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Summary

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.

©2020 Nghi Vo (P)2020 Tantor

What listeners say about The Empress of Salt and Fortune

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Profile Image for RNov2010
  • RNov2010
  • 08-01-21

A dream of a book

The combination of the writer and the narrator blends into a poetry of a story.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Josh Angel
  • 06-08-20

I feel like I’m not smart enough to understand why this is supposed to be so great

This book failed to connect with me. I read several reviews talking about how lush and clever this story is, even an NPR review gushing about it. I just felt like it was OK.

The story is about an empresses servant who tells her life story and time with the empress. There’s a small twist at the end. The story is being recorded by a young woman with a sentient bird who is in some form of symbiotic relationship with her, and the bird has perfect recall.

The narrator was ok. Very little inflection or emotion, almost robotic, but perhaps that was what the story called for. The story is rather cold and devoid of emotion.

I feel like I must not be smart enough to understand why this is so great.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Andrew Jay Jordan
  • 08-07-21

Really well written!

I really loved this book! The writing style made it sound like a fairy tale, which is very fitting.

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  • McKenna Morrigan
  • 30-06-21

Well crafted, engaging story

At first I was a bit put off by the formal tone and halting unfurling of the story in the beginning, but I was quickly captivated by the world and the characters so deftly and efficiently built. By the end, I was enthralled!

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Profile Image for Kiji Marie Gilcrest
  • Kiji Marie Gilcrest
  • 12-01-21

An Entrancing Experience

This is a rather short novella, but it is exactly as long as it needs to be. It’s truly a testament to Nghi Vo’s ability as a storyteller, and Cindy Kay’s ability as a narrator, that I spent every second of this book under a spell. It reminded me of listening to my mother tell me stories from our island late at night, about a time and place that can no longer be reached but must always be remembered. Every syllable seemed important, every reveal monumental, despite the quiet nature of the story itself. I loved this book more than I can describe, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys quiet fantasy, tales of resistance, and deeply immersive storytelling.