Book Reviews, Fantasy, Fiction  |  05.05.2021

The Emperess of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle #1) by Nghi Vo


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.


Adult High Fantasy

Trigger Warnings:

Death of a loved one, war, grief.

Spoiler-Free Review:

“You will never remember the great if you do not remember the small.”

― Nghi Vo, The Empress of Salt and Fortune

What a magical adventure. I didn’t know what to expect of this book – I’ve never read anything like it. And, although I was skeptical this would work for me in the beginning, the mystical narrative won me over and I was completely enthralled by the tale of The Empress of Salt and Fortune.

Cleric Chih (they/them) accompanied by their assistant, a talking hoopoe called “Always Brilliant“, is responsible for writing down history. They are on their way to see the new Empress undergo her first Dragon Court when they learn that the seal on the records of the last reign is finally broken.

Empress In-Yo was exiled to Lake Scarlet for many years and the site has many hidden secrets. Chih is able to be the first one to arrive at the area and is surprised that there’s an old peasant woman living in the locale.

Rabbit was the handmaiden to In-Yo and she will tell Chih the real story of what happened with them so many years ago, and how her role was pivotal in defining history. “Do you understand?” she pleads, as she tries to convey the importance of each account.

This is a book with fantastic representation and is a powerhouse feminist novella. With only a few pages, it manages to create such a beautiful and complex world. It reads almost like a script, luxuriously describing objects and textures, making it easy to envision the lake, also known as Thriving Fortune, and the other locations mentioned.

Overall, this was simply beautiful.

“Save that anger,” Mai said with a sigh.

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

― Nghi Vo, The Empress of Salt and Fortune

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ (4 Stars)

Find the book here:

Goodreads | Amazon

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1 Comment “The Emperess of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle #1) by Nghi Vo”
  1. Lindsey      May 06 2021 // 07H37

    Ooh I love the sound of this – the premise sounds different to anything that I’ve come across before and sounds like it’s a great read. Thanks for the recommendation – great review!