The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Thought experiment: What would it be like to transport a handful of Regency-Era children from their playtime expositions into a very real and rich toyland stolen right out of their own noggins like Athena from Zeus's brow?
Add an amazingly rich assortment of famous real and imaginary personages of the time period showing up as children's characters their own age but as dolls, luggage, rags, pins, buttons, or ANYTHING that might be found in the playroom, stir, give vivid life, and then turn it into a rich drama full of intrigue and a war between Wellington and Napoleon, and it's *almost* a smidge like a much BETTER Narnia mixed with the delightful wordplay of Valente's Fairyland books, turned Regency and Hans Christain Anderson.
And it's a pure delight. It is absolutely for young readers, Middle-Grade, apparently, but it also doesn't dumb ANYTHING down, keeping the words right but never stinting on the hard questions or the tragedies or the heartache. Would it be one of those more difficult but infinitely more rewarding books for, say, 9-year-olds? Absolutely.
Is it rich enough for any adult to be transported and delighted by the wordplay and cleverness and the realness of the tale underneath the sheer imagination? Absolutely.
Of course, I'm biased. I'm a huge fan of Valente anyway and no matter whether she's writing for adults with very, very adult themes (read pornographic) or a battle between life and death or going for the humorous angle in Space Opera or Radiance or being utterly delightful with all five of her fantastic Fairyland books, I can't seem to get enough.
She's a master of the writing craft. I have no doubt about it. :) Pure gold.
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