In the Night Garden - Catherynne M. Valente 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 meaningful, but you can't quite explain the story behind the image as well as you would like to.

The book begins with a lonely little girl who lives in the palace gardens. A prince, curious and slightly afraid, meets the little girl, and soon after the two bond in a tender friendship punctuated by midnight meetings in which the girl spins her tales. The tales she spins are myths of creation, journeys, religion, death, and life, but not as we have heard before. Some of the myths are dark, involving death and violation, but others are whimsical and yearning. A number of fantastical creatures inhabit the pages, all interacting in some way or another, as if existing on a great web. They are spread apart along the plane of the web, but somehow, they are all directly or indirectly connected in this big tapestry of life.

In the Night Garden is one of the most unique books that I've read in a long time; it's a book that you read for the stories and the prose, a book in which to meander, not a plot-dominated book that keeps you up at night with non-stop action. Valente's writing is flowery and imaginative, but purposeful. She chooses her words carefully and does not write for the sake of putting words down on paper. It takes a while to get used to the flow and rhythm of her prose, but once you do, you lose yourself in her words and stories, just like the little prince who loses himself in the girl's tales.

Sometimes, the tales within tales within tales got confusing, and I lost track of where I was. I was tempted to even make a little map of what happens. But I think that while the book is composed of stories, the stories come together to result in the symphony. Would you attend a symphony orchestra to listen to just the violins or the cellos? Would you try to isolate each section, analyze the single instrument's contribution to the overall whole? Some may, but in doing so, we sacrifice the final symphony for just one instrument. No, we listen for the finished product, to rejoice in how so many different components come together to create beautiful music. That is how this book should be read, as a symphony of well crafted tales that create a more beautiful whole. Approach the book with patience and an open mind. It will all come together in the end as something lovely and unique, I promise.