty of it. You are Alice falling down
Charles Cohen
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-lit, fantasy
Oooh, what it is to read a book when the author is WRITING. Everything is wrung out here, every word and paragraph and page. Images are inside out, especially the entire very masculine idea of a labyrinth. What takes things down a notch is that it's a first book, so Valente is very much in the mode of, "Hey, look! I'm doing the serious work of WRITING, I'M A GODDAMN WRITER LOOK WHAT I CAN DO." Her later books, particularly "Palimpsest", demonstrate that confidence, but it's just not there yet. A ...more
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-it, mythology, fantasy
A highly poetical book where the allusions come think and fast. Valente's signature style is already very evident. Her later novels show a stronger attention to plot, this novel, or novella, is very lyrical and slow moving. This book doesn't need a stronger plot, it is what it is and it's beautiful, but that may be a factor for some people.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Definitely a book to let the words wash over you and not seek out specifics and a plot. Beautiful use of language, extremely vivid. Stay in the present of the book while you're reading it and don't get distracted by the Why. Done like that it's like a brain massage of beautiful and sometimes disturbing images.
'S just my opinion
May 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
I was really excited to find this book because I love "The Girl Who..." series. Alas, the first chapter was too much for me. By the second chapter I was skimming heavily. At the start of the third I was done. It's just not what I needed to read right now.
I'm taking to the library where hopefully someone will find it who will enjoy it.
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy-or-syfy

*stares at The Labyrinth for a while*


I originally picked this up because one of the Q&A’s answers in the back of one of her YA Girl Who books. Valente said something along the lines of how she would want to be the Goblin Queen and meet Jareth. (Jareth is from the 80’s movie Labyrinth and is the Goblin King.) Having seen the movie I was like, “Cool. That movie was somewhat cheesy, but I’ve enjoyed Fanfiction from that world. Oh, she has a book call
Marie Michaels
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
File under "Books That Defy Things Like Categorization and Easy Star Ratings." This may be the most abstruse sf/f books I've ever read: abstract, non-linear, and incredibly dense with metaphor and allusion. In a way, it's so out there that it hardly seems genre to me. There's little to distinguish it from non-genre, similarly Joyce-ean literary fiction. It reads to me as more mythological than fantasy. So for people who enjoy the crunchy challenge of dense prose, I would highly recommend this bo ...more
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Such a brilliantly poetic writer. The book starts like this:

"Look closely. This is not the Way.
Up or down, I could not say, I could not say. I ate the severed halves of a Compass Rose seven-hundred-and-negative-eight miles back, covering the yellow red meat with lime skins and choking it down. Now it is Within. So I could not say northwest or south, only the veil-fire that way and the moon-forest this way, this turn or that turn, round the oleander Wall rippling underwater or over th
Apr 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this book because I heard Valente speak after a series of SF lectures in Tacoma; she is a very impressive and charming public speaker, so I picked this book up per her mention of it during her talk. I went into this book in a very (favorably) biased mindset.

Some of the prose is a bit on the purple side, unfortunately, and I rolled my eyes at a few of the simile-chains that were spaced awkwardly with metaphor and direct description. My biggest gripe with the language was that there are so
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
A timeless, endless journey through a labyrinth metamorphosizes into a quest to find its center. This is classic early Valente, prose poetry, mythpunk, an intentionally anachronistic mishmash of imagery swathing a powerful metaphor. I found it more successful than Yume no Hon--partially because I prefer its metaphor, but also because the labyrinth as metaphor works so well: it justifies Valente's unspooling, claustrophobic prose; the cyclical plot may be frustrating, but it has a sense of inevitability and ne ...more
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was rough going at first. You can tell this is from her transition from poet to novelist. The descriptions are so dense, and the plot... well there was no discernable plot and only the one character for so long I put it down and took a break for over a year.

Finally I had some time to do some serious reading and picked this back up since I am madly in love with Valente and couldn't bare to leave one of her books unread. Towards the end it reminded me of the "Orphan's Tales" in style and flo
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-and-read
There is (was/will always be) a girl walking, exploring, hurting, dying, living, choking, ing. She meets monsters who eat monsters who birth monsters who become monsters. Her life is a labyrinth. She has always existed in the labyrinth. She is the air that reads the poem when the book lies open. She is the darkness that cradles the words when the book collects dust on the shelves of a long-forgotten library. She is the white space welcoming the text in the center of her heart, desperately hungry ...more
Feb 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Valente is a poet at heart, and it is blindingly obvious in this novel – perhaps more accurately called an epic poem? But there is nothing epic, or perhaps there is, about this book. It’s never really clear what is going on, and while the imagery is wonderful, it’s hard to follow what’s going on because the story is so obtuse. If you, unlike me, are a poet at heart, you will probably love this book. For me, I found it hard to understand the plot until the end – and perhaps even harder then. I lo ...more
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was such a strange, bold, powerful book. Experimental and odd. Its prose is rich enough to be a poem. One could argue that it is, in fact, a grand prose poem, with its rhythms and images and density of language. The narrative is pure archetype. If it didn't exist in that shifting, cracking gap of story about story, if it wasn't so meta and dreamlike, its prose would be over-rich for my taste. But it DOES exist there, and I found it just right. It is the tale of the maiden and the labyrinth, ...more
Gabriella Gricius
Dec 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: obsessed-with
This book was absolutely fantastic. She has it free on her website, but after I read it- I just had to have a copy because it swept me up in this world I never could have imagined. Maybe it was the way that she wrote it, but I can't say I've read another book that entranced me the way that this one did. I spilled water on my laptop when reading this online because I was so hypnotized. Thank you Catherynne Valente! You're one of my most favorite authors and I'll never forget this.
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
The Labyrinth is a surreal landscape not unlike Wonderland in that our heroine does a lot of falling and there is life in everything. In the labyrinth, you don't hunt doors, they hunt you.

For all its strangeness and apparent lack of a definitive end, I loved it. I particularly adored the gospel-spouting crocodile. However, this isn't something I would recommend to anyone lightly for its unique style.
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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
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“..what came before has dissolved from me, lost like milk teeth. But I think, rather, that it has always been as it is, and there was never a beforethis nor will there be an afternow. I am accepting. This is not a thing to be solved, or conquered, or destroyed. It is. I am. We are. We conjugate together in darkness, plotting against each other, the Labyrinth to eat me and I to eat it, each to swallow the hard, black opium of the other. We hold orange petals beneath our tongues and seethe. It has always been so. It grinds against me and I bite into its skin..” 7 likes
“We are a Body of contradiction, flesh-full and fleshless.” 4 likes
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