Book Reviews

Review: The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

You know that feeling when you’ve become utterly transported by a story? I had that feeling from the minute I began The Empress of Salt and Fortune. This novella is luscious. It has amazing characters and is told in such a unique way. Keep reading this book review of The Empress of Salt and Fortune if you need more persuading!

Summary

A young royal from the far north, is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.

Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.

At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.

Review

(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

The Empress of Salt and Fortune is gorgeously written. Celebrating queer stories, The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a testament to taking back power – whether that be through uprising or stories. The frame narrative style of Rabbit telling her story to a Cleric is one of my favorite writing styles. It allows us to look at the past, from not only the present, but also from this external conversation. (One of my favorite examples of this is The Bone Witch!) It allows moments of self-reflexivity and tenderness.

Full of diversity (Asian period drama meets nonbinary MC and queer MC), The Empress of Salt and Fortune is both a story of the North meeting the South, and of a woman who is isolated and searching for moments of happiness in a land of hidden blades. There are slivers of sadness, in the way we become isolated and forced to play games of friendship, but balanced by rays of tenderness. The Empress of Salt and Fortune operates brilliantly on a few different levels. Not only are we witnessing the cataloging of the past, seeing objects that hold memories beneath their surface, we are engaged in storytelling – in correctly the threads of history. Both of these elements keep people, stories, and legacies alive.

Immediately after finishing, I knew I would read it all over again in a heart beat. The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a perfect read for anyone searching for a novella full of heart and politics. For those looking for hidden signals and hidden betrayal. Find The Empress of Salt and Fortune on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound & The Book Depository.

Discussion

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