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  • Writer's pictureTheLittLibrarian

The Empress of Salt and Fortune - Review

*I received a physical copy via Tor. All reviews are my own.

So, small story time: I'm in a few book clubs, one of them being B2 Weird, which dotes on Fantasy and SFF titles. Because of them, my interest in these genres and the subgenres that come with them has been the leading charge in my reading journey over the past three years. If you've read any of my past reviews, you'll see me shout them out occasionally. This post is no different. The good folks at B2 Weird put me on to the Singing Hills Cycle series by Nghi Vo. I've seen the books floating around the Bookstagram space, and the covers are to die for, so I signed up for a few tours and am now getting to read them. Even though it is a standalone novella series, I decided to start from the beginning and check out Book 1: The Empress of Salt and Fortune.

"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."


It took a while for me to get my engines started for this book, but when I finally did (thank God for reading Sprints!) I was engaged. The story follows a Cleric traveling to an inn, where she meets an older woman who tells her exclusive stories about the late Empress's life during her rule. Along with the character Chih, I was confused in the beginning because we were only getting parts of a story. But you know, older folk like to take their time. After a few stories in, I started to understand what the older woman was trying to convey, and it made the reading experience so much more enjoyable! Most people would consider the Empress's reign a scandal; others will understand that the nameless people hold all the cards in political warfare.

One thing that bothered me is that I'm still not used to coming across the use of gender pronouns in text. I'm sorry, but using They/Them wording when there's only one person around will forever put me on pause. It is better than Neon Yang's Tensorate Series, but it still had me stuck.

Overall, I rated this book 4-stars. This novella was all right! I'm glad I took it off my DNF shelf and stuck it out. Now I'm interested in the rest of Chih's journey of scribing, and I can't wait until I get into Book 2: When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune is available now!

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