The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Most, if not all, attempts to render this book into something more than just a coherent seedling of the tale and not the tale itself is doomed before it even begins.
As of the tale of Prester John, read from a book that sprouted up from a book tree only to rot even as it is read, I'm lost in a welter of sensations and presentiments and, if the later parts are to be judged higher than the former, I'm forced to call this a supreme work of the imagination.
Only, it's also very firmly rooted in Medieval classics that require no modern quirks of plot or theme, rather, a dedication to getting the thoughts out in whatever shape or form the author deems fit.
It's pretty awesome and quite like any of the early classics I've enjoyed that like to meander and get to their point in their own way in their own time, and this is what happens in spades.
We see this tale from multiple views and worldviews, from modern Enlightenment to the Medieval mindset trying to force reality into a Christian box to the view of angels (though they would deny it) and demons (of which there is no proof).
Fascinating and quite frustrating is one way of putting this book. One must experience it and suffer through its turns in turn, on the hope of being planted or eating a black leaf or of living forever and changing lives in a pleasant fiction of lottery.
Clever and unique and firmly rooted in a classical style, it is, nonetheless, a superb work of the imagination and it fleshes out some of the weirdest vagaries of history. I did imagine, several times as I read this, that I was going to be bombarded with Christian sentiments very much in the tune of Prester John, but amusingly enough, poor John was stymied repeatedly and was, in the end, defeated by the Eden he was set to convert. :)
This is a tiny spoiler for those who might be turned off by their own presentiments. :) For me? I thought it had heart and soul.
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