The Empress of Salt and Fortune


Paperback, 121 pages

English language

Published Aug. 6, 2020 by Tor.

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3 stars (6 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

reviewed The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo (The Singing Hills Cycle, #1)

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.

reviewed The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo (The Singing Hills Cycle, #1)

A feminist tale, as told by a privileged witness with a secret.

4 stars

Nghi Vo writes a story that’s very much influenced by East Asian tales, where humans have animal names, empresses predict the future—or influence it—with the help of mages, and a religious order has a mission to record History as in happens, or just happened.

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3 stars