Review of The Folded World by Catherynne M. Valente

March 10, 2012
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

The Folded World (A Dirge for Prester John, #2)The Folded World (A Dirge for Prester John #2)
By Catherynne M. Valente, Read by Ralph Lister
9 hours 18 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Published: November 2011
ISBN: 1597802034
Themes: / Fantasy / Creatures / Monks / Quest / Immortality / War / Crusades / Parenting

Publisher Summary: When the mysterious daughter of Prester John appears on the doorstep of her father’s palace, she brings with her news of war in the West–the Crusades have begun, and the bodies of the faithful are washing up on the shores of Pentexore. Three narratives intertwine to tell the tale of the beginning of the end of the world: a younger, angrier Hagia, the blemmye-wife of John and Queen of Pentexore, who takes up arms with the rest of her nation to fight a war they barely understand, Vyala, a lion-philosopher entrusted with the care of the deformed and prophetic royal princess, and another John, John Mandeville, who in his many travels discovers the land of Pentexore–on the other side of the diamond wall meant to keep demons and monsters at bay.

These three voices weave a story of death, faith, beauty, and power, dancing in the margins of true history, illuminating a place that never was.

To fully appreciate this book, it is essential to first read The Habitation of the Blessed (A Dirge for Prester John #1), because The Folded World starts off right where the last book left off. The mythology of this trilogy is thick, and the second book builds nicely on what is developed in the first.  Where in The Habitation of the Blessed, the reader is introduced to all the fantastical creatures and the ways of the new lands, The Folded World digs deeper into the stories of some of the characters.  Although Prester John himself has lived with his blemmye wife for some time, he is still experiencing life as an outsider as he tries to put his own religion through the filters of the various beings he encounters.

It doesn’t help that the Crusades are going on, and the armies are getting closer.  Prester John doesn’t exactly fit in with his old life the way he used to.  This conflict is central to the development of the overarching story that I’m sure will continue in book #3.

While The Folded World lacked the breathtaking impact of the first book, probably just because the overall world was familiar to me, the same elements that I loved are present here – beautiful writing, a detailed mythical place with its own history and stories, and the clash between worlds.  There is one more book planned in this series, with the release date tentatively set for November 2012.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

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