My Whole Expanse I Cannot See…

I formulate infinity stored deep inside of me…

The Habitation of the Blessed: A Dirge for Prester John, Volume One

November 14th, 2010 | Category: Opinions

The Habitation of the Blessed: A Dirge for Prester John, Volume One by Catherynne M. Valente is her latest work and her addition to the legend of Prester John. Tales of Prester John aren’t new, they began in 12th century Europe, but Valente’s take on him is definitely unique. The basic story, told for centuries, is that John was a Christian fellow who went East to convert millions and become ruler over vast and beautiful, and even magical lands. Within his kingdom one could find the Fountain of Youth, and countless wonders. Valente takes the basic framework of the Prester John legend and makes it her own.

When I picked up Habitation, I really had no idea what I was getting into. I just saw that Catherynne M. Valente published something new and I slammed my money down. Her books have never left me disappointed, and her latest is really no exception. I don’t want to give too much about the story, I don’t want to rob anyone of that sense of discovery that I experienced. The book is really home to four stories told by four characters, these stories brilliantly intersect and ultimately tie together to create a lush and fully-realized world. As always, Valente’s use of language is gorgeous, she arranges words into sentences, into paragraphs that create life. Early on, the reader knows that the world they’re immersed in is tumbling toward something bad, the “what” isn’t clear, but it’s clearly coming. This sets a sense of foreboding, it causes one to want to turn the page, and turn the page, and turn the page until the last page, the last revelation. There’s this shadow over everything, beautiful scenes take on an ominous feeling, because that fall is coming, it’s so right there. This book is haunting, I still think about the end, it tells a story that stays. Let it visit and stay with you.

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