Friday, August 27, 2010

Review - The Labyrinth by Catherynne M. Valente (5/5 stars)

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 a girl stuck in a Labyrinth.  She is a Wanderer and wanders through the Labyrinth fighting madness the whole way.  She complete various tasks and meets strange creatures all in a quest to escape the Labyrinth.  She is constantly trying to outrun Doors, that threaten to devour here.

This book reads like a crazy dream.  At some times you get caught up the beautiful and poignant descriptions and loose the storyline for a bit, but Valente always tugs you back to the story at hand.  I can't say enough how beautiful, artistic, and wonderfully abstract the language throughout this novel is; I absolutely loved it.

There are times where you can get a bit confused about what is happening, most of these times coincide with the dream-like periods of madness that the main character goes through.  The first madness period had me befuddled, but after the second bit of madness I figured out what was going on and then was struck by how cleverly Valente is representing this character's insanity.   The story snaps back to a more traditional form as the character meets up with and is forced to converse with various strange creatures in the Labyrinth.  These portions of the story are written just as beautifully but less abstractly and take the reader through a more traditional fairy tale like plot.

I was struck by how this story reminded me both of The Jabberwocky (in the somewhat made-up words that were used throughout) and also of Alice in Wonderland (as the main character struggles through a world that doesn't make sense).

I love different things and beautifully dark stories and this book was both of those things in spades.  That is not to say this story will be for everyone.  If you don't like poetry or abstractness in your stories I wouldn't read this book.  A lot of the story is woven of analogies and words that don't make clear-cut sense.  If you are the type of person who likes absolutes and well-defined stories and characters this probably won't be your cup of tea.  I can see how this story and the writing style would be just plain too strange for some folks.

Overall a beautiful, creative, and different read that I found to be exquisite.  Valente is quickly turning into one of those authors that can do no wrong in my eyes.  I feel like everything I read from her is strange, wonderful and absolute golden.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
The Labyrinth 

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