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 animal spirit guides stand next to tattooed tribes from the windswept moor. With firebirds and wizards, saints and shapeshifters, pirates and goddesses, this book takes elements of the stories we all know and turns them into something new and unpredictable.
Catherynne Valente enchanted me with her writing. Each word seems chosen with the precision of poetry. The language ripples, it flows. Yet this book is not for the faint of heart. Like the original tales of the Brothers Grimm or the Arabian Nights, these are not softened or polished at the edges. The grotesque stands alongside the beautiful. To understand ethereal mystery, one must tread the path of blood, birth, darkness, and death. The light shines brighter after having gazed into the darkness, but at times the dark seems never to end.