The Empress of Salt and Fortune
It won’t take long for you to read this very short book. The first thing you will notice, in the first sentence, is the characters have great names. The second thing you will notice is that the main character is non-binary, which we learn in the third sentence. The author uses the short time she has your attention to get right to it.
Cleric Chih of the Singing Hills abbey has stopped at haunted Scarlet Lake on their way to the capitol to witness and remember the eclipse coinciding with the incoming Empress’ first Dragon Court. What began as a curious look at the old empress’ long ago house of exile becomes the unearthing of a story when they meet the old woman called Rabbit, who has returned to Thriving Fortune after being away for most of a long lifetime.
Remembering is what Chih and their bird Almost Brilliant have trained to do, and every day Rabbit leads them more deeply into the embedded stories of her own early life and of the empress in exile, asking Chih repeatedly not if they remember the stories, but if they understand what she’s telling them.
Poetry. Dreams. Symbolism. Author Nghi Vo uses all the big tools with such a deft touch I didn’t mind the brevity. It’s short but powerful, like this review. Read this book, it will give you many feels and send you briefly into a robustly drawn world that feels both familiar and brand new at the same time.
p.s. This is the year’s Christmas gift book, and my benefactors have hit it out of the park yet again. How do they DO that every year?