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Virtual Book Club – June Pick – The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

Join us virtually on Thursday, June 16th, from 5:30-6:30 pm for a lively discussion of The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the young royal In-yo as she embarks on a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully. Rabbit, a handmaiden sold by her parents to the palace, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for. Registration for this event is open – click here to register. Copies of the book are available for checkout in print, through Libby (eBook and eAudio), and Hoopla (eAudio).

Notable Book Reviews

NPR’s reviewer of Empress of Salt and Fortune, Jessica Wick, tells us “Nghi Vo’s story of women and intrigue at the end of one empire and beginning of another reveals in flashes that what you think you see isn’t all there is to see. It asks — and answers — the question: What is important? Who is important? Here, the old aphorism “all that glitters is not gold” is particularly apt.” Her summation lets us know that “This is a book about women’s and queer voices, about their importance in spite of — and in the face of — erasure.”, and to “Be prepared for subtlety and grace, but also for pleasure, for a working-class perspective on momentous events, for ghosts and damp pine boughs. There is no excessive gore, but there are raw moments of pain.”

Publisher’s Weekly describes it as “myth and fable with political intrigue to build a stunning feminist fantasy set in a land inspired by imperial China, while Katharine Coldiron of Sci-Fi and Fantasy magazine Locus, writes “This little book encompasses adventure, intrigue, love, murder, beauty, and even more. It’s magical – a speaking hoopoe with an outsized attitude strikes a sweet note – and wise, despite its utter lack of pretension.”

For a frank critique of the novel specifically as fantasy from an East Asian cultural perspective, see this review posted on The Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network.

Overview of the Author

Nghi Vo was born in Illinois, now lives in Wisconsin, and her stories and novellas have gathered acclaim and awards since she started publishing fiction in 2007. She writes in several genres and often mixes them, mixing magic with a retelling of a familiar story or historical fiction with fantasy. Listen to her talk about one of her favorite books, Wise Children by Angela Carter, on the Chicago Review of Books podcast or read an interview with Locus magazine about publishing during the pandemic.

Readalike Suggestions

Interested in reading more richly detailed fantasy with a dash of political intrigue, rooted in mythology and folklore? Check out these similar titles:

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Two women are forced to navigate a treacherous imperial court determined to consume them in this sweeping and richly detailed first book of an East Asian-inspired epic fantasy series. This title is available in print.

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