The Empress of Salt and Fortune

(The Singing Hills Cycle #1)

by

eBook, 112 pages

English language

Published March 23, 2020 by Tom Doherty Associates.

ISBN:
9781250750297

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4 stars (30 reviews)

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 …

2 editions

Engaging idea that didn't quite work for me

3 stars

I love the basic premise of this book: telling a story about a tough, resourceful woman through the framing of an archivist going through objects in her house and getting context for them as flashbacks. It's beautifully written, and the Empress is a compelling character. But somehow the world didn't manage to draw me in. I'm honestly not sure if that's any fault of the book, or just that I'm a bit saturated with new fictional worlds having read a lot of fantasy this year.

Interesting story about an Empress and a maid as told to a monk gathering stories

3 stars

An interesting story, as told to a travelling monk collecting narratives for an archive at their temple, of a young woman from the North that is 'presented' as a bride to the Emperor of the South. It is there that the storyteller, named Rabbit, gets involved with the foreign empresses who strangely excels in games of chance and strategy.

When the foreign Empress gives birth to an heir, she is summarily exiled to a palace far to the west to live out her days. It is here that the monk later meets Rabbit, now the maid to the Empresses, who tells the monk the story (via objects recorded by the monk) of how the Empresses was part of a scheme for the North to conquer the South. But Rabbit herself would turn out to have an unplanned part in the plot.

Told as a story within a story, the fantasy …

Review of 'The Empress of Salt and Fortune' on 'Storygraph'

5 stars

THE EMPRESS OF SALT AND FORTUNE unwinds layers of grief and years of confinement amidst luxury into the willing ears of a Cleric sent to record all they can.

The layering of the framing narrative and the tale being told made this feel like it has the scope of a much larger novel while keeping the intimacy of a personal story told by one person to another over an ultimately brief period of time. I loved it and I'm eager to read more in this series.

Review of 'The empress of salt and fortune' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

No doubt having just finished a 1200+ page book that at times lulled me to sleep the effect of this incredible novella (read in under a day) was magnified, but I can't think of a better argument for brevity as one of the key skills of a master storyteller, and this applies to both the author as well as the teller within the story. This fantastic novella also has the most incredible emotions-per-page ratio I can remember, I gasped and got teary eyed more times than I expected. Wholeheartedly recommended if you're looking for some short and sweet fantasy!

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