A novel as rich as it is brief, The Empress of Salt and Fortune is high fantasy at its very best, pulling readers full-tilt into a new world with its opening line (“Something wants to eat you”), each page making the real world more vibrant for having been turned.
Set in a time and place at once reminiscent of Imperial China and utterly new, author Nghi Vo weaves palace intrigues and war mammoths, fortune-telling and secret-keeping, with the tales of objects and lives both ordinary and extraordinary in an elegant narrative that resonates like a bell in the here and now.
At only 118 pages, Empress can be swallowed in a gulp, but the beauty of the prose slows the eye and forces the reader to stop and wonder, as it both destroys and rebuilds. Along the way, a cleric, a handmaiden, an empress, and a hoopoe named Almost Brilliant find their way to truths that power would rather they not find.
“Save that anger,” one character says to another, “Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.”