In the Vanishers’ Palace
Author: Aliette de Bodard
What I’m Talking About:
Never having read any works by this author, and being less familiar with this genre than with others, I had no idea what to expect from In the Vanishers’ Palace. While its description as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast is accurate, it didn’t take long to discover that it is also much more. Filled with folklore and magic, along with a reminder or two about how we ought to treat those close to us, this story contained everything I’d hoped it would, and a few nice surprises, as well.
In the Vanishers’ Palace primarily revolves around Yên, the daughter of the village healer, and Vu Côn, a dragon spirit summoned to heal Yên’s best friend. Having decided that Yên is of little use, the elders decide to offer her up to the dragon as payment for the healing. As the last of her kind still willing (or able) to help the mortals who survived the Vanishers, Vu Côn is an interesting mix arrogance and compassion, and I liked her a great deal. My favorite characters in the story, however, were the twins, Thông and Liên. I thought they were wonderful in every scene they were in, and would gladly do a re-read just for them.
As if the basic premise of an “f/f Beauty and the Beast with a dragon” wasn’t interesting enough, In the Vanishers’ Palace also proved to be a real challenge in several ways. Set in a world left “broken and poisoned” by parasitic invaders called “the Vanishers,” the story relies heavily on traditions and mythologies that I’m unfamiliar with (but am now happily determined to study further). And though I believe they are necessary to understand the horrors the Vanishers inflicted, readers should be advised that there are a few graphic depictions of the effects of the Vanishers’ lingering diseases and experiments.
The only recurring issue I encountered—and I’m chalking it up to my own deficiencies, rather than the story’s—was that I couldn’t keep up with some of the imagery associated with the magic flowing throughout the narrative. Despite the incredible detail the author uses to underscore the differences between the village and the palace, I always seemed to lose track of transitions within that space. It often distracted me from everything else that was going on, and I ended up limiting my focus to the characters, dialog, etc. Regardless, I’m sure it’s something a second reading will clear up easily enough.
Overall, I enjoyed In the Vanishers‘ Palace a great deal. I have a soft spot for stories that induce me to do additional research, and this story certainly did that. With the whirling beauty of Escher and Dalí, I occasionally found the visualizations to be in competition (rather than in concert) with the action of some scenes, but I’m eager to find out if that changes the next time I read it. I liked all the main characters very much, particularly the twins. I also appreciated the pacing of the relationship that develops between Vu Côn and Yên. Theirs wasn’t an easy journey, and the author makes it clear that there will be more struggles to come. In the Vanishers’ Palace was an unexpected pleasure throughout, and I’m looking forward to reading more works by this author in the future.
My Rating: B+ Liked It A Lot
About the Book:
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…
Release Date: October 16, 2018
Publisher: JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.
Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQ, f/f
Format(s): paperback (208 pages), e-book
Book Source: Author