In The Cities of Coin and Spice is the second and final book in The Orphan's Tales. It contains many of the positive aspects that could be found in the first book, such as Valente's lush writing style, and the stories within stories format. Like the first book, this novel is divided into two sections. Each section contains one big story made of many little stories. One of my favorite parts was picking up on the little moments that tied the big stories from both books together. One thing I really liked about In the Cities of Coin and Spice in particular is how we got to see a little more of what's going on outside the girl's stories, as can be seen with Dinarzad's wedding, and the girl's own reflections on her current state of living. This gives the characters that frame the story more depth and makes them much more interesting. To be perfectly honest, I wish that Valente has spent even more time on these particular characters, as I wanted to learn more about them.
Although there is so much to love about this book, I do feel that comes up short when compared to In the Night Garden. The two large stories are not as engrossing, and the characters on a whole aren't as compelling. Don't get me wrong, many of the smaller stories within the large stories were absolutely fantastic. I love the stories of the hungry ruler who couldn't stop eating, and the little spider that became a seamstress. I also enjoyed the homages to established fairy tales like “Diamonds and Toads,” “Brother and Sister,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Midas Touch.” Still, I feel as if the larger tales just weren't as interesting, and didn't resolve themselves as satisfyingly as the previous volume. Part of the reason could have been that I read the majority of this book while going through a difficult time emotionally (my fiancé's fifteen year old cousin died unexpectedly), so I couldn't concentrate on it as much as I wanted to.
Faults aside, In the Cities of Coin and Spice is a likable follow up to In the Night Garden. One of my favorite parts is the ending. That alone made the book worth picking up. I'm really happy I decided to pick up this often overlooked series.
Rating: four stars
Length: 516 pages
Source: Lewiston Public Library
Challenges: This book is not part of any challenges
Similar books: For beautifully written fantasy, try works by Patricia McKillip. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin is a children's book that also studies the impact of storytelling in a fantasy setting.
Other books I've read by this author: In the Night Garden (my review), Palimpsest (my review)
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