The Folded World by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Again, as with the previous book, it's almost impossible to describe the events taking place here or giving real justice to its in-depth exploration of God, innocence, war, and love.
However, I can point to the mythical land of medieval beasts that Prester John converts to Christianity, the events of the first book that make John their king, how he becomes immortal, loves, has a family, and how all these beasts just humor him good-naturedly. They're Edenic and this magical land is pretty much Eden already.
But then we get a call to arms to save the Seat of the Holy Roman Empire against the Saracens and who raises the flag, along with all the innocent immortals who may or may not be angels? John Prester.
It's simple in the way I say it, but believe me, there's nothing simple going on inside the pages. We've got multiple PoVs... from John, his immortal and monstrous wife, and a famous explorer on the outside. They all have their own concerns and takes on reality and it's truly fascinating to behold.
Valente does no less than build a cosmos, a philosophy of living, of learning, and of loss of innocence on a grand scale. We are caught in traps of our own devising and we love with pure grace and we discover that we've changed too much to ever come back. It's really beautiful.
However, my personal enjoyment beyond the outright appreciation was kinda lacking. I can absolutely love what she tries to accomplish here and really get thrilled by the complex scaffolding of the chapters and structure and execution, her love of the language and the wordcraft, but overall, I wasn't personally awed by the story or the message. I can admit that I was (and am) awed by Valente's writing.
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