The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

Fantasy, 112 pages, published in 2020

A travelling clerk named Chih meets an old woman named Rabbit, who was the Empress’s handmaiden. Rabbit tells Chih of In-yo, the bride sent from the north, an outsider who became empress.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book was not what I expected, so it definitely took me some time to get into it. Obviously it didn’t take me too long, since this book is super short, but by the end I was feeling some super strong feelings.

I was hesitant at first about how the fantasy elements of this would play out because of the length. This isn’t hardcore fantasy, it is much more whimsical and it is what it is. I think the hints of fantasy enhance the story, rather than distracting from it like I feared.

I’m finding it so difficult to figure out how to say how I feel about this story! It was very short, but also very impactful. It is tragic, but shows the strength and resilience of women. I also really liked how atmospheric it is. I had no problem immediately picturing the world.

I had originally thought that this book featured a female/female relationship, but it doesn’t (though there is one mentioned). I was kind of disappointed by that, because that was why I was initially interested. Chih, the clerk, is non-binary and that was a nice surprise.

If you are looking for a fast, powerful read with fantasy elements woven in and great atmosphere , I would recommend this book! It looks like Nghi Vo is going to be writing more short, standalone books in this world, so I will definitely be checking those out!

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