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The Empress of Salt and Fortune

(The Singing Hills Cycle #1)

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  15,061 ratings  ·  3,014 reviews
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 dy
Paperback, 121 pages
Published March 24th 2020 by
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femme fantasy freak Agreed with Shima. I don’t even remember the implicit sex or violence she mentioned so it must have been quite minor—definitely wasn’t explicit.
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chai ♡
find this review & others on my blog

Dust lay in thick motes on the history of Lake Scarlet: a soft blanket of years, draped over old truths and forgotten secrets. But Chih, a traveling cleric who walks through puddles of ink, following footprints that form stories in their wake to collect like cards in their heart, is here to disturb them.

Chih meets Rabbit, an elderly woman who tells them of the history of this beautiful and devastating landscape—and the words rise from their ink-and-cot
Lala BooksandLala
My favourite book I read in March! 🙌Book 27 of 30 for my 30 day reading challenge. Empress of Salt and Fortune was this remarkable little tale told by an elderly woman named Rabbit. We have a cleric named Chi (they/them) and their hoopoe Almost Brilliant who are listening to the story of the Empress In-Yo, who had Rabbit as a handmaiden during the time when she was married into an alliance, and then exiled. Nghi Vo delivers a deeply moving, atmospheric story of feminism, resilience, and rebellio ...more
Emily May
Jan 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Emily May by: Tatiana
Shelves: 2021, fantasy, feminism
“Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves. I am not worried for her in the least.”

4 1/2 stars. I love discovering a writer who is doing such new and exciting things, and The Empress of Salt and Fortune introduced me to the most unique and fascinating world and mythos I've read in I don't even know how long. I can't wait to see what Nghi Vo does next.

I'm going to keep my comments brief as this is a novella and I don't want to give away too much of such a short book. However
“You will never remember the great if you do not remember the small.”
But who’s to tell what is great and what is small? The tempting part is to assign the greatness to those in power, those accidentally born under a lucky star, in a world of privilege by birth, or those that are uncompromising and ruthless enough to either hold on to the power or wrestle it from the others. By this definition, everyone and everything else is the small, meant to be left at the sidelines of history, meant to
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars-2020, f-f
This book doesn’t make you feel things you can put into words. It makes you feel things that only you can feel and only you can comprehend. And I mean this in the best way possible.
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, novella, empire
the war was won by silenced and nameless women.’

Napoleon once said ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?.’ Empires rise and fall, people pass through the world, and all of it leaves behind a story and, if we are to believe in truth, we must discover how to responsibly tell these stories. And for what purpose. Thriving Fortune, the site where an empress spent her captivity in exile in Nghi Vo’s debut novella The Empress of Salt and Fortune, has a wealth of stories settling in the dust and d
I am keeping this short: I was confused most of the time, the writing was great but I finished while still trying to connect to the characters and story. I felt it was a bit choppy and disjointed. Still a fast feminist short story if you want want.
Ashleigh (a frolic through fiction)
Such a beautiful short story - I don’t know how else to describe it other than saying everything seemed so heartfelt. It read like a fairytale in it’s found meaning through brutality, and even in the story structure with repeated phrases of “do you understand now?” The threats of the political structures were indicated clearly, and quickly, without being diminished. An impressive short story, and one I can imagine myself returning to.
“Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.”

So What’s It About?

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.

What I Thought

I’ve been reading more novellas recently than I ever have in my life, and so far this is my absolute favorit
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of quiet, rebellious fantasy
Recommended to jade by: i honestly can't recall, but i think it was someone doing the asian readathon
“angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.”

a story about a nonbinary monk looking to expand the annals of history, and the elderly lady who gives them a tale they will never forget.

… whew, this one got me and it got me good. i read it so fast it nearly gave me whiplash, then instantly reread it, and i cried both times. because this is a hidden story, a tale so easily evaporated and forgotten, told in wisps of rumor and the remnants of broken things, but i had the p
may ➹
I’m going to be honest, I think my brain was too fried from finals to comprehend this properly, but I still liked it!! leaving it unrated for now but I thought the storytelling was unique, and I loved the way everything slowly unraveled. I enjoyed the writing; I appreciate how the book trusts the reader (it doesn’t outright tell you everything that happens and leaves it up to you to figure out), though at times it might not have worked for me because I didn’t have the brain cells. overall, a wel ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
4.5 stars. Elegantly written Asian-inspired fantasy novella, nominated for a Hugo award, that was far, far better than I expected.

A traveling NB cleric, Chih, makes their way to an isolated villa where the empress In-Yo, who recently died, once lived in exile. Now, many years later, it's inhabited only by the empress's now-elderly servant, called Rabbit. While Chih examines the old records and artifacts, Rabbit gradually unfolds the story of In-Yo to Chih and their talking hoopoe bird companion.
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is an example of what a good novella is - rich in background and character development, complex in story telling, beautifully written.

Excited to read more from Nghi Vo
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2020-shelf
I'm always on the lookout for writers who are getting people excited, and this one graced my radar several times before I was able to grab her on Netgalley.

This one has some really cool setting descriptions (evocative and colorful), excellent use of object descriptions (telling very understated stories that branch much deeper than first implications), and some very cool points of subtlety in the telling of a much larger story.

In a nutshell, we hear the story of an exiled princess in a Chinese-l
Empress of Salt and Fortune is the best example of quiet fantasy I know. It's a story about a revolution, about the upheaval of an empire, the way many fantasy stories are - and yet it's unlike everything I've ever read. There isn't one fight scene, it's told decades after the events happened, and it relies so much on details and symbolism, as quiet fantasy does when it needs to talk about something not quiet at all.
It follows Chih (they/them), a cleric - who pretty much functions as a historian
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
On the back of the book, there is praise by Seanan McGuire. I won't quote her entire praise, just the last sentence. "I didn't know I needed to read this until I did." That sums up my entire opinion as well. 5/5 stars.

Longer version of the review: The first plot follows a traveling cleric named Chih, whose duty is to record history in all its forms. The cleric meets and older woman called Rabbit, who gives a history unrecorded about the empress of the title. Her name In-yo, she came from the far
K.J. Charles
A really excellent novella set in an Asian-inspired alt world, with a touch of magic but mostly politics and conspiracy and fantastic feminist rage. Haunting, extraordinary, deeply compelling in a quietly building way. Really really good.
"One drunken evening, many years on, In-yo would say that the war was won by silenced and nameless women, and it would be hard to argue with her."

Cleric Chih and Almost Brilliant, a hoopoe, travel to Lake Scarlett, where the compound that Empress In-yo was exiled to sits. Chih means to catalog the contents of the compound and record its stories, but when they arrive they are greeted by an old woman named Rabbit, who invites them in. Rabbit was a servant under In-yo, who eventually came to be
Althea | themoonwholistens ☾
I simply am in love with Nghi Vo's writing voice, and that's that.

This whole book was so calming to read and I still don't know the reason why.

— overall thoughts: 4.5 —
trigger warnings// (view spoiler)

One of my favorite things about short stories is when they are able to pack so many themes and world building in to a small package. AND THIS WAS THAT. It’s basically a story within a story as the narrator is telling a tale to a certain cha
May 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this novella, we are following an elderly woman named Rabbit, who was the handmaiden to the Empress In-Yo, a young royal from the north who had everything taken from her and was sent south for a political marriage. Rabbit and In-Yo become friends in their loneliness. And the story unfolds as Rabbit tells this story to a cleric named Chih (they/them) and their hoopoe, Almost Brilliant.

The writing is beautifully atmospheric and lyrical. I loved the characters and truly think Nghi Vo did an exce
Feb 13, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtqia
3/5 stars

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arc received through netgalley

The empress of salt and fortune is a short story about an exiled empress and her rise to power and her unconditional love for women.

While the whimsical writing style of this book enhanced the experience, turning the story into a fairy tale, there was little to anything else to this book.

The characters, while complex, were seen from distance, which made any kind of emotional connection impossible. The pacing of the story felt off, as th
This novella captures so much with seeming simplicity; I think that's the beauty of it.

I'm left suffused with wonder, and the feeling that I've just witnessed—like Chih—a piece of a nation's history, and more importantly, the love and loyalty of one simple woman who did not turn out to be so simple after all.
May 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me a few chapters to get in to this story but once i did, it swept me off my feet.
The writing is atmospheric and lyrical and the story reads like a fable which only adds to its charms.
I loved the characters and thought the author did a great job of exploring their relationships in such a short book.
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
☆ 4 / 5 ☆

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (The Singing Hills #2): 5 / 5

"It is beautiful, but every stitch bites into her history, the deaths she left behind her, and the home she could not return to."

This was truly a fantastic novella and had so much impact with so little pages.

We follow Chih, a cleric, and their magical hoopoe companion, Almost Brilliant, on their journey to the capital to witness the new Empress’ first Dragon Court. On the way they meet Rabbit, a servant of the late E
Dec 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In-yo is the latest wife to the Emperor. She has no fortune and no allies, especially as she is from the far north (other side of the Empire and usually looked down upon). But she befriends at least one of her servants: Rabbit.
Rabbit has become a handmaiden after her parents had to sell her to the palace because they were a few baskets short of dye (their tribute).

This novella chronicles In-yo bonding with Rabbit, Rabbit suddenly being in the middle of a storm (emotional and political), as well
Allison Hurd
A simultaneously sideways and all too real look at how history gets made, with the focus not on the battle, but on the small mishaps, the portents, scraps, and kindnesses that so often don't make it into the textbooks. Though fictitious, this is a marvelous and loving look at how our heroes are born, and how we remember their stories. ...more
Di Maitland
4.75*s. This book is almost a work of art. Every word has been weighed and measured; every scene has been tasted, tested and ultimately savoured. It’s a simple story well told; quiet and understated about silenced and underrated women.
"Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves. I am not worried for her in the least."

The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a 119-page novella that tells a story within a story. Cleric Chih from Singing Hills Abbey is on her way to the capital when she
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Despite its short length (100 pages or so), it took me several attempts to actually finish The Empress of Salt and Fortune. The first time I picked it up I only managed to reach the halfway mark. A few months later I tried again (from the start) but once again found myself growing bored by it. Finally, I gave this a lost shot today and I can't say that it was worth reading after all. The first few pages are intriguing but this type of novella is clearly more intere
A fairytale of fierce political females, cunning warriors and spies told in a highly evocative and almost whimsical way that truly captivates the reader to Rabbit's story of an exiled princess.

It's short, yes, and because of this a bulk of what would be considered the 'action' scenes are skipped over in favour of letting the reader simply enjoy the characters for what they are and what they become. It felt incredibly poignant and special, as though I was being given a rare gift from Rabbit in h
4.5 stars. It has been a while since I read something so beautiful and evocative. It was a difficult start as I kept losing track or dozed off when listening to the audiobook first few chapters. But when I got the groove, it became an enchanting experience. Probably my long hours of watching historical c-dramas has paid off.
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Nghi Vo is the author of the acclaimed novellas The Empress of Salt and Fortune and When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain. Born in Illinois, she now lives on the shores of Lake Michigan. She believes in the ritual of lipstick, the power of stories, and the right to change your mind. The Chosen and the Beautiful is her debut novel.

Other books in the series

The Singing Hills Cycle (5 books)
  • When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (The Singing Hills Cycle, #2)
  • Into the Riverlands (The Singing Hills Cycle, #3)
  • Untitled (The Singing Hills Cycle, #4)
  • Untitled (The Singing Hills Cycle, #5)

Articles featuring this book

  Author C.L. Clark is no newcomer to the sci-fi and fantasy scene. Though she just published her first novel, The Unbroken, earlier this year,...
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“Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.” 80 likes
“You will never remember the great if you do not remember the small.” 25 likes
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