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In the Vanishers’ Palace

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In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land...

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village's debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn's amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets...

145 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 16, 2018

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About the author

Aliette de Bodard

258 books1,933 followers
Aliette de Bodard lives and works in Paris. She has won three Nebula Awards, an Ignyte Award, a Locus Award, a British Fantasy Award and four British Science Fiction Association Awards, and was a double Hugo finalist for 2019 (Best Series and Best Novella).

Her most recent book is Fireheart Tiger (Tor.com), a sapphic romantic fantasy inspired by pre colonial Vietnam, where a diplomat princess must decide the fate of her country, and her own. She also wrote Seven of Infinities (Subterranean Press), a space opera where a sentient spaceship and an upright scholar join forces to investigate a murder, and find themselves falling for each other. Other books include Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders and its standalone sequel Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances, (JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.), fantasy books of manners and murders set in an alternate 19th Century Vietnamese court. She lives in Paris.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 558 reviews
Profile Image for Lois Bujold.
Author 154 books37.5k followers
July 30, 2019
This story was pitched to my interest by a comparison to the fairy tale Beauty & the Beast, and yeah, those bones are under there, but the referent to which I was put most disturbingly in mind was Cordwainer Smith's classic short story "A Planet Named Shayol". Incomprehensible magical-technological alien invaders have landed, occupied, and absconded, leaving lasting devastation in their wake in the form of plagues human, animal, botanical, and magical, something of a cross between genetic gray goo and Agent Orange, and social disruption. Against this dystopic backdrop a failed village scholar and a magical water dragon each struggle to both find and create healing. At novella length, packed.

Ta, L.

(Cordwainer Smith was a writer active in the 50s - 60s, whose "Tales of the Instrumentality", a series of mainly related short works set in a far future with prescient biotech, were like nothing else I'd ever encountered back then. Or much since, actually. I haven't reread him recently enough to know how well his work has aged, but some of his short stories were quite unforgettable. I suspect "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell", "The Game of Rat and Dragon", "A Planet Named Shayol", and some others will have stood up.)
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews189 followers
October 16, 2018
In the Vanishers’ Palace is an adult fantasy f/f retelling of Beauty and the Beast with an all-Vietnamese cast. In this book, the “beast” is a shapeshifting dragon, and since the only thing that is better than both f/f romances and monster romances is an f/f monster romance, I knew I had to read it.

Monster romances have always been one of my favorite kinds of romance. I’m sure there are others out there, but In the Vanishers’ Palace is the first f/f one I’ve ever read, and I’m glad I found it – I’ve been looking for a f/f couple with this dynamic for a while, after loving so many m/f ones. Vu Côn, the shapeshifting dragon who tries to remain emotionally distant and Is Totally Not Into Yên but uses fruit to flirt was exactly the kind of character I wanted to read about.

The thing about Beauty and the Beast retellings is that the relationship usually starts on an unequal footing, and this can lead to unaddressed unhealthy aspects in the relationship (too many of them read more like Stockholm syndrome than romance). This never happened in this book – Yên’s agency and her choices are really important here, and this is a story about two characters in an unhealthy place working together to make it less so. It doesn’t work out immediately, it isn’t easy, and I really liked reading about their journey.
I loved Yên and Vu Côn both as characters and as a couple.

In the Vanishers’ Palace is a story about healing. Not only because the inciting incident itself happened because of an illness and some of the major characters are healers, but because this is a story set in a postcolonial world. The “Vanishers”, mysterious and powerful creatures, have left, but they left behind a broken world. Their experiments caused people to catch new, deadly illnesses, and now the survivors value only what’s “useful” – and this includes people. In the Vanishers’ Palace is a story about leaving behind that mindset.

My favorite aspect of the worldbuilding was the Vanishers’ palace itself. From magical libraries to stairways that seem not to lead anywhere, from waterfalls that defy gravity to dangerous gardens and windows opening on the floor, it was a place of beauty and horror and one of the best settings I’ve read in a while. I have a weakness for magical buildings and this was everything I wanted and more. This dreamlike but deadly atmosphere reminded me of Roshani Chokshi’s books – I feel like this book could appeal to those who liked The Star-Touched Queen and want to read something shorter and less slow-paced.

I also really liked the side characters. Yên was a teacher when she lived in her village and she also becomes a teacher for Vu Côn’s two children, Thông and Liên, who were adorable disasters.
And, as usual, the writing was wonderful – it was atmospheric without being heavy, the dialogue felt natural, and I loved the descriptions.

TL;DR: read it!
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 57 books7,650 followers
Read
October 20, 2018
A wonderful SFF book (I love a blend of tech and magic so much) set in a post-colonial dystopia where the brutal ruling people have wrecked the place including the climate, left a horrifically damaged society behind them, and buggered off leaving their victims to make something of what little they have left. /looks at camera/

It's superbly depicted with magnificent economy, and utterly miserable, until our heroine is taken by a (lady) dragon as sacrifice and the story moves into a Beauty and the Beast tale. The romance is understated but intense, the mystery element well laid, but mostly this story gets its power from the visible damage done by the colonial power (the Vanishers--the bastards even colonise the book's title!) not just to the world but to the psyches of everyone involved. This book isn't sugar coating how hard it is to love healthily when you live in an unhealthy world.

It's an intensely Viet world, with things like intimacy levels and one's own gender expressed in speech in a way English doesn't do, and beautifully realised. This author's novellas are masterclasses in storytelling, worldbuilding and imagination packed into small spaces. Hugely recommended.
Profile Image for Mel (Epic Reading).
884 reviews273 followers
April 22, 2019
The issue with speculative fiction (a genre that is essentially science fiction and fantasy together) is that it can be very confusing. I love the idea of really unique stories being told; but when you take out a base premise that is easily understood by your reader then you need to provide some tethers. Aliette de Bodard is missing the points of context that allow a reader to stay engaged in a story and able to process the information. In the Vanishers' Palace is so convoluted at times that it made my head spin.

Most Won't Finish
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most people likely won't finish this story. While only 145 pages long, it feels like it takes forever to read. For example, this excerpt is a sample of the over-the-top descriptions that de Bodard uses:
"The same kind of odd letters she'd seen glowing in the water ran down the side of the bed she was lying in. As they went farther, they altered and shifted orientation, and the walls of the room turned with them and expanded, the unknown words multiplying, turning and growing until they blurred somewhere in an infinite distance, a vertiginous effect that made Yen clutch the sides of the bed for reassurance-look away, she had to look away lest she be drawn into a chasm that had no end"
Where do you even start? Never mind the run-on sentence; but how about the use of 'vertiginous' (as if anyone knows what that really means) or the disorientation that trying to imagine this room causes. I realize that de Bodard is trying to make us feel like our lead gal Yen, and I suppose my confusion and inability to imagine this room is perhaps what she was going for. However it made me feel uncomfortable and unsettled in the story; never mind that these descriptions are throughout the narrative.

Brilliant Romantic Ending
It's funny that amoungst all of the messy and disorienting prose there is a really beautiful story. One where our characters come to know one another in an intimate and caring way. It leads to a lovely, romantic ending that I just loved. Unfortunately you have to get through 90% of the story first to realize this lovely ending.
I didn't realize or think of this as a beauty and the beast story, but others have pointed out it is. In a way it is; but in other ways it is not. Right from the beginning there is a misunderstanding of what is needed from our lead gal and I never felt the dragon was malicious towards her. So to call the dragon a beast is perhaps too literal as her heart never seems to be beastly to me.

Gender
There is one interesting thing that In the Vanishers' Palace handles and that is gender. Our characters that are not human do not necessarily have a gender. They are instead gender fluid. The dragon seems to be a female; which is why many are calling this a f/f beauty and the beast story; but to me it didn't feel like there was really a relevance to anyone's gender except our lead gal and her mother. It wasn't like the dragon, in dragon form, has breasts or female attributes. In human form the dragon may be obviously female but that didn't really solidify it as a f/f story for me. Especially when the dragon is often showing flashes of both forms.

Overall
There are some interesting ideas here but I would have liked the language to be simplified and more touch points provided that made me feel like I could be a part of the story. It was too alien feeling to me. Maybe I just wasn't prepared for that at the start and it threw me off; but I'd like to think I can adapt easily to any sci-fi/fantasy or speculative fiction thrown at me. Instead this felt very aloof and out of my grasp until the very end.
I also guessed the 'big reveal' long before it happened. It was far too obvious to me and I think will be to almost any reader. That is assuming you even get that far.
I give this three stars, instead of two, only because the ending is beautiful and it's clear that de Bodard is trying to do something different here, it just misses the mark for me.

To read this and more of my reviews visit my blog at Epic Reading

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books427 followers
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February 7, 2022
There'll never be a place where everything is right, but we can try our best to strive towards it."

So What's It About?

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn's amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets...


What I Thought

I read several novellas this year and I have a feeling that I'll be saying the same thing in each of them: I loved the premise and the bones of the story but I would have enjoyed it much more as a fully-developed novel. In this case de Bodard developed an amazing postcolonial setting with strange magic, mysterious remnant technology and rampant diseases, and I would have loved to explore it even more. The book was largely about people trying to heal, I think, in the literal sense with diseases but also in the sense of grappling with a legacy of destruction and exploitation. There were some great reflections on the way that a destructive mindset of dehumanization and utilitarianism remains even when a colonizer is gone:

"It wasn't just the broken world that the Vanishers had left behind. They'd left, too, their true victory: the standards by which people treated each other. Seeing limited resources as things to fight for, people as bodies to safeguard the villages, the old and sick as needless burdens. Weighing everyone against necessity and survival."

I could have gladly read a whole novel about Yên and the rest untangling that legacy and striving for something different and better. 

 I never felt strongly about Yên as a protagonist and Vu Côn mainly bothered me because she literally bought Yên and slept with her and then went around talking about the importance of consent:

"We’ve discussed this before. Not just other people saying yes, but whether they mean it, or whether they’re just doing it because they’re afraid."

Beauty and the Beast just isn't my fairy tale of choice and it was hard for me to feel much of anything positive about a romance where Yên kept repeatedly reminding herself that Vu Côn was imprisoning her and could have her killed with impunity. At the same time, it felt like Vu Côn and Yên interacted very little, which is something else that could have been improved in a full-length novel. It's possible that I might have felt differently about the romance if it had had more space to breathe.

The author has created a thoroughly queer world with significant and background lesbian representation in addition to nonbinary characters, which was thoroughly refreshing and appreciated. Sometimes it's meaningful to read a story where queerness is unquestioned and simply an accepted part of the world. 

When I was reading reviews I saw a lot of people complaining about the sex scene because of how Vu Côn was repeatedly described as being wet, slimy, cold and oily. I actually liked that de Bodard wrote a sex scene that might not be considered traditionally sexy and was unique,  interesting and very dragon-y instead. 

Finally, I did really love the writing in this one, from the names of the diseases to the descriptions of the baffling Vanisher's palace. de Bodard did use the word "vertiginous" a few too many times but otherwise I thought the writing was very nice.  
Profile Image for Silvia .
635 reviews1,372 followers
February 18, 2020
2.5 stars

This book was eye-opening for me because I've had multiple realizations while listening to it, first and foremost the realization that not caring about a book is a much worse feeling than not liking it.

This book was... objectively fine. It had things I like in theory but didn't care for here and things I actually liked. I just really didn't care about any of it and I feel so bad but it is what it is.

It might be that as soon as I started listening I realized that I actually really hate the idea of B&tB retellings, so I started off with a bad feeling in my gut. When I continued listening I could see that the aspects that make me uncomfortable about B&tB retellings were handled well here, but I still might stay away from such books in the future.

It might also be that while I love f/f romances (obviously) I just couldn't see why Yên had to be so fucking horny for a dragon like, the moment she saw her. No, not even if she has a human form. Maybe I'm just not into monster romances and that's another things this book made me realize. Generally speaking, I don't mind insta-lust in most cases but I also didn't really see an actual relationship development and I just couldn't care about the romance at all.

I also didn't really like any of the characters except for the twins, Vu Côn's children, and actually found them and their relationship with Yên more well developed than the one with Vu Côn.

The world...this is another one of the realizations I've had with this book. I like Asian-inspired fantasy but I really don't like fantasy dystopia. Or at least I didn't care about this one. Oh, and speaking of the setting: I also don't like magic buildings. I can't see stuff in my head anyway so if things are constantly changing and just plain weird it just becomes a nightmare for me.

What I really liked was the diversity, there was an all Vietnamese cast and things about the language were also present in English (like specifying different kinds of pronouns for different form of address depending on relative age/social status etc). I bet that's going to throw off a lot of monolinguals and I secretly rejoice at the thought of confused English monolinguals growing a big question mark on their faces.

There's also two secondary characters who use they/them and, from what I could tell, personal pronouns were never assumed based on a person's appearance. It was nice and effortless and this is how it should be.

I have to be true to my feelings about this book and round the rating down to 2 stars simply because it doesn't compare to the enjoyment I have with books I rate 3 stars, but please still know that this is an objectively good book probably, it just ticked off a lot of points I don't like or care about.
Profile Image for mo.
198 reviews91 followers
Shelved as 'arc-tbr'
September 6, 2018
f/f beauty and the beast retelling with DRAGONS? sign me the fuck up 👌👀👌👀👌👀👌👀👌👀
Profile Image for Sarah.
3,323 reviews1,013 followers
October 14, 2018
In the Vanishers' Palace is the third Beauty and the Beast retelling I've read recently (I can't help it, it's my favourite fairytale so I can never resist retellings!) and I think it was the most unique of the three. Aliette de Bodard has created a really interesting world based on Vietnamese mythology which I just wanted to spend more time exploring. I could happily read book after book set in this world learning more about the Vanishers who devastated the earth before disappearing and leaving humanity behind trying to pick up the pieces.

This is an f/f retelling where the beast is actually a shapeshifting dragon, with a full asian cast and plenty of diversity which is another huge plus for me. I loved that there were a couple of gender neutral characters and nobody seemed to bat an eyelid at same sex relationships, that was all just a normal and accepted part of the world just like it should be.

Yên's mother is a healer and Yên has always been her apprentice and a scholar but their family is very low in the hierarchy of their village and the Elders have very little use for Yên so when they need to give a sacrifice to the dragon Yên is the one who is chosen to be sent away. Yên knows she's been given a death sentence, everyone knows the dragon is a murderer, but she knows she'll never be accepted in another village and it's too dangerous to be wandering around unprotected so she has no choice, especially when the Elders threaten her mother if she doesn't go along with them.

Vu Côn may be a dragon but she is nothing like what Yên is expecting, instead she finds that Vu Côn is a compassionate healer who would do anything to protect her children. Yên is given the task of teaching the twins, Liên and Thông, and quickly starts to settle into life in the palace. What she doesn't realise is that Vu Côn is keeping a major secret, one that Yên will find very difficult to forgive.

I've already mentioned how much I enjoyed the world Aliette de Bodard has created and I can't say enough how much I want to spend more time exploring it. I did feel that the romance between Yên and Vu Côn felt a little rushed to me and unfortunately the sex scene was more of a turn off than a turn on thanks to the way Vu Côn's human form was described. Every time Yên mentions touching Vu Côn she uses words like cold and slimy, even when the dragon is in human form and to be honest I was a bit creeped out when she started changing back into her dragon form while they were in the middle of having sex. I just don't think snouts and slimy tails have any place in the bedroom!

This was the first story I've read by Aliette de Bodard and even though there were parts of it that didn't work quite so well for me I'm definitely interested in trying more of her books, she has a really lovely writing style and her world building was very creative so I'm looking forward to seeing what else she can come up with.

______________

Thoughts before reading:
An f/f Beauty and the Beast retelling WITH DRAGONS! Hell yes, sign me up for this one!
Profile Image for Kaa.
558 reviews51 followers
November 23, 2018
Intense, dark, and very lovely. Aliette de Bodard is marvelous at building broken, grimly beautiful worlds. I loved the fairy tale feel of this book and the way Viet culture is woven into the retelling of a classic story. It was also fantastic to see a Beauty and the Beast story that made freedom of choice and personal autonomy such strong themes. I think I was a little thrown at first because I was expecting more of a romance and this is really about attraction and potential rather than a full love story, but upon reflection I think this worked better with the story structure and the other dynamics of the relationship between Yen and Vu Con.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,177 reviews370 followers
November 11, 2021
My Love for beauty and the beast retailings felt more for nostalgic reasons lately. I pick them up for time to time hoping I will have the same excitement as I had years before but often finish them with a disappointing feeling. But this one was a clear winner for me. It had enough of the "classic" detailed yet had some new and exciting ones that made it an entertaining read. Only draw back is that I wanted it to be a full novel but it was definitely a good read
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,240 reviews219 followers
October 22, 2018
The setting is a post-apocalyptic disaster left by a biotech-based singularity with Clarke's Law in full effect. In that completely alien setting de Bodard gives us a queer retelling of Beauty and the Beast, where the Dragon Vu Côn accepts the life of the young scholar Yên in payment for an act of healing. Yên thinks she's doomed, bu Vu Côn has her teaching the Dragon's two foundling children Thông and Liên in an effort to ready them for a life beyond the Dragon's abode in the Vanishers' Palace. (The Vanishers' are the super-beings responsible for the devastation of the world).

Full marks for the brilliant world-building and amazing setup, and while I enjoyed the relationships between each of the characters here, I found there points-of-view to be just a little too alien for me to relate to. I liked how the story interrogated the issues of consent in relationships like this, and I also really liked the characters and Vu Côn especially, but I felt that at several points in the story the actions taken by the characters didn't follow from what I understood of their motivations. Overall that left me a bit cold towards it all.

Even so, I think the shear inventiveness of this makes it worth a read, and your mileage may vary in terms of how you relate to the characters.
13 reviews3 followers
April 26, 2021
Her eyes were the depths of the sea, the depths of the sky, the hungry maw that always sought sustenance, and Yên was as nothing before that. She was drawn, inexorably, stripped bare of everything. Of duty, of filial piety, of knowledge, of words.


One word comes to mind in regard to this story: disconnection.

Reading the summary, one gets a clear picture of where this books intends to go. It does end where one would expect it to... but all with the grace of a magician apprentice pulling his first rabbit out of his hat. Which is to say, very little.

Instead of slowly building the relationship between the characters and gradually shifting their perceptions of each other, Bodard overindulges in ellipses. Once Yên finds herself in the eponymous palace, Bodard skips ahead, days, perhaps months afterwards, so that her relationships with Vu Côn and her children are never truly fleshed out. While the narration ascribes (and repeats) very specific traits to these characters - "unruly", "stern", "unbending" as the summary helpfully indicates - we are never witnesses to them. Worse: Bodard introduces early Vu Côn's point of view, refuting her supposed maleficence - thus Yên appears ridiculous, for not only we know her claims false, but no scene between them lends to such interpretations. Vu Côn never seems unreasonable; if anything, she seems justified in her way of dealing with Yên - a human woman among far more powerful creatures and constructs! - and what she chose to omit.

Moreover, Bodard barely sketches their relationship beyond immediate lust; erotic attraction draws them to each other, quite vividly... but they do not interact in any other, meaningful way. All boils down to instant desire. So Yên's reproach of "hiding things", of "making decisions" for her appears almost... out of place. She speaks as a partner in a serious relationship when what they share is nothing more than a tryst. To the very end, it remains so: Yên's choice of is sensually driven, . I admit I found this passage a little displeasing, as I expected feelings of a more romantic nature and, certainly, with no audience as it was the case here...

Yên, despite being a scholar and teacher, struck me in her lack of confidence, her broken lines. She apologises, or is interrupted. She speaks before thinking, regretting it, or she cannot bring herself to speak. She makes hasty judgments based upon nothing... but, ah, the author requires that one for her plot. I am unsure of her age; she sounds hardly older than the twins! Her bravery immensely impressed Vu Côn, yet so little of it transpired, so little of her personality shone, it felt more convenient than true to her character. I will not remember her after this review.

This disconnect seeped in the worldbuilding as well. Bodard created a palace full of incomprehensible, dizzying geometry that leaves Yên on the edge of nausea times and times again. She must avert her eyes to spare her mind the confusion; and I, similarly, struggled to picture what Bodard wished to describe. Instead of fascinating, it annoyed me in its quirkiness, in its obfuscating way of saying nothing. Since I picked this book on some nebulous promise of "Vietnamese-inspired worldbuilding", spending so much time with architecture unfathomable for my poor mortal mind irritated me. Here's a quote:

It was night in the palace, and nothing made sense anymore: courtyards with towers that became underground silos, gardens with trees on every wall and roof, endless rooms where the windows opened on a hundred, a thousand different realities, where two suns became a sun eaten by a wolf became ten crows of fire spreading burning winds amidst a hail of arrows, where the moon was encircled by the roots of a banyan tree, its leaves falling pale and lifeless over the ruins of the earth....


I will concede that the script-based magic, if very vague in places and difficult to visualise, was original and interesting. I really liked how it viscerally affected Yên - like a hook! - when she was searching for . The rest of the setting... well, as hinted at, it wasn't exactly what I was looking for and a bit too futuristic to my liking - intriguing in its bleakiness, though. Nonetheless I have reservations about her portrayal of the village's politics... in their world, a healer must be invaluable; it makes little sense, to me, to pettily despise her and be ready to dispose of her. I understood the thematic importance but closed the book unconvinced of its logic.

Bodard's efforts to apply in English rules bound to the Vietnamese language looked clumsy and often immersion-breaking. She did not trust her readers to infer the implications of Yên switching from "elder aunt" to "elder sister" to refer to Vu Côn; she had, for this example and all the others, to abruptly stop and explain to us what it meant. She did not find it useful for Yên to address Vu Côn as "elder aunt" before this instance, either. She simply tells and forgets to show us. This made her book frustrating, even jarring when she employs "lil' sis".

It becomes insulting when she broaches the topic of gender: Bodard presents us a seemingly misogyny-free world, yet so heavily gendered that one's clothing can state whether someone is male, female or wishes to be identified as neither. Bafflingly, she limits her physical description of that third category to an elusive "genderless" moniker which puts further distance between us, readers and corporeal, and her book's world where gender, a social role, accurately represents someone's face. If she meant androgynous, she could have still described it; but that's not it: Yên, in the very beginning of the story, identifies Thông as female, before realising - in a painful explanation as evoked above - Thông uses gender-neutral pronouns... yet, much later, we're supposed to believe Thông perfectly "genderless"! So, which is it? Is Bodard not simply excusing her lack of imagination with gender neutrality?

It is worth noting that for a native French speaker like myself and Bodard, due to grammatical rules tied to the plural, they reads as male. Thus, I found uncomfortable her choice of characters to be gender neutral in her world, since they were always put in contrast to another, female character. Elder Giang, a nicer alternative to the evil woman in charge, Elder Tho; Thông, the calmer sibling who converses of serious matters with Vu Côn and benefits from more written reactions than Liên, the sidelined and, quoting! "emotional" sister, who ends up ! I also think of the disturbing mention of a dragon having to repeatedly bury their wives, the fact the world follows the precepts of a gender neutral First Teacher... it is unfortunate.

Bodard also makes use of oddly modern, I would even say stereotypical ideas or sentences: "puppy eyes" stood out, as well as Thông in the role of a bizarre, teenage matchmaker insisting that Yên must be fond of Vu Côn... and that she would not, evidently, say no. Vu Côn does immediately corrects Thông and it is certainly worth repeating - however it sounded, again, out of place, like her comment about no friendship being possible under "unequal terms"... the sentiment itself is fine, I just would not have expected her to formulate it the way she did. Added to how Bodard handled levels of intimacy, it aggravated my view of her prose, which I did not find to my taste.

Finally, I noticed repetitions in how a sick person's skin was described; how often the characters "snorted"; how some verbs kept reoccuring in too short an amount of time to not be visible; how, in a later scene, several characters' faces and voices were successively "hard"... suffice to say, I was not impressed.

I will however commend Bodard for not shying away from the fact the love interest is a dragon. I may not share Yên's enthusiasm but I do find it daring! Good job on that one.
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,004 reviews200 followers
April 10, 2020
This was both interesting and weird and finally, let me unsure about my feelings for the book. The Vanisher’s Palace was kinda cool but the magic system with words was pretty confusing. The characters were okay but I liked the twins more than the MCs or their romantic plotline. And I think I’m having quite a bit of bad luck that I keep picking up these books with contagious diseases or viruses during the pandemic - so if you wanna read this novella, this is probably not the right time.

I loved the representation though - a sapphic romance, an all Vietnamese cast, multiple characters using they/them pronouns and in general, nobody’s gender is assumed. I think my rating is definitely more for the inclusiveness of the world as well as the idea of the story. Maybe I could have connected to it more if the story was longer.
Profile Image for DivaDiane.
919 reviews82 followers
February 28, 2021
This sounded very promising and started out well, but in the end I just felt there was too much of some and too little of some other. Let me explain:

The world was fascinating and drew me in right away. What had happened? Who were the Vanishers and where did they go? The mix of Fantasy and SF with Vietnamese culture in there too, was great. But then all too quickly we got to the Beauty and the Beast bit and that's where I was lost. I felt like the attraction was just that, an attraction. We were given nothing to explain what it was that attracted Yên to Vu Kôn (the dragon) nor vice versa. It was pretty clear that there was a mutual attraction from early on, but it seemed more like Stockholm Syndrome to me. There was a lot of over the top drama and pearl clutching, but very little of substance. Then there was the interesting bit with the dragon's children and the magical library (which I so loved and wish really existed!) and then we were back to longing and desire and "no we can't do this!" "but maybe we can!" I wish the bits about the hospital and the illnesses and the Vanishers had been fleshed out much much more in relation to the "love" story.
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,054 reviews350 followers
October 16, 2018
Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy/sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

I have read some of the author's short stories and enjoy her writing style.  This is a beauty and the beast retelling based on Vietnamese myths and culture.  The story is an interesting blend of fantasy and sci-fi.  The tale takes place in a world destroyed by an alien race called the Vanishers.  The Vanishers used Earth as a plaything and left chaos behind.  Humans are barely surviving in the barren wasteland.  Disease, starvation, and lack of resources are the norm.  In order to have a place in society, members must have viable skills to keep their place.  Life is harsh and unfair.

 Yên lives in one such settlement.  She is a failed scholar and barely adequate healer's apprentice.  Her position in the village is due to her mother's skill as a healer.  But one day, a prominent leader's daughter is diagnosed with a fatal disease.  Should she die, both Yên and her mother's places are forfeit.  So Yên's mother makes a magical bargain with a dragon for the girl's life.  Only the price of the healing turns out to be Yên's servitude to the dragon.  Yên is taken to the Vanishers' palace to be a teacher to the dragon's two children.  Only Yên is drawn to the dragon.  What will become of her?

I have to say that this was just an okay read for me.  I had a hard time getting drawn into the story.  I liked many of the individual elements but the story didn't end up being an cohesive whole.  I loved the "word" magic.  I loved the f/f relationship.  I loved Yên's mother.  I enjoyed the blend of sci-fi and fantasy elements.  I liked that Yên stood up for herself and demanded to be allowed to make her own choices.  And yet the excitement was lacking. 

Part of that may have been the dragon's aloof nature.  Part of that was the many descriptions of the odd architecture and nature of the palace itself.  I didn't really even feel the fairy tale retelling vibe.  But overall, I am not sure what the disconnect was.  I just did not love this story like others by the author.  This story does seem to be loved by many of the crew.  So while this story was not mesmerizing, I am glad to have read it.  And I still will be readin' more of the author's work.  

So lastly . . .

Thank you JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.!

Check out me other reviews at https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...
Profile Image for Kelsea Yu.
534 reviews99 followers
August 16, 2021
When I first read this book 2.5 years ago, it didn’t click for me. It was one of the first novellas (maybe the first?) I’d ever read that wasn’t tie-in fiction. I didn’t appreciate the pacing, the slow depth of character arcs and building emotions, the hinted-at world-building, or the retelling aspects. I was confused. I wanted more.

But, Maraia, the friend of mine who gifted me this book, loves this novella. I wanted to give it another chance because I trust her judgment. I’ve also read more Aliette de Bodard stories in the meantime, and found myself continually stunned by the beauty of her prose — another sign that I needed to revisit this story.

In the years since my first read-through, I’ve learned to appreciate short fiction. Lately, I’ve fallen hard for novellas, having familiarized myself with their pacing and the way their world-building is often a joint effort between writer and reader. I’ve come to understand that they’re often much denser, and need to be read more slowly.

So, with this newfound appreciation for novellas and readiness to give it another try, I reread In the Vanisher’s Palace… and I can’t believe I didn’t fall in love with it the first time! This was such a stunning, slowly beautiful story that takes one of the fairytales I’ve always had issues with (Beauty and the Beast) and shapes it into a masterpiece that factors in consent. It’s rife with powerful themes, beautiful imagery, and a richly diverse Vietnamese-inspired world, while somehow still staying true to the feel of the original tale.

This isn’t a story to be rushed through — I still stumbled in several places and had to backtrack a bit, reminding myself to savor rather than rush through (speed reader problems), but it was well worth the time.

Beautiful. 4.5 stars!
Profile Image for Scarllet ✦ iamlitandwit.
142 reviews89 followers
November 8, 2019
Her gaze swept the room, stopping for a bare moment not on Elder Giang but on Yên, and in her eyes, Yên saw the contained fury of the river’s storms, the floods that killed, the cold that froze bones until they shattered.

Fish, river, gate, storm.

Dragon.
This stunning f/f Beauty and the Beast retelling is so much more than a retelling. Aliette de Bodard did the thing when she thought of this poetic and out-of-this-world concept. Like it is utterly amazing in its lore and worldbuilding.

I am in awe at the inclusion of dragons (!!!) and the strange alien creatures "The Vanishers" that brutally ravaged this created world and filled it with disease and the way it has affected and changed this society. Yen was a formidable main character who was headstrong and powerful in her own right, taking care of her mother and doing her duty even when it was the absolute last thing she wanted to be doing. It was a breath of fresh air to read this unique story with its beautifully written complex history.

And the romance was so so passionate like !!! and the addition of twins Lien and Thong was excellent since they both brought levity and charm with their dialogue and personality.
195 reviews109 followers
October 15, 2018
riends, I am very, very choosy about my “Beauty and the Beast” retellings. To the best of my recollection, the only one that I have ever loved is Robin McKinley’s Beauty. I liked Uprooted, but I loved it best when it was doing things other than retelling “Beauty and the Beast.” I hear good things about W. R. Gingell’s Masque, but I am not pinning my hopes on it. So when I tell you that I was blown away by Aliette de Bodard’s novella In the Vanishers’ Palace, a queer retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” I want you to understand that the bar was high, and In the Vanishers’ Palace easily cleared it.

Yên is living on borrowed time. After the world was poisoned by the Vanishers, who introduced viruses and gene mutations and ruined everything and then left, villages only keep people around if they’re useful, and Yên knows she isn’t. So it’s not much of a surprise when the village offers her to the shapeshifter dragon Vu Côn in payment of a healing Vu Côn has performed for them. When she gets to Vu Côn’s palace, she learns that she’s to be a tutor: Vu Côn is a mother, and doesn’t have the time to provide an adequate education to her twin teenagers. But the longer Yên stays at the palace, the more drawn she is to Vu Côn.

The device of the Beast needing the Beauty for something specific is a brilliant one. So often in these retellings, the Beauty character has nothing much to do except wander around the palace poking her nose into things and getting into trouble. Here, Yên immediately has a task, and Aliette de Bodard won my heart completely with these two kids. The truism about teenagers is that they’re sulky, uncompliant, and irresponsible. Thông and Liên are definitely finding ways to separate themselves from their mother, as teenagers do, — especially Thông — but they both care deeply about being good people and doing the right thing. It’s a major subplot in the book! How to raise children into good people; how to be a good person despite one’s worst instincts. In these troubled times, but also always, these are themes that resonate with me very strongly.

The bigger pitfall in “Beauty and the Beast” stories is, of course, consent. Fairy tales have a dreamy, unspecified quality that makes it possible for them to get away with leaving a lot of things unexplained. Retellings don’t have that luxury, and it’s rare for me to feel happy with the way an author manages the question of whether Beauty, a lifelong prisoner, can meaningfully consent to a relationship with her captor. In the Vanishers’ Palace cares deeply about this question, and the broader corollary of what it looks like to be the more powerful one in a relationship. What can we decide for the ones we love? What should we? Vu Côn grapples with this throughout the book, and I love where she ends up.

An atmospheric gem of a retelling. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy when it comes out tomorrow.

PS: In the language of the book, “I” pronouns are gendered, so that when a person says “I” you immediately know what pronouns to use for them. What a great idea! Is English working on this? Gendered first-person neopronouns? Can we have those?

PPS: I received an e-ARC of this book for review consideration.

PPPS: This review was originally posted on my blog: http://readingtheend.com/2018/10/15/r...
Profile Image for Lisa.
490 reviews54 followers
May 18, 2019
I absolutely LOVED In the Vanishes’ Palace. It’s a such a terrific novella, and I feel like it was the perfect length for this story (although I wouldn’t mind spending even more time in this world and learning more about it).

First, there is a dream-like quality about the world itself that is just great. We’re given just enough information to understand, mostly, what’s going on, but everything feels very ephemeral, as if you could forget about it, like a dream upon waking. I think this is one of those things that’s hard to achieve in writing so when I come across it done well, I’m always excited. I think this technique works great for a shorter work like this and also helps enhance the fairy tail tone of the story. This is, after all, a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The downside of this technique is that it can make everything so foggy that some readers may have issues connecting to the work, but I didn’t have that issue myself as I’m a fan of this type of writing.

I really loved Yên’s character–she’s kind and curious, and loves learning things. In a way she’s also a stand in for us, the reader, as we explore this world of the dragon, Vu Côn, and this strange ship that she lives on. Vu Côn is quite interesting too. She’s a power to be reckoned with, but she obviously has a lot of weight on her. She’s carrying the burden of a entire people, as possibly the last of her kind. She definitely feels otherworldly, and yet the vanishers, those unspeakable monsters who tried to wipe out everything in their paths, are even more otherworldly. Even the monsters in this world have nightmares.

This book is short but it explores a lot. One of the main things is colonialism. The Vanishers are colonizers. They came, conquered, took everything they wanted before disappearing and leaving the world behind a wreck of its former self. This isn’t a light tale, although there is light in it.

I really appreciated everything this novella touched on, in such beautifully written prose, with a love story to boot. 5/5 stars.
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,001 reviews797 followers
January 11, 2019
And then she'd wake up, gasping, trying to breathe, raising her hands to her face, remembering Vu Côn's touch on her skin, as wet and as cold as the oily river.


Review also on Reads Rainbow

Galley provided by publisher

Rep: lesbian mc, bi mc, Vietnamese setting and characters

In The Vanishers' Palace is the first book by Aliette de Bodard that I've read, and boy is it a good one. It's an f/f, dark fantasy inspired by Beauty and the Beast and Vietnamese mythology, with dragons. If the whole premise doesn't get you, I don't know what will. (Perhaps an AO3 tags style description of the book by the author herself?)

The thing I most loved about this book was the relationship between Yên and Vu Côn. It starts off cold and unfriendly, given that Vu Côn effectively kidnaps Yên in "payment" for healing a member of the village. But there is still attraction there, and Aliette de Bodard develops it really well into something more romantic. And manages to have both Yên and Vu Côn develop as characters individually as well. (As do Liên and Thông, which was good to see, as they were more side characters.)

The writing and worldbuilding was also really good. The reader is somewhat thrown straight into the world with not that much explanation at times (especially with regard to the Vanishers), so I found that a bit difficult from time to time. Not so much that my enjoyment of the book was impacted at all, but still noticeably.

So, in summary, you should definitely mark this book to read. Because who doesn't love fairytale reimaginings, especially when they're sapphic. Aliette de Bodard is definitely an author I'll be coming back to.
Profile Image for Lost Planet Airman.
1,234 reviews69 followers
August 11, 2021
Good. Norton-esque. A little light on explanations of the Vanishers and what's what with the supposed coexistence of magic/spirits and technology. Sex scene more intense, explicit, and weird than I prefer in my reading. And I apparently missed a few details on audio, like the age of the protagonist.
Profile Image for Mohammad Efazati.
141 reviews12 followers
September 18, 2022
کتاب به دنیای خیلی مرموز و نشون میده که واقعا دلت میخواد ببینی چی به چیه ولی واقعا داستان به اون سمت نمیره

حقیقتش کتاب برام خیلی نماد این کتابهایی بود که مثلا طرف گفته الان ال‌جی‌بی‌تی موضوع داغه و از طرفی تو دنیای فانتزی شاید خیلی کتاب های کمی بهش اشاره کرده باش. حالا بیام یه ترکیبی بدم که بگیره.
و در نهایت هم هدف کتاب اینه که مهم نیست چی هستید یا چی میخواید باشید. مهم اینه که خودتون باشید و به حرف بقیه گوش ندید. (‌حتی پیام هم به نظرم خیلی کلیشه ای بود)

خیلی جاها کلی اتفاق بی منطق میوفته با خودت میگی اصلا نمیخوره... و همه اینا روی اعصابه
از طرفی شخصیت پردازی یا پلات اصلی بسیار بد بود. تنها نکته جالب کتاب به نظرم همون فصلای اول بود که دنیا خیلی مرموز خفن به نظر میومد...

(امتیازمو از ۳ میکنم ۲. به نظر خیلی دل پری از کتاب دارم)
Profile Image for Crini.
352 reviews414 followers
September 17, 2018
In the Vanishers' Palace is a f/f retelling of Beauty and the Beast but with a DRAGON. Aliette de Bodard did an excellent job on this one!
The writing and the world she created was just MAGICAL. I immediately fell in love with the setting and the characters. And it's not just a romance but also so much about family and motherhood and has the most adorable pair of siblings!
.
5/5 from me for an adorable romance, a mind-fuck of a setting, being hella queer (bi/lesbian/non-binary characters of color), beautiful writing, precious siblings, and being an overall gloriously dark retelling (more of the original than the Disney version too I would think).
Profile Image for lauraღ.
1,347 reviews55 followers
November 16, 2020
The dragon’s eyes were a light grey, the color of storm clouds gathering. She was looking straight at Yên with an expression that was half-irritation, half-hunger, as if she would gobble Yên whole, given half a chance. 

And what scared Yên most? This might, in the end, be just what she longed for.

A hugely imaginative fantasy tale (with a good dose of sci-fi) that tackles colonialism, imperialism and a Beauty and the Beast-esque narrative in a Vietnam-inspired world. It's got magic! It's got romance! It's got a really hot dragon! I wanted for nothing.

Or, well, I wanted for a little bit, but that's honestly more my fault than the book's. Nothing is over-explained, and there's no huge info-dumping or exposition about the world, which is a very good thing. But it did mean that it kind of took me a while to grasp the threads of the plot and the world that the story was taking place in. (I probably didn't help matters by not having read the blurb.) I was fuzzy on a lot of details and while I really enjoyed the book my mood/mind has been all over the place, so I don't think I took in everything as well as I could? I already want to reread this.

But I did really really enjoy it. I loved the creativity that was put into the world, the casual gender diversity, all the nuances of language that were spoken about. I loved that pronouns and forms of address in Vietnamese (and the levels of intimacy implied) were highlighted. I really REALLY enjoyed the romance. It's not the main focus of the plot, but it did get more screen time than expected, which I was thrilled about. Vu Côn is a dreamboat, and I love romances where the parties are attracted to each other even in situations where it's definitely not advisable, so it was easy to identify and sympathise with Yên. "This dragon lady might want to eat me... but oh no, she's hot!" It was super intense and romantic, and maybe a little too fast, but I was wholly invested. I loved all the secondary characters and just the lushness in general of this broken world. The plot did lose me a few times, but it was easy enough to pick up the thread.

I definitely recommend this to fans of queer sff. Great read.
Profile Image for Jeraviz.
894 reviews379 followers
November 12, 2018
Una de las historias más únicas que he leído en mucho tiempo. Aliette de Bodard nos trae una fantasía romántica basada en La Bella y la Bestia. Pero en este caso, la Bestia es una dragona. Además, tiene un sistema de magia peculiar en un ambiente post-apocalíptico e inspirado en la mitología vietnamita. Personajes LGTB, uso del género neutro en algunos de ellos, un ambiente de magia milenaria pero a su vez parece que transcurre en una tierra apocalíptica del futuro...
La única pega es que se alarga demasiado en algunos tramos quedándose a medio camino entre la fábula y la novela.
Profile Image for Sarah.
832 reviews232 followers
October 13, 2018
I’ve been telling everyone I know about In the Vanishers’ Palace, a f/f retelling of “Beauty and the Beast”… with dragons! So get ready for a really excited review.

Yên is a failed scholar in a harsh world. She and her mother are barely accepted in their village community for her mother’s skills as a healer, but Yên knows their situation is precarious and that they are likely to someday be cast out or killed. When Yên’s mother summons the dragon Vu Côn to heal the daughter of a village leader, Vu Côn demands a life in payment. The village chooses Yên, and she’s sent to Vu Côn’s home in the labyrinthine palace left behind by the rulers of the world. Yên thinks she will die, but she soon finds that Vu Côn has another use for her: Vu Côn is the mother of two, and she needs a tutor for her unruly children.

First of all, In the Vanishers’ Palace is beautifully written. Aliette de Bodard’s prose is always on point. If you want evidence, just read one of her short stories — she’s got a multitude of fabulous tales floating around the internet.

Similarly, de Bodard never fails to create breathtaking and complex worlds. In particular, I love how In the Vanishers’ Palace mixes science fiction and fantasy elements together. Magic and aliens. What a delightful combination! The aliens in question invaded the world and unleashed havoc, creating genetically engineered viruses that run rampant through the population. For unknown reasons, they left the world behind, but the world is a shattered ruin in their wake. In the Vanishers’ Palace is an excellent stand-alone story, but the world de Bodard has created is the best sort: the type that seems to stretch beyond the limits of the page. Oh, and it’s worth noting that this world doesn’t include homophobia or transphobia and that nonbinary genders are completely accepted.

The narration switches between Yên and Vu Côn, and I enjoyed both of them as protagonists. I will admit that I had moments where I questioned what Vu Côn saw in Yên; it felt like most of their interactions were very brief. Relatedly, I sometimes felt like the romance was moving too fast, although in the end, I was okay with how it developed. Still, more emphasis on character interactions couldn’t have hurt. I also would have liked to see more of Yên tutoring the twins (who are delightful!).

The original “Beauty and the Beast” tale obviously has some consent issues, and de Bodard brings those to the forefront here. Motherhood is also a huge theme of In the Vanishers’ Palace, both because Vu Côn is a mother and because of Yên’s relationship with her own mother. In general, In the Vanishers’ Palace takes the premise of the old fairy tale and recenters it around women as well as placing it in a Vietnamese cultural context.

I loved In the Vanishers’ Palace, and I know I’ll be recommending it going forward.

I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.

Review from The Illustrated Page.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,003 followers
January 12, 2019
Reviewed for the Bibliophibian.

Received to review via Netgalley

I wanted and expected to love this story. It’s a queer retelling of Beauty and the Beast, based on Vietnamese folklore with sci-fi elements as well, and dragons. There’s even a sci-fi library that I really want to exist. I pre-ordered it, requested it on Netgalley, and generally waited on tenterhooks. How did I find it? Well.

It opens promisingly enough: Yên, the daughter of a healer, is traded to a dragon in exchange for her healing powers. It’s clear they live in a post-apocalyptic universe, with viruses wracking the human population and contagion spreading from person to person. As a failed scholar, she’s just not valuable to her village, and so she’s traded away in order to save one of the leaders’ daughters. Off she goes to live with Vu Côn, the dragon, to look after her children — and it turns out that Vu Côn lives in a palace made by those who wrecked the world and disappeared, and the children aren’t any ordinary dragons.

After the start, though, I rarely felt like I understood what was happening or why. Or rather, I could give you a running summary for the whole story, but I felt all adrift; I didn’t know why things were happening, I didn’t catch the undercurrents, and the relationship between Vu Côn and Yên came completely out of nowhere from my point of view. I do like a story where I have to work for it, where I have to figure out where I stand and how this world is different to ours, but I don’t think that was the problem. It was more the characters and their motivations that never worked for me (or when they did, it was only for a few pages). The setting itself was fascinating, but. But.

I seem to be fairly alone in that, looking around at bloggers I trust, which makes me almost reluctant to admit that I just really did not get it. And it makes me reluctant to give this a poor rating, but… my ratings have to be my ratings, not how I think I ought to rate a book.

It’s clear there’s plenty here that’s enchanting other people, and in many ways I’m an aberration. I’ll be passing on my copy to my sister and seeing if it ticks her boxes!
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