Book Review: The Empress of Salt and Fortune

Nghi Vo

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

published: 24th March 2020
spoilers? no


With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama 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. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.

I know what ambition feels like. This feels different. Like a weight around my shoulders, or a stone carried over my heart.

Galley provided by publisher

Do you ever finish a novella and simultaneously you’re satisfied because it’s managed to tell a complete story but also you want to be living in that world for so much longer? Well, this is one of those.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune takes place years after a coup. A chronicler arrives at the place where the empress was exiled to and meets her old handmaiden, and from there we find out the events that took place leading up to the start of the coup.

Frankly, the best thing about this novella is the worldbuilding and the writing. You know when a book makes you want to live in a particular world forever and not stop reading? Well, yeah. I so desperately wanted this book to be longer than the 110 pages that it was. It felt like the story the handmaiden told could be a full length novel in itself, and we only got snapshots of everything that was going on.

Then, the characters! It feels cliched to say that it seemed as though the characters came to life off the page, but they were so well-developed in such a short (or so) amount of time, and they really did almost come to life.

I think it would be safe to say that this novella has left me speechless, for lack of another word. I’m struggling to put down just how much I loved it (which in itself should be a reason for you to read it). So really, all I can say is, preorder this one. You won’t regret it.

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