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Snow White is the gunslinging half-breed daughter of a silver baron in Catherynne Valente's latest retold fairy tale.


Six-Gun Snow White

Subterranean, 2013, 168 pages




From New York Times bestselling author Catherynne M. Valente comes a brilliant reinvention of one the best known fairy tales of all time. In the novella Six-Gun Snow White, Valente transports the title's heroine to a masterfully evoked Old West where Coyote is just as likely to be found as the seven dwarves.

A plain-spoken, appealing narrator relates the history of her parentsóa Nevada silver baron who forced the Crow people to give up one of their most beautiful daughters, Gun That Sings, in marriage to him. With her mother's death in childbirth, so begins a heroine's tale equal parts heartbreak and strength. This girl has been born into a world with no place for a half-native, half-white child. After being hidden for years, a very wicked stepmother finally gifts her with the name Snow White, referring to the pale skin she will never have. Filled with fascinating glimpses through the fabled looking glass and a close-up look at hard living in the gritty gun-slinging West, readers will be enchanted by this story at once familiar and entirely new.


Note: This year, I am going to try to read and review as many of the Hugo Nominees as I can. I will tag them with 2014 Hugo Nominee.

Does the world need yet another version of Snow White? Does the world need more zombie apocalypses or space operas? (Dear Catherynne Valente: I would totally read a zombie apocalypse written by you.) )

Verdict: If you like fairy tale retellings (like Fables) or any of Catherynne Valente's other work, then you'll enjoy Six-Gun Snow White. I didn't love it quite the way I love Valente's Fairyland books, but as one of the nominees for Best Novella, it's a worthy contender.

Also by Catherynne Valente: My reviews of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, The Habitation of the Blessed, Silently and Very Fast, and Deathless.




My complete list of book reviews.
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September goes to the Moon, learns a few things about Fairies, confronts a Yeti, and wrestles with predestination.


The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two

Feiwel & Friends , 2013, 248 pages




September misses Fairyland and her friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. She longs to leave the routines of home and embark on a new adventure. Little does she know that this time, she will be spirited away to the moon, reunited with her friends, and find herself faced with saving Fairyland from a moon-Yeti with great and mysterious powers.


Oh September, you are growing up so fast. But Catherynne Valente, you need to slow down. )

Verdict: I don't want to say slump or slide or, Black Cosmic Dog-forbid, disappointment, but the very high bar set by the previous two Fairyland books was not quite cleared by this one. I loved The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, but with a love that had already been stoked by expectations and a large amount of forgiveness. The wit and humor and tenderness is still there, and so is Catherynne Valente's incomparable imagination, and the life lessons for our girl September are getting harder and richer, but I hope that for the fourth Fairyland book, Ms. Valente's editor borrows September's Stern Mask.

Also by Catherynne Valente: My reviews of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, The Habitation of the Blessed, Silently and Very Fast and Deathless.




My complete list of book reviews.
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A Sovietized, reimagined Russian fairy tale that is almost but not quite an adult Fairyland book.


Deathless

Tor, 2011, 352 pages




Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to Western European culture: a menacing, evil figure, the villain of countless stories that have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the 20th century.

Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way, there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.


Koschei, Baba Yaga, Stalinist house-elves, the Siege of Leningrad, and one hell of a twisted marriage. )

Verdict: This is not my favorite by Valente (those are still the Fairyland books), but Deathless shows her usual artistic genius in telling old fairy tales for a new age. Her brilliant imagination and an enviable talent for generating quotable prose make everything I've yet read by her worth reading, even if the word-bling and mad imagery can become thick to wade through at times.

Also by Catherynne Valente: My reviews of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, The Habitation of the Blessed, Silently and Very Fast.




My complete list of book reviews.
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September returns to Fairyland, where all is not well.


The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Feiwel & Friends, 2012, 272 pages




September has longed to return to Fairyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows - and their magic - to the world of Fairyland Below. This underworld has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September's shadow. And Halloween does not want to give Fairyland's shadows back.


You can never forget what you do in a war, September my love. No one can. You won’t forget your war either. )

Verdict: It doesn't disappoint. The Fairyland series is one I will preorder and buy in hardcover as long as they come out. I want these books to have existed when I was a child. My highest recommendation.

Also by Catherynne M. Valente: My reviews of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Habitation of the Blessed, and Silently and Very Fast.




My complete list of book reviews.
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A tale of mythological science fiction


Silently and Very Fast

WSFA Press, 2011, 127 pages




Fantastist Catherynne M. Valente takes on the folklore of artificial intelligence in this brand new, original novella of technology, identity, and an uncertain mechanized future.

Neva is dreaming. But she is not alone. A mysterious machine entity called Elefsis haunts her and the members of her family, back through the generations to her great-great-grandmother -- a gifted computer programmer who changed the world. Together Neva and Elefsis navigate their history and their future, an uneasy, unwilling symbiote.

But what they discover in their dreamworld might change them forever...


Available online (in audio too!) at Clarkesworld Magazine.

Catherynne Valente takes SF for a spin, manages not to hit a tree. )

Verdict: An elegant, verbally elaborate construction of sci-fi and folklore. Silently and Very Fast tells a human fairy tale about an artificial intelligence. This novella is either literary ambition or literary pretension, depending on how you feel about Valente's prose.

I go both ways with her, as you can see from my reviews of The Habitation of the Blessed and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. But TGWCFIASOHOM is one of my favorite books ever. The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is one of the few books I've ever pre-ordered - I'll be receiving it this week!




My complete list of book reviews.
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A cryptozoological romp and inventive reimagining of a medieval legend.

The Habitation of the Blessed

Night Shade Books, 2010, approx. 95,000 words.


The Habitation of the Blessed: A Dirge for Prester John Volume 1

This is the story of a place that never was: the kingdom of Prester John, the utopia described by an anonymous, twelfth-century document which captured the imagination of the medieval world and drove hundreds of lost souls to seek out its secrets, inspiring explorers, missionaries, and kings for centuries. But what if it were all true? What if there was such a place, and a poor, broken priest once stumbled past its borders, discovering, not a Christian paradise, but a country where everything is possible, immortality is easily had, and the Western world is nothing but a dim and distant dream?

Brother Hiob of Luzerne, on missionary work in the Himalayan wilderness on the eve of the eighteenth century, discovers a village guarding a miraculous tree whose branches sprout books instead of fruit. These strange books chronicle the history of the kingdom of Prester John, and Hiob becomes obsessed with the tales they tell. The Habitation of the Blessed recounts the fragmented narratives found within these living volumes, revealing the life of a priest named John, and his rise to power in this country of impossible richness. John's tale weaves together with the confessions of his wife Hagia, a blemmye--a headless creature who carried her face on her chest--as well as the tender, jeweled nursery stories of Imtithal, nanny to the royal family. Hugo and World Fantasy award nominee Catherynne M. Valente reimagines the legends of Prester John in this stunning tour de force.


In the three Indies our Magnificence rules, and our land extends beyond India, where rests the body of the holy apostle Thomas; it reaches towards the sunrise over the wastes, and it trends toward deserted Babylon near the Tower of Babel. Seventy-two provinces, of which only a few are Christian, serve us. Each has its own king, but all are tributary to us. And they set not by battles, nor quarrels, nor know of deceit. (The Letter of Prester John, 1165 )

Verdict: Beautiful, imaginative, rich, dense, really more of a modern updating of a medieval travelogue, bestiary, and allegory than a novel. The story unfolds at a gradual pace and only arrives where we already knew it was going. It's hard for me to rate this one: Catherynne Valente is a genius and nobody can write like her, but this book was wordy exhibitionism and Medieval Studies porn, and I wish getting through it had been more a matter of eagerness than resolution. But I think my reaction is very much a YMMV thing, and if you are already a Catherynne Valente fan then I'm sure you'll like it.

Also by Catherynne M. Valente: My review of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
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A cryptozoological romp and inventive reimagining of a medieval legend.

The Habitation of the Blessed

Night Shade Books, 2010, approx. 95,000 words.


The Habitation of the Blessed: A Dirge for Prester John Volume 1

This is the story of a place that never was: the kingdom of Prester John, the utopia described by an anonymous, twelfth-century document which captured the imagination of the medieval world and drove hundreds of lost souls to seek out its secrets, inspiring explorers, missionaries, and kings for centuries. But what if it were all true? What if there was such a place, and a poor, broken priest once stumbled past its borders, discovering, not a Christian paradise, but a country where everything is possible, immortality is easily had, and the Western world is nothing but a dim and distant dream?

Brother Hiob of Luzerne, on missionary work in the Himalayan wilderness on the eve of the eighteenth century, discovers a village guarding a miraculous tree whose branches sprout books instead of fruit. These strange books chronicle the history of the kingdom of Prester John, and Hiob becomes obsessed with the tales they tell. The Habitation of the Blessed recounts the fragmented narratives found within these living volumes, revealing the life of a priest named John, and his rise to power in this country of impossible richness. John's tale weaves together with the confessions of his wife Hagia, a blemmye--a headless creature who carried her face on her chest--as well as the tender, jeweled nursery stories of Imtithal, nanny to the royal family. Hugo and World Fantasy award nominee Catherynne M. Valente reimagines the legends of Prester John in this stunning tour de force.


In the three Indies our Magnificence rules, and our land extends beyond India, where rests the body of the holy apostle Thomas; it reaches towards the sunrise over the wastes, and it trends toward deserted Babylon near the Tower of Babel. Seventy-two provinces, of which only a few are Christian, serve us. Each has its own king, but all are tributary to us. And they set not by battles, nor quarrels, nor know of deceit. (The Letter of Prester John, 1165 )

Verdict: Beautiful, imaginative, rich, dense, really more of a modern updating of a medieval travelogue, bestiary, and allegory than a novel. The story unfolds at a gradual pace and only arrives where we already knew it was going. It's hard for me to rate this one: Catherynne Valente is a genius and nobody can write like her, but this book was wordy exhibitionism and Medieval Studies porn, and I wish getting through it had been more a matter of eagerness than resolution. But I think my reaction is very much a YMMV thing, and if you are already a Catherynne Valente fan then I'm sure you'll like it.

Also by Catherynne M. Valente: My review of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
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If you don't fall in love with this book, you have no soul.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Feiwel & Friends, 2011, 247 pages


September is a girl who longs for adventure. When she is invited to Fairyland by a Green Wind and a Leopard, well, of course she accepts. (Mightn’t you?) But Fairyland is in turmoil, and it will take one 12-year-old girl, a book-loving dragon, and a strange and almost human boy named Saturday to vanquish an evil Marquess and restore order.


He's not a dragon, he's a wyverary! )

Verdict: This is good read it you'll love it just go read it like now.
inverarity: (Default)
If you don't fall in love with this book, you have no soul.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Feiwel & Friends, 2011, 247 pages


September is a girl who longs for adventure. When she is invited to Fairyland by a Green Wind and a Leopard, well, of course she accepts. (Mightn’t you?) But Fairyland is in turmoil, and it will take one 12-year-old girl, a book-loving dragon, and a strange and almost human boy named Saturday to vanquish an evil Marquess and restore order.


He's not a dragon, he's a wyverary! )

Verdict: This is good read it you'll love it just go read it like now.

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