Ahoy there me mateys! I received this fantasy/sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . .
in the vanishers’ palace (Aliette de Bodard)
Title: in the vanishers’ palace
Author: Aliette de Bodard
Publisher: JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.
Publication Date: TODAY!! (paperback/e-book)
I have read some of the author’s short stories and enjoy her writing style. This is a beauty and the beast retelling based on Vietnamese myths and culture. The story is an interesting blend of fantasy and sci-fi. The tale takes place in a world destroyed by an alien race called the Vanishers. The Vanishers used Earth as a plaything and left chaos behind. Humans are barely surviving in the barren wasteland. Disease, starvation, and lack of resources are the norm. In order to have a place in society, members must have viable skills to keep their place. Life is harsh and unfair.
Yên lives in one such settlement. She is a failed scholar and barely adequate healer’s apprentice. Her position in the village is due to her mother’s skill as a healer. But one day, a prominent leader’s daughter is diagnosed with a fatal disease. Should she die, both Yên and her mother’s places are forfeit. So Yên’s mother makes a magical bargain with a dragon for the girl’s life. Only the price of the healing turns out to be Yên’s servitude to the dragon. Yên is taken to the Vanishers’ palace to be a teacher to the dragon’s two children. Only Yên is drawn to the dragon. What will become of her?
I have to say that this was just an okay read for me. I had a hard time getting drawn into the story. I liked many of the individual elements but the story didn’t end up being an cohesive whole. I loved the “word” magic. I loved the f/f relationship. I loved Yên’s mother. I enjoyed the blend of sci-fi and fantasy elements. I liked that Yên stood up for herself and demanded to be allowed to make her own choices. And yet the excitement was lacking.
Part of that may have been the dragon’s aloof nature. Part of that was the many descriptions of the odd architecture and nature of the palace itself. I didn’t really even feel the fairy tale retelling vibe. But overall, I am not sure what the disconnect was. I just did not love this story like others by the author. This story does seem to be loved by many of the crew. So while this story was not mesmerizing, I am glad to have read it. And I still will be readin’ more of the author’s work.
So lastly . . .
Thank you JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.!
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
From the award-winning author of the Dominion of the Fallen series comes a dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…
A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.
A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.
When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.
But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…
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