Author: Nghi Vo
Released: March 24th, 2020
I received a copy of The Empress of Salt and Fortune through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune is the debut novella of Nghi Vo, and that means we’re about to dive into an imaginative and lush world. Described as being a merger of Atwood and classic Asian drama, this is a story that is sure to capture the attention of many a reader.
Fantasy and societal storytelling combine to create an enchanting tale. One full of politics as well as many surprising elements. In a society that treats women as being replaceable, one should never be surprised when they rise up.
A young woman, later to be known as the Empress of Salt and Fortune, was sent south for an arranged marriage. Once she was no longer needed, she was sent somewhere nice and far away from the kingdom. Now, the truth of her story is being revealed through the words of her handmaiden.
“Accuracy above all things. You will never remember the great if you do not remember the small.”
The Empress of Salt and Fortune is arguably one of the most iconic novellas I’ve read this year. It was beautiful and poignant. It was powerful, carrying a variety of emotions and more than one message for the reader to walk away with.
The thing I loved the most about this novella is the raw emotion shown within the pages. There was something so real and untamed about it. And yet there was a very real sense of it all happening behind closed doors. Until now, at any rate.
The entirety of the story is told through Rabbit’s words – the words of the handmaiden. She’s revealing the truth of the past to Chih. I actually love the relationship and dynamics at play here. This method also allowed for clever storytelling moments as well as careful obfuscations of the truth. Saved for later dramatic reveals.
Repetition also played a large part in this tale. “Do you understand?” This phrase resonated deeply, ringer louder and louder the more it was said. It took a powerful story and made it something more.
Another important element of this novella is the perspective itself. We have seen countless stories of kings or emperors marrying all of the women they please. But rarely do we see the story being told from the other side. This is one of those exceptions, and it shows all of that emotion and energy happening behind the scenes.
If I’m being honest, I loved everything about The Empress of Salt and Fortune. It was striking and beautiful, all while being utterly afraid to be exactly what it is. There’s something to take away from that.