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In the Vanishers’ Palace Paperback – 8 Oct 2018
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I loved the world-building, it’s the best part of this story for me, but I liked the characters too. Yên is definitely a woman out of place, desperate to find a way to fit – not just inside the Vanisher’s palace, but in the world beyond where she was viewed as not useful enough. I liked her, but I also found her a little dull compared to the others. Her mother is much more interesting, and I liked both children, Thông and Liên. However, I wish we could have actually seen a lesson and how Yên tackled teaching them. Vu Côn was fascinating, and had many changes to make in her behaviour and beliefs, although I’m still not sure what drew her to Yên.
It is a short read, though, and I think the romance suffered the most because of it. These two don’t spend much time together, their feelings aren’t really explored and the sex scene was a bit too close to monster porn for my personal tastes. Which is a shame, because there are flashes of sweetness between them, but mostly the wider plot is busy getting in the way and forcing their attention elsewhere.
Which is fine, because the wider plot is fascinating and intriguing and has a lot to say about living in a post-colonial world. So even though it isn’t perfect, it’s still beautiful and well worth a repeat read.
(ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.)
It is somehow a dragon story, a science fantasy story, a post-apocalyptic story, and a romance all in one, and yet never feels crowded. In fact it reads very elegantly.
I was sufficiently drawn in that I forgot about the Beauty and the Beast structure until I came back to write this review, which says something about the power of the writing (the background, for me). There's no point in retelling the plot, as that isn't the point of the story; it's more about duty, doing right, and "filial piety", told at several (numerous) interlacing levels. If you've read this author before, you'll know what to expect; if you haven't, the story is cunningly told, complicated, and brief. Yes, the frame is a lesbian love story, and there are scenes of monster porn. But that's hardly relevant, is it?
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