The Empress of Salt and Fortune
With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama 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. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune Details

TitleThe Empress of Salt and Fortune
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMar 24th, 2020
PublisherTor.com
Rating
GenreFantasy, Novella, LGBT, Fiction, Adult, GLBT, Queer, Feminism, Short Stories, Science Fiction Fantasy, Literature, Asian Literature

The Empress of Salt and Fortune Review

  • chai ♡
    January 1, 1970
    Dust lay thick on the history of Lake Scarlet: a soft blanket of years, keeping all the best secrets, undisturbed. But Chih, a traveling cleric who walks through puddles of ink, following footprints that form stories in their wake to collect like cards in their heart, is here to disturb them.Chih meets Rabbit, an elderly woman who tells them of the history of this beautiful and harrowing landscape, decades deadand the words rise from their ink-and-cotton cradles and swirl into the air again, Dust lay thick on the history of Lake Scarlet: a soft blanket of years, keeping all the best secrets, undisturbed. But Chih, a traveling cleric who walks through puddles of ink, following footprints that form stories in their wake to collect like cards in their heart, is here to disturb them.Chih meets Rabbit, an elderly woman who tells them of the history of this beautiful and harrowing landscape, decades dead—and the words rise from their ink-and-cotton cradles and swirl into the air again, reshaping the true face of history.  Rabbit doesn’t take the sting out of her memories. She doesn’t dust them up along the edges, or blur them with soft pencils. She isn’t telling a story as much as she is pinning down shards of history with well-aimed throws of a dagger before they could melt into paper like watermarks, gone as soon as the ink dries. “Do you understand?” she asks Chi, urgent and hushed, and it feels like a weight Chi can't shed or throw off,  now forever a part of them, as much as their bones and their blood. “Do you understand?” the words, too, like a rope, mooring the reader to the page.Rabbit tells the story of the exiled Empress In-Yo from the North, who Rabbit served as a loyal handmaiden. In-Yo who was brought to court for a marriage of alliance, and expected to curl into her good-wife place like a loyal hound at her master’s feet—neither loved nor despised, but an in-between creature allowed to scurry freely so long as she didn’t cause trouble. In-Yo who had been called to greater things, and who, in due course, had moved mountains, defeated the mighty, and made the world sing the song she chose for it. In-Yo who might have once carried within her parts of her that nurtured and sang and loved but which went out of her to animate what was left: the fear and rage and vengeance. The world had cycled through endless permutations of this story. They built a sustainable catalog of half-lies, altering truths to appease the living, but Rabbit’s “allegiance lies with the dead, and no matter what the clerics say, the dead care for very little.”Do you understand? “Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.” I was almost reluctant to turn the last page of this book, as though I were under a spell that would be broken the moment my finger touched the unyielding reality of my kindle’s power button. Everything was bathed and saturated with its presence, and I felt suspended then, hovering weightless as a puff of smoke, in some place where I could believe in magic and story keepers and memories that extend backward through time’s infinite doorways.At only 100 pages, the book itself is short, and yet, remarkably, Nghi Vo carries a great deal with her in the pages of The Empress of Salt and Fortune: horror, beauty, wonder, and a searing paean to the power of story. Told through flashbacks, meditations, and stories within stories, a reader has the sense here of a handful of fully realized novels, all circling each other. I had the idea that each of these characters is standing at the beginning of another fantastical story, and I wanted to follow them all.The novel is taut as piano wire, hypnotic, symphonic, and riveting from its opening lines. In Nghi Vo’s prose, voices have texture and weight like polished ivory—they rise and fall like a ballad, lulling the reader, pulling at them, stroking them—and every rippling nuance is captured with precision and acuity. The fleshy, savory storylines, the gorgeous ideas and images in conflict, as well as in concert, are well worth carrying out of the text to admire further, and the masterful sleight of hand that draws the story to a satisfying ending pretty much begs you to immediately flip to the first page and start all over.The Empress of Salt and Fortune is also a poignant, quietly pensive book, bristling with so much heart-piercing wisdom. In her novel, Nghi Vo turns her attention to the kinds of characters and conflicts you often find sidelined in such stories, pondering weighty questions that feel both urgent and timeless—and she does so to genuinely tremendous effect. It’s “the story under the story,” as Nghi Vo said in a recent talk with Tor, once shrouded and entombed now working itself free, as if slowly rising out of the ruins of a collapsed house after an earthquake, and carving a space where it can beat again. Nghi Vo takes us deeper into a world of strife, where wars are “won by silenced and nameless women”, through seasons when all hopes wilt and die and bloom anew, and deeper we go, feeling as though we were at the cusp of dreaming, yet somehow never more awake.The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a ravishingly beautiful book, a graceful, incandescent story like absolutely no other. The longer you are here, the harder it is to remember anywhere else.☆ ko-fi ★ blog ☆ twitter ★ tumblr ☆
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  • Lala BooksandLala
    January 1, 1970
    My favourite book I read in March! 🙌Book 27 of 30 for my 30 day reading challenge. Empress of Salt and Fortune was this remarkable little tale told by an elderly woman named Rabbit. We have a cleric named Chi (they/them) and their hoopoe Almost Brilliant who are listening to the story of the Empress In-Yo, who had Rabbit as a handmaiden during the time when she was married into an alliance, and then exiled. Nghi Vo delivers a deeply moving, atmospheric story of feminism, resilience, and My favourite book I read in March! 🙌Book 27 of 30 for my 30 day reading challenge. Empress of Salt and Fortune was this remarkable little tale told by an elderly woman named Rabbit. We have a cleric named Chi (they/them) and their hoopoe Almost Brilliant who are listening to the story of the Empress In-Yo, who had Rabbit as a handmaiden during the time when she was married into an alliance, and then exiled. Nghi Vo delivers a deeply moving, atmospheric story of feminism, resilience, and rebellion, steeped with culture and mythology, featuring a queer cast. Truly, what more could you want?https://youtu.be/8CA3Ep_Z1-g
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  • Boston
    January 1, 1970
    This book doesnt make you feel things you can put into words. It makes you feel things that only you can feel and only you can comprehend. And I mean this in the best way possible. This book doesn’t make you feel things you can put into words. It makes you feel things that only you can feel and only you can comprehend. And I mean this in the best way possible.
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  • Bradley
    January 1, 1970
    I'm always on the lookout for writers who are getting people excited, and this one graced my radar several times before I was able to grab her on Netgalley. This one has some really cool setting descriptions (evocative and colorful), excellent use of object descriptions (telling very understated stories that branch much deeper than first implications), and some very cool points of subtlety in the telling of a much larger story.In a nutshell, we hear the story of an exiled princess in a I'm always on the lookout for writers who are getting people excited, and this one graced my radar several times before I was able to grab her on Netgalley. This one has some really cool setting descriptions (evocative and colorful), excellent use of object descriptions (telling very understated stories that branch much deeper than first implications), and some very cool points of subtlety in the telling of a much larger story.In a nutshell, we hear the story of an exiled princess in a Chinese-like high-fantasy dynasty and we see how she got power in a male-dominated world. But again, the story is subtle and prefers to keep a mild face throughout. I enjoyed all of this quite a bit.There are also some pretty wonderful non-binary characters, but it's not like we should judge this novella based on whether it is non-binary or LGBTQ...Right? Let me be honest. This novella is not that new. I've read some rather wonderful Guy Gavriel Kay novels recently that is just as evocative, set in similar situations, with as much High Fantasy ethos, culture, and it punched me with many subtle punches. I felt for both the females and the males. LGBTQ and straights. Kim Stanley Robinson has also pulled off something as wonderful in Years of Rice and Salt.I can probably rattle off half a dozen shorter works from the last two years alone and more than two dozen LGBTQ novellas that are coming nearly exclusively from several notable venues, all of which tout that we're FINALLY getting LGBTQ stories... and yet it almost feels like EVERY story I read that is published today is ONLY LGBTQ. Am I a hater?Hell no. But let's put it this way: if any market is glutted with a particular agenda, then one cannot accurately say that they're FINALLY getting a voice. Back around 2000, it was unusual. Now? Well, out of every recent modern book I've read, approximately 9/10 are LGBTQ. When did diversity come to mean exclusivity? And if you ask why I'm bringing this up here and now, I want to be clear that I'm not coming down on the author. I'm going to read more of her work. The finger I'm pointing at is the industry and the fans who stoke their own anger at society by removing equality from the playing field in the name of diversity and then come back to tell us all that things have been unfair for far too long.I have a very strong sense of fairness. This isn't the author's fault. I suppose I'm drowning a bit in the fact that there is LGBTQ everywhere I look.That being said, returning to this novella, I really DID enjoy it, but there is already a lot of SilkPunk out here. This one is one of the more subtle of the breed but it isn't all that original. It stands on the shoulders of many previous storytellers.
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  • Hamad
    January 1, 1970
    I am keeping this short: I was confused most of the time, the writing was great but I finished while still trying to connect to the characters and story. I felt it was a bit choppy and disjointed. Still a fast feminist short story if you want want.
  • Clemlucian (🏳️‍🌈the villain's quest)
    January 1, 1970
    3/5 starsInstagram | youtube arc received through netgalleyThe empress of salt and fortune is a short story about an exiled empress and her rise to power and her unconditional love for women. While the whimsical writing style of this book enhanced the experience, turning the story into a fairy tale, there was little to anything else to this book. The characters, while complex, were seen from distance, which made any kind of emotional connection impossible. The pacing of the story felt off, as 3/5 starsInstagram | youtube arc received through netgalleyThe empress of salt and fortune is a short story about an exiled empress and her rise to power and her unconditional love for women. While the whimsical writing style of this book enhanced the experience, turning the story into a fairy tale, there was little to anything else to this book. The characters, while complex, were seen from distance, which made any kind of emotional connection impossible. The pacing of the story felt off, as the tale sped up on the interesting, character-revealing parts, to focus on introspective, 'this and that happened' storytelling.
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  • Acqua
    January 1, 1970
    Empress of Salt and Fortune is the best example of quiet fantasy I know. It's a story about a revolution, about the upheaval of an empire, the way many fantasy stories are - and yet it's unlike everything I've ever read. There isn't one fight scene, it's told decades after the events happened, and it relies so much on details and symbolism, as quiet fantasy does when it needs to talk about something not quiet at all.It follows Chih (they/them), a cleric - who pretty much functions as a historian Empress of Salt and Fortune is the best example of quiet fantasy I know. It's a story about a revolution, about the upheaval of an empire, the way many fantasy stories are - and yet it's unlike everything I've ever read. There isn't one fight scene, it's told decades after the events happened, and it relies so much on details and symbolism, as quiet fantasy does when it needs to talk about something not quiet at all.It follows Chih (they/them), a cleric - who pretty much functions as a historian and archivist - and their nixin Almost Brilliant, a magical hoopoe, as they talk with Rabbit, an old woman who was once one of the Empress' servants.This novella is split between Chih's present and Rabbit's past, and most chapters begin with an inventory. It's a story told through the history of objects as much as the history of people, as the small, mundane details have their own language, and this book understands that. This hidden language of symbols is an important thread running through the story, and it's tied to its main theme - the power that lies in what is overlooked. Like servants. Like exiled wives, as In-yo, the Empress of Salt and Fortune, was. Like the bonds women form with each other, and the way they support each others through hardships.Because of its setup, this novella felt a lot like the mirror version of another queer Asian-inspired novella about devotion and revolution told in flashbacks I've read, The Ascent to Godhood (by the way, I would recommend this to all Tensorate fans). Unlike Ascent, however, it's all but a tragic villain story. Empress of Salt and Fortune is gentle, unhurried, and very short - and more powerful than a lot of fantasy trilogies.Half of the reason this story is so memorable is the writing. It's never flowery and always sharp, almost minimalistic, so that what isn't said and is just left implied has just as much weight as what is written. The descriptions are short but incredibly vivid, as is true for everything in this book, to be honest. Even minor characters that only appear in flashbacks, like Mai and Yan Lian, are so well-drawn they jump off the page. And In-yo? She's already dead at the beginning of the story, but you could feel the power of her presence. The writing is that good.Also, I loved the worldbuilding. It's deceptively simple, clear and never messy, and the amount of casual queerness - not only the worldbuilding isn't binarist, there are queer side characters too, which include In-yo - was amazing. Also, there are talking animals and people ride mammoths. How could I not love that.Empress of Salt and Fortune is one of the best novellas I've ever read, now maybe even my favorite! I really look forward to reading what Nghi Vo will write in the future.
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  • Romie
    January 1, 1970
    this book proved that stories can be both short and impactful. we get to spend so little time with these characters, and yet we learn so much about them. we learn about their hopes and deepest desires, their fears and dreams. this little fantasy book inspired by Chinese history did more to my heart than some of the longest fantasy books I've read. this is about untold stories, the ones you don't learn about because they're not seen as important enough, the ones that hold the truth. it's about this book proved that stories can be both short and impactful. we get to spend so little time with these characters, and yet we learn so much about them. we learn about their hopes and deepest desires, their fears and dreams. this little fantasy book inspired by Chinese history did more to my heart than some of the longest fantasy books I've read. this is about untold stories, the ones you don't learn about because they're not seen as important enough, the ones that hold the truth. it's about women loving and supporting each other fiercely. it's about loyalty, to the people you love, alive or dead. it's a beautiful book.
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  • laurel [suspected bibliophile]
    January 1, 1970
    A northern barbarian is sent south to marry the emperor. Once she bears a son, she's sent into exile with only her faithful servant at her side. But her story doesn't end there. Her story is just beginning.Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.Oh. My. Goodness.READ THIS NOVELLA. READ IT NOW. IT IS AMAZING.I cannot even begin to describe how amazing it is. It's about the anger of women in a society built to keep them powerless, and how women can get away with literal A northern barbarian is sent south to marry the emperor. Once she bears a son, she's sent into exile with only her faithful servant at her side. But her story doesn't end there. Her story is just beginning.Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.Oh. My. Goodness.READ THIS NOVELLA. READ IT NOW. IT IS AMAZING.I cannot even begin to describe how amazing it is. It's about the anger of women in a society built to keep them powerless, and how women can get away with literal political coups by using the very tools that men poo-poo as silly, frivolous things to rip power away.It took me a minute to get into the story, as it's set about 60 or so years after the events take place and things were a little confusing at first. Cleric Chih is on a quest to uncover what really happened during the Empress In-yo's time in exile, and stumbles into the empress's former handmaiden, Rabbit.While the main action occurs through Rabbit's tales of the past, the present is very much important.However, Rabbit recounts her fierce bond to her mistress, and how their unlikely relationship endured through the years—Rabbit wasn't seen as a threat by the men in power and therefore was allowed to remain, but she was probably the most important part of In-yo's schemes because she was the most invisible of them all.I absolutely adored In-yo, the "uncouth barbarian" who eschewed southern etiquette for practicalities.In all fairness, she did a great deal of business from her bed, still in her nightclothes. In-yo used to say that if she were going to be doing this kind of business, she might as well be comfortable.Anywho, it's short, feminist as fuck and very Asian. If you're into all of those things (in addition to fantasy), definitely check this novella out.In-yo would say that the war was won by silenced and nameless women, and it would be hard to argue with her.Do you understand?I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
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  • Kelsea
    January 1, 1970
    This was such a beautiful, sharp little fairytale. I had high hopes that the story would be as wonderful as its absolutely stunning cover, and I was not disappointed! Nghi Vo's writing is dreamlike, with soft, tender hooks that slowly grow sharper, drawing you in more and more with each chapter.I will say the plot gets a bit confusing if you try to read it too quickly. The story moves fast, covers a long period of time (relative to the length of the book), and the reader is expected to fill in This was such a beautiful, sharp little fairytale. I had high hopes that the story would be as wonderful as its absolutely stunning cover, and I was not disappointed! Nghi Vo's writing is dreamlike, with soft, tender hooks that slowly grow sharper, drawing you in more and more with each chapter.I will say the plot gets a bit confusing if you try to read it too quickly. The story moves fast, covers a long period of time (relative to the length of the book), and the reader is expected to fill in the spaces with logical leaps. While I can see how that may have tripped some readers up, I didn't find that bothersome. As a speed reader, I tend to whiz through books. With a novella, speed reading means the book is over in the blink of an eye. I love how Nghi Vo's style forced me to slow down and savor the story.The Empress of Salt and Fortune is more than a novella -- it's a spell. Reading it was an experience to be treasured. This is a book I can see myself rereading in the future!
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  • J.A. Ironside
    January 1, 1970
    ARC provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest reviewThis was utterly spellbinding. A rich, surprisingly intricate tale that seemed woven of thousands of strands of silk as much as written. Aside from the fact that the style is exquisite, this is an amazingly powerful tale about female friendship, love, loss and the power of women's voices when women band together to remove the restraints of silence placed upon them. There are hints of fantasy here too and the story is set in a historical ARC provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest reviewThis was utterly spellbinding. A rich, surprisingly intricate tale that seemed woven of thousands of strands of silk as much as written. Aside from the fact that the style is exquisite, this is an amazingly powerful tale about female friendship, love, loss and the power of women's voices when women band together to remove the restraints of silence placed upon them. There are hints of fantasy here too and the story is set in a historical China inspired landscape. A young cleric and her hoopoe - a sentient, taking bird with edetic memory - are travelling to the capital to see the new Empress form her first dragon court. On the way they chance upon an old woman named Rabbit who turns out to have known the previous Empress very well indeed. As the cleric records Rabbit's story, the reader is treated to a richly detailed story of how the previous empress came to the throne; how women sometimes have to hide in plain site and bide their time, but in forming strong friendships and valuing each other regardless of background, they can become a force to be reckoned with no matter how silenced they are or how marginalised.This is simply stunning. A beautiful story that was poignant and stirring, never shying from cruelties but somehow finding a way to show the triumph of human and especially women's will and fortitude. Highly recommend this to anyone who wants a female led fantasy that is sutle and kind in the face of great opposition.
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  • Brenda Waworga
    January 1, 1970
    This book felt like a fairytale book.. while the story felt whimsical.. a tale about empress and kingdom and friendship, i felt no connection with the whole characters and storyI love it's an Asian inspired story and got a storng feminist story but i feel everything is LESS... less connection, less character development In the end i feel confused and meh 😑😣I hope the story will be longer tho to create more connection between us the reader and the characters inside this bookIf you are looking an This book felt like a fairytale book.. while the story felt whimsical.. a tale about empress and kingdom and friendship, i felt no connection with the whole characters and storyI love it's an Asian inspired story and got a storng feminist story but i feel everything is LESS... less connection, less character development In the end i feel confused and meh 😑😣I hope the story will be longer tho to create more connection between us the reader and the characters inside this bookIf you are looking an Asian inspired and feminist ahort story, this probably can work for you
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  • Sana
    January 1, 1970
    '...at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.' 'It's also a narrative centered on two fascinating women, the ways in which women are allowed to be angry, and the question of who is ultimately allowed to write the history that lives on.'SO HERE FOR IT and also that the author and editor are both AsAm, that's the kind of rep to root forSource
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  • Fatma
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 starsThe Empress of Salt and Fortune wasn't a bad story; it just wasn't a developed enough one for me. My impression upon finishing this novella"...that's it?"remains my lasting impression of this novella as a whole. In other words, I was underwhelmed.I want to say that I found this underdeveloped because it was so short, but that would be doing a disservice to all the short fiction I've recently read that has been excellent despite, and even because of, its length. The Empress of Salt and 2.5 starsThe Empress of Salt and Fortune wasn't a bad story; it just wasn't a developed enough one for me. My impression upon finishing this novella—"...that's it?"—remains my lasting impression of this novella as a whole. In other words, I was underwhelmed.I want to say that I found this underdeveloped because it was so short, but that would be doing a disservice to all the short fiction I've recently read that has been excellent despite, and even because of, its length. The Empress of Salt and Fortune had all the bones of a compelling story: a world based on Asian history and mythology, a story-within-a-story narrative, a focus on the inner workings of an empire from a female perspective. Sadly, though, these facets just didn't come together for me; the compelling parts didn't cohere into a particularly compelling whole, here. The characters, especially, felt insubstantial, lacking definition. What little character development they had was confined to their roles, and to the attendant set of qualities you would expect them to have based on those roles (handmaiden = self-effacing, unassuming; empress = bold, self-assured). It was characterization that felt more uninspired than anything else, producing characters that were less fleshed out and complex and more archetypal and one-note.The plot, as well, only made my issues with the one-note characterization more glaring. It was a fairly traditional, linear plot, moving in exactly the direction you would expect it to move in. That is to say, it's a plot that ends very conservatively, so much so that I was a bit baffled when I got to the ending because I didn't think that the author would go in such an unexpected, and frankly underwhelming, direction. Having said all of that, I don't expect every story I go into to be ground-breaking or insanely innovative; I love me some good ol' classic tropes (hate-to-love romances, found family, etc. etc.) from time to time. The issue here is that I didn't think the tropes in this particular story were as well-executed as I wanted them to be; for me, The Empress of Salt and Fortune was just one of those stories that was more compelling in theory than in actuality.(Thanks so much to Tor.com for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!)
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  • c, (½ of readsrainbow)
    January 1, 1970
    I know what ambition feels like. This feels different. Like a weight around my shoulders, or a stone carried over my heart. On my blog. Rep: nonbinary mc, wlw characters, Southeast Asian (Vietnamese?) inspired characters and settingGalley provided by publisherDo you ever finish a novella and simultaneously youre satisfied because its managed to tell a complete story but also you want to be living in that world for so much longer? Well, this is one of those.The Empress of Salt and Fortune takes I know what ambition feels like. This feels different. Like a weight around my shoulders, or a stone carried over my heart. On my blog. Rep: nonbinary mc, wlw characters, Southeast Asian (Vietnamese?) inspired characters and settingGalley provided by publisherDo you ever finish a novella and simultaneously you’re satisfied because it’s managed to tell a complete story but also you want to be living in that world for so much longer? Well, this is one of those.The Empress of Salt and Fortune takes place years after a coup. A chronicler arrives at the place where the empress was exiled to and meets her old handmaiden, and from there we find out the events that took place leading up to the start of the coup.Frankly, the best thing about this novella is the worldbuilding and the writing. You know when a book makes you want to live in a particular world forever and not stop reading? Well, yeah. I so desperately wanted this book to be longer than the 110 pages that it was. It felt like the story the handmaiden told could be a full length novel in itself, and we only got snapshots of everything that was going on.Then, the characters! It feels cliched to say that it seemed as though the characters came to life off the page, but they were so well-developed in such a short (or so) amount of time, and they really did almost come to life.I think it would be safe to say that this novella has left me speechless, for lack of another word. I’m struggling to put down just how much I loved it (which in itself should be a reason for you to read it). So really, all I can say is, preorder this one. You won’t regret it.
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  • Shealea
    January 1, 1970
    Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.Absolutely blown away. Full review to follow.* I received a digital ARC of this book (via NetGalley) from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. “Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.”Absolutely blown away. Full review to follow.* I received a digital ARC of this book (via NetGalley) from its publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Bob
    January 1, 1970
    Its not often I describe a book as beautiful but, dammit, The Empress of Salt and Fortune was as gorgeous in its telling as it was lush in its setting. Its a simple tale in so far a the plot is concerned, but layered and complex in its narrative stylings.Nghi Vo tells the story through Rabbit, an elderly woman who was once handmaiden to the Empress, as she shares her memories with Chih, a non-binary Cleric, and ALmost Brilliant, their sentient avian companion, prompted by artifacts and mementos It’s not often I describe a book as beautiful but, dammit, The Empress of Salt and Fortune was as gorgeous in its telling as it was lush in its setting. It’s a simple tale in so far a the plot is concerned, but layered and complex in its narrative stylings.Nghi Vo tells the story through Rabbit, an elderly woman who was once handmaiden to the Empress, as she shares her memories with Chih, a non-binary Cleric, and ALmost Brilliant, their sentient avian companion, prompted by artifacts and mementos found with a cottage on the shores of a haunted lake. The opening pages, as Chih walks the lonely path between spirits, is one of the most fantastic scenes I’ve come across in recent fiction.The narrative structure here is one of patterns and puzzles. Each chapter opens with a cataloguing of artifacts, paired with thoughts and observations from Chih, followed by Rabbit sharing a memory prompted by those objects, and then finishing with a question regarding the deeper significance of those memories. It should be artificial and repetitive, but the novella-length keeps it from becoming tiresome.What those memories come together to tell is the story of two women far from home, trapped in some ways, and yet never prisoners. We see them both raised high, cast into exile, targeted for assassination, and quietly raised up again through the subtle plots and plans so easily overlooked by men with time-worn assumptions of purpose and agency. It is a story where how and why are just as important as what, and where each chapter holds a new revelation.The telling of The Empress of Salt and Fortune makes the novella-length perfect for this tale, but I would have like more detail and depth. There’s an entire novel buried deep within these pages, but we’re only given a surface glance, limited to those artifacts, memories, and questions.https://femledfantasy.home.blog/2020/...
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  • Silvia
    January 1, 1970
    I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 2.5 starsI appreciate what this book did but it really wasn't for me.Usually I like to start certain books knowing almost nothing about them, and this is what I did with this novella as well. In hindsight this has proved to be a mistake on my part: I think I would have benefitted from reading some reviews, although I don't think it would have changed my enjoyment of it.My I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 2.5 starsI appreciate what this book did but it really wasn't for me.Usually I like to start certain books knowing almost nothing about them, and this is what I did with this novella as well. In hindsight this has proved to be a mistake on my part: I think I would have benefitted from reading some reviews, although I don't think it would have changed my enjoyment of it.My biggest problem: I'm not someone who can read descriptions and see a clear picture in my head, unless I want to spend a lot (and I really mean a lot) of mental capacity focused on this task alone, which means sometimes spending five minutes on a paragraph alone. Something I frankly wasn't ready to do with a 100-pages novella. Don't get me wrong, I didn't have the impression that most of this book was made of descriptions, and yet I just somehow never saw it in my head. I guess I can fairly say that the writing style, while objectively good, was simply something I didn't vibe with.The story is more about female friendship and female agency than any particular big event, and it's a story that happened decades ago and is now told by Rabbit to Chih, who uses they/them. It's a story told through objects as well as words, and I do think it was very interesting to see. I was impressed to see how minor characters from the past had a complete personality even when they were only on page for maybe one chapter at the time. I more than once thought character X was going to become very important, only for them to never appear again. How they became so vivid in the span of a few paragraphs is beyond me and I think the author really did a great job there.It's always hard to realize a book is not for you when everyone 5-stars it, and especially it being casually queer I really wanted to love it more than I did, but the truth is while I enjoyed some parts I kept feeling like there was something wrong with me for not caring about it or not seeing what everyone else is seeing. I do want to keep an eye on the author but this unfortunately fell short for me.
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  • Sahitya
    January 1, 1970
    I seem to have a new found love for novellas and when I saw the cover for this one, I was completely blown away and purchased it immediately. And if theres one thing I can say, its that the book is as gorgeous as its cover.The writing style of this book took some getting used to but once I got the hang of it, I felt lost within the beautiful words. Its very atmospheric and I loved how the author was able to evoke such wonderful images in my head through her words. The story is also told like I seem to have a new found love for novellas and when I saw the cover for this one, I was completely blown away and purchased it immediately. And if there’s one thing I can say, it’s that the book is as gorgeous as it’s cover.The writing style of this book took some getting used to but once I got the hang of it, I felt lost within the beautiful words. It’s very atmospheric and I loved how the author was able to evoke such wonderful images in my head through her words. The story is also told like snippets from history, each event corresponding to an object from the time; and I found this style to be very unique. This is also the story about a long dead empress told by one of her servants, and I loved the way it highlights the important roles played by forgotten women during a revolution. True to it’s promotions, this is an exquisite Asian inspired fantasy tale about royalty, feminism, friendship and empire; written beautifully and with great representation and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves feminist fantasy. Don’t be disheartened if you are unsure initially - just push through a bit and I have a feeling you’ll fall in love with it as much as I did.
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  • Beth Cato
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley.Lyrical, haunting, heartbreaking. This novella exemplifies the extraordinary work that Tor is sharing with the world right now. Truly, this is a read that makes you feel all the feels.A cleric travels the land to preserve tales for generations to come. Along an isolated, incredible lakefront, they intend to chronicle a place important in the life of the Empress of Salt and Fortune: a woman who produced an heir but did not quietly accept her I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley.Lyrical, haunting, heartbreaking. This novella exemplifies the extraordinary work that Tor is sharing with the world right now. Truly, this is a read that makes you feel all the feels.A cleric travels the land to preserve tales for generations to come. Along an isolated, incredible lakefront, they intend to chronicle a place important in the life of the Empress of Salt and Fortune: a woman who produced an heir but did not quietly accept her new life, banished to the hinterlands. The cleric encounters Rabbit, an old woman who was once a handmaiden to the Empress. Day by day, the cleric finds objects of historical relevance and listens to the tales of Rabbit. Listens, and eventually, learns.Truly, this elegant read expresses the importance of storytelling, and how the voices of the people sneered at as the most insignificant are often the ones we are the wisest to heed. There are touches of magic in this setting, but worldbuilding and action are not the emphases here. This book is about people--women in particular. It is angry, it is rebellious, and ultimately, triumphant, even amid deep sorrow.I am adding this novella to my shortlist for awards consideration this coming year.
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  • The Nerd Daily
    January 1, 1970
    Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Christina LaddThe Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo unfolds from the detritus of empire: the gaudy baubles, the cherished mementos, and the trappings of office, whether salt or dice or garments. Empires might be won with weapons, but they are kept with culture. The Empress In-yo knows this when she arrives, a girl in the sealskin finery of her homeland that is ill-suited to the swelter of her new land. And as she sets about exploiting it in Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Christina LaddThe Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo unfolds from the detritus of empire: the gaudy baubles, the cherished mementos, and the trappings of office, whether salt or dice or garments. Empires might be won with weapons, but they are kept with culture. The Empress In-yo knows this when she arrives, a girl in the sealskin finery of her homeland that is ill-suited to the swelter of her new land. And as she sets about exploiting it in order to free her people, the book invites us to wonder what she is winning and what she is losing along the way.The descriptions of various objects head the chapters like museum plaques, robbed of emotion and of context. It’s a clever narrative construction, as it immediately creates a layer of remove from the source of the narrative, the Empress In-yo. Objects, to those unfamiliar with their history or use, are silent. They give up their secrets grudgingly and incompletely, much like rulers do.Chih is a (nonbinary! Woo!) Cleric dedicated to the preservation of history, and wants to draw out secrets from anything and everything. With them is Almost Brilliant, a type of magical hoopoe capable of perfect recall. The two are meant to attend the ascension of the new empress, but they pause to investigate a near-forgotten palace. The palace has been sealed away by magic and by decree of the former Empress of Salt and Fortune In-yo, who did not wish the details of her past to become public fodder. While exploring and recording the contents of the palace, they meet Rabbit, the old empress’s most trusted and beloved handmaid. Rabbit has her own secrets and biases, and creates another layer of remove from In-yo even as she reveals some of the objects’ secrets.Rabbit reveals the history of a young woman given in tribute to the Emperor of Anh, just as Rabbit herself was given in lieu of taxes to the imperial palace. Rabbit serves by cleaning floors; In-yo serves by becoming a wife and birthing an heir. Both are underestimated women who stoke those low opinions, the better to hide their true abilities. Because In-yo, daughter of a conquered but unbroken people, is seizing power of her own.Though it’s a brief novella, I was repeatedly surprised by the number of twists packed into the narrative. They aren’t “gotcha” horror-style twists, just moments of insight and cleverness that keep the stories from ever growing predictable, even though this is a story we all know. It’s the story of the underdog rising up, the story of justice. And it’s also the story of justice not fully done, of the inherent unfairness of empire.In-yo, a foreigner and a young woman in a patriarchal society, is our underdog. And she recruits other underdogs, the servants and fortune-tellers whom the empire ignores. But from a sadistic general killed by a spindle to the eye, to a great mage persuaded to shift his allegiances by a disappeared daughter, the war was truly fought and “won by silenced and nameless women” (82). There is grim satisfaction in their shared triumph.But of course, In-yo has a name. She is the key on which the rebellion turns, the key that unlocks her people’s freedom and her enemies’ defeat. So does that make it more her story, or is the story Rabbit’s? Does In-yo get to shape history, or is In-yo a smaller girl wearing the persona of the Empress of Salt and Fortune? Is she the avatar of the dispossessed, or a further shadow hiding their names?Rulers—especially imperial rulers—are more and less than people. They cannot be fully known. They also cannot be fully impartial or fully equitable. Empire in some ways precludes fairness, something Vo explores implicitly, while still giving theThe prose is subtle and lyrical, elegant but not effusive. Vo conveys depth of feeling with an absolute minimum of words and scenes: a tragic love story, a great sacrifice, a terrible duty, and plot after skilful plot. It’s a masterpiece of understatement and implication. This is the little black dress of books: it gives the impression of effortlessness while being quietly meticulous in every stitch. And it’s for everyone. I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t like this book. The Empress of Salt and Fortune has everything, and nothing in excess.
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  • Marija (Inside My Library Mind)
    January 1, 1970
    More reviews up on my blog Inside My Library Mind Actual rating: 4.5 stars "The Empress of Salt and Fortune belongs to all her subjects, and she was romantic and terrible and glamourous and sometimes all three at once." This was spectacular! This is a short novella that packs such a punch in its 100 pages. It's a story that celebrates female friendships but also one that mainly focuses on women reclaiming both their agency and their place in history. It's a story that focuses on the More reviews up on my blog Inside My Library Mind Actual rating: 4.5 stars "The Empress of Salt and Fortune belongs to all her subjects, and she was romantic and terrible and glamourous and sometimes all three at once." This was spectacular! This is a short novella that packs such a punch in its 100 pages. It's a story that celebrates female friendships but also one that mainly focuses on women reclaiming both their agency and their place in history. It's a story that focuses on the Empress and her time in exile, and her friendship with her handmaiden Rabbit, and it has a really interesting structure, one that I really enjoyed and one that slowly and gradually reveals the story. I cannot recommend this one more. Please pick it up on March 24th! I received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher. Thank you to Tor Dot Com. All opinions are my own. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest
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  • Lina
    January 1, 1970
    4,5 stars This spring continues to surprise me: yet another amazing new release!''The Empress of Salt and Fortune'' starts off with Chih, the ultimate historian of this world, and her sentient bird companion (that has a perfect memory) being on a mission of gathering information about the deceased and renowned Empress In-Yo. Arriving at their destination (the place where the Empress spent her time whilst in exile), Chih meet (Chih use pronoun they) an old woman that goes by the name Rabbit. And 4,5 stars This spring continues to surprise me: yet another amazing new release!''The Empress of Salt and Fortune'' starts off with Chih, the ultimate historian of this world, and her sentient bird companion (that has a perfect memory) being on a mission of gathering information about the deceased and renowned Empress In-Yo. Arriving at their destination (the place where the Empress spent her time whilst in exile), Chih meet (Chih use pronoun ‘they’) an old woman that goes by the name Rabbit. And it is Rabbit who tells us a fascinating story of the Empress's life. Even though we follow Chih, In-Yo and Rabbit play a much bigger role in the story. And I loved both of them: kind, hard-working and loyal Rabbit and clever, sly and ingenious In-Yo, who didn’t let the cruel emperor and his people write her off that easily.Even now I don't think I can coherently describe all my feeling about this book.It was such a beautiful story, unique and whimsical (in a good sense).It definitely had a fairy-tale feel to it.As all good things come to an end, this book does so, too, and pretty fast. My one and only complaint would be that there was not enough of this book!!! ''The Empress of Salt and Fortune'' really reminded me how my mom used to read me bed-time stories in the sultry summer evenings. (Narrative style is what most likely gave me this feeling) If you are in a mood for a bit of childhood nostalgia, then get this book, grab a cup of something hot (like tea or milk) and embark on a magical journey to the world of the stunning Empress In-Yo.
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  • Caidyn (BW Reviews; he/him/his)
    January 1, 1970
    A short and enjoyable read! I don't have too much to say about this book, just that I enjoyed it. I think I'll reread this someday because I feel like I missed a lot of information while reading it. Still, a good story!
  • eyes.2c
    January 1, 1970
    Original! Refreshing!The cadence of this novella has a pure and lyrical quality. Reading it was like watching a traditional Chinese scroll unfold, the painting rich and nuanced.And yet the story of a princess contracting to a political marriage, and how she rises to power is a far from traditional tale, even as the telling invokes that.Told from the viewpoint of Rabbit, the handmaiden to the young exiled Empress, gives a distinct voice to the story.A Macmillan-Tor/Forge ARC via NetGalley
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  • Aleksandra
    January 1, 1970
    This was a good read, I liked the plot structure of somebody telling a story within a story but I didnt connect to it all emotionally. The main character used they/them pronouns and they have a talking bird companion which is awesome, I liked the setting and political intrigue (of sorts). This was a good read, I liked the plot structure of somebody telling a story within a story but I didn’t connect to it all emotionally. The main character used they/them pronouns and they have a talking bird companion which is awesome, I liked the setting and political intrigue (of sorts).
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  • Ana
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this SO MUCH! This is my favorite book of the year so far ( I know thats not funny but like it is let me live). I loved the format this used to tell the story and I was really interested and invested in all the characters even though this only took like two hours to read. The themes were very interesting and subtly displayed and I think it does a good job of presenting ideas and preparing you for conversation. I would highly recommend this if the summary interests you AT ALL give it a I loved this SO MUCH! This is my favorite book of the year so far ( I know thats not funny but like it is let me live). I loved the format this used to tell the story and I was really interested and invested in all the characters even though this only took like two hours to read. The themes were very interesting and subtly displayed and I think it does a good job of presenting ideas and preparing you for conversation. I would highly recommend this if the summary interests you AT ALL give it a shot you won’t regret it!♥️📖✨ Advanced Reader Copy recieved from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ✨📖♥️
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  • Giovanna
    January 1, 1970
    ✨ I dont know how much I will last but original review hereAngry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a novella told mostly through the perspective of a cleric, an archivist named Chih, whose task is to record the late Empress history. Her story is slowly and gradually reconstructed through some of the objects she used throughout her life: a dress, salt, star charts; common objects that hide, behind well crafted symbolism, a revolutionary tale. ✨ I don’t know how much I will last but original review here“Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.”The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a novella told mostly through the perspective of a cleric, an archivist named Chih, whose task is to record the late Empress’ history. Her story is slowly and gradually reconstructed through some of the objects she used throughout her life: a dress, salt, star charts; common objects that hide, behind well crafted symbolism, a revolutionary tale. This is a brief, but powerful tale about history and those overlooked by it and their agency. It’s a story about voices that are often sidelined and ignored, people that history itself would mention as inconsenquential footnotes: a servant, an exiled wife, a few fortune tellers. “It’s iron,” they said with faint surprise. “Iron gives black salt its color then?”Vo doesn’t focus on a single, dramatic event: there’s no big fighting scene in The Empress of Salt and Fortune. Actually, there’s no fighting scene at all. There’s no warrior or army to change the course of history, but a few characters exiled at Lake Scarlet, a seemingly placid and quiet corner of the world. While brief, nothing felt rushed and the descriptions were clear and evocative. Every small detail is carefully crafted by the author and all the elements, as inconsenquential as they may seem at first, fit together perfectly, like the pieces of a puzzle. The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a seemingly unhurried, but extremely poignant portrayal of the unsung people behind the story.“It was a joke in the capital. The empress will not get out of bed unless a fortune-teller reassures her that it is all right to do so.”
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  • Ash | Wild Heart Reads
    January 1, 1970
    I don't know whats wrong with me at the moment, I can't seem to get into anything and it's hard to tell if it's what I'm reading or my own mood. Empress of Salt and Fortune is a good book and I do recommend picking it up if you're interested in reading it. I did really love the writing , it's beautiful. Despite that, it was hard to sink into. I wasn't really connecting with it. I was reading it so that I could finish it rather than because I was wanting to and so despite it being a novella it I don't know whats wrong with me at the moment, I can't seem to get into anything and it's hard to tell if it's what I'm reading or my own mood. Empress of Salt and Fortune is a good book and I do recommend picking it up if you're interested in reading it. I did really love the writing , it's beautiful. Despite that, it was hard to sink into. I wasn't really connecting with it. I was reading it so that I could finish it rather than because I was wanting to and so despite it being a novella it felt long. I'd still be keen to revisit it later though because of what I mentioned first off but on the first read it didn't really connect with me. “Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.” This review and more can be found at https://wildheartreads.wordpress.com/
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  • Jenia
    January 1, 1970
    Oh, it was so lovely! Like a beautiful fairytale. I think anybody who grew up with these kinds of stories will find as much to cherish as I did with the Winternight Trilogy, and for those of us for whom they're not so familiar will find something new and wonderful to fall in love with.
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