With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama, Nghi Vo's The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women.
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.
Praise for The Empress of Salt and Fortune
“An elegant gut-punch, a puzzle box that unwinds itself in its own way and in its own time. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Gorgeous. Cruel. Perfect. I didn't know I needed to read this until I did.”Seanan McGuire
"A tale of rebellion and fealty that feels both classic and fresh, The Empress of Salt and Fortune is elegantly told, strongly felt, and brimming with rich detail. An epic in miniature, beautifully realised."Zen Cho
The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a wonderful novella that unfolds as Chih, a cleric, and their bird companion, Almost Brilliant, stumble upon the old exiled home of the previous empress and find her once upon a time handmaiden, Rabbit, within. What unfolds is a beautiful, complex story set in an imperial China like setting. The story tells of how a lonely and mostly reviled woman, In-yo, from the north got her own back from the ones who sought to lay her low and keep her there. It is a puzzle story that each chapter unfolds and lets you know how In-yo arrived, what she arrived to, and how she started her slow rise to power. Beautiful and amazing, I can’t wait to have more people to talk about this book too. *** Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher I was able to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
An incredible, quick read that packs such a punch. Vo does a great job of quickly setting up enough of the world to make sense from the beginning, and filling in gaps and adding detail as the story progresses. A fairy tale/fantasy about the strength of women - their friendships, their love, and their "unimportant" hobbies.