17—The Orphan's Tales, Vol. 1, In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente

A young girl has an extraordinary birthmark. Her eyelids and the flesh around them are black. Her parents and all the members of the court fear her, thinking she has been marked by a demon. She is left alone and avoided until one day, in her 13th year, a young boy about her age (one of the many sons of the sultan) approaches her. She tells him that when she was about 7 months old a spirit entered her cradle and inked her face with all the stories and songs and myths of the world. Her face will remain marked until she tells all of the stories to someone who wants to hear them.

Of course, the young prince wants to hear them. He sneaks out of the castle one night to here her stories and not unlike Scheherazade, she stops every morning leaving him wanting more and more her tales.

And what wondrous tales they are. Tales of griffins and satyrs and skin stealers and changelings and gods and heroines and quests.

Often biblical in nature or parables of our own times Valente weaves a fascinating story, one which will keep the reader returning night after night.

© Surveyor of the Passing Scene