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  • Writer's pictureTabitha Tomala

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo Book Review

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Book cover for The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

The Empress of Salt and Fortune Book Review

Rabbit’s world changed when she was sold into Imperial labor and chosen as a handmaiden for the new empress In-Yo. Despite being from different backgrounds, both Rabbit and In-Yo had no choice in their fates. When In-Yo is exiled, Rabbit faithfully follows and together the two friends seek retribution. When Cleric Chih and their recorded bird Almost Brilliant cross paths with Rabbit, the tale of her campaign with In-Yo begins to unfold.

The Empress of Salt and Fortune is told in storyteller fashion as Rabbit reveals the life she led beside the Empress. Nghi Vo draws the reader in gradually and pulls back at key moments to evoke mystery and anticipation. Each time Rabbit will ask Chih and Almost Brilliant if they understand the story. While the story seems straightforward, the mystery revolves around the words Rabbit isn’t telling. The context between the lines the reader and characters must piece together with each new tale. This technique brought the story to a personal level for Rabbit. As she reflected on her memories the reader was not only told the story but was also able to see the emotional impact it held for Rabbit.

Each new piece granted to the reader reveals another layer of the world, showing the cruelty of imperial rule and the need for a new path to be set. The delicate nature required for In-Yo to make an impact incorporated elements of lore and fortune telling. Despite being novella length, there is no question of what influenced In-Yo and Rabbit’s path. And while there are some lingering questions surrounding the Clerics and recorder birds, there must be some mystery left over for future novellas.

This story was emotionally impactful, and constantly moving forward. Despite taking breaks between tales for side conversations, every moment capitalized on the displayed emotions and cultivated a compelling reading experience. I would recommend this to readers who enjoy Asian inspired tales dedicated to the need for women's voices to be heard and recognized.

To Purchase: Bookshop | Author's Website

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