ARC Review: The Empress of Salt and Fortune

Empress of Salt and Fortune



SERIES: Standalone

GENRES/ SUBJECTS: Fantasy Novella

REPRESENTATION: F/F Relationship, Nonbinary Protagonist




A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.


The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a really tight, well-written novella that sort of comes at its story side-on, building up the past through a series of short scenes (each based around an object or artifact) that come together to present a united whole.

It’s a short story, but one with wonderful lines and a huge emotional payout.

“Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.”

I loved the way Empress In-yo is presented from a distance. We get to hear Rabbit side of the story, her version of events and her interpretation, but Vo never really lets us into In-yo’s head. This keeps the Empress aloof, and slightly other. You can guess at her plans and motivations but Vo doesn’t seem to feel the need to make In-yo justify her actions, even when they feel harsh. I liked seeing this unapologetically driven woman making choices that the narrator — and the readers — might not agree with, but sticking to it because it’s what she feels that she needs to do. Staying out of In-yo head doesn’t give you a way out, or a way to sugar coat her decisions. She makes the choices she makes, and sometimes it’s nice to read a character like that. As a human being, it might make her a bad person (maybe? depending on your viewpoint?) but it makes for a facilitating character you really want to delve into. Vo gives you just enough.

Overall, I would have like the story to be teased out just a little longer. The short length works but the opening and closing feel just a tad abrupt. I loved the atmosphere and aesthetic of the world, especially how quickly and efficiently it’s conveyed.



The Empress of Salt and Fortune

With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women.

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.



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