Hello humans! This year, as many of you will know, I’ve been reading quite a few retellings, I’ve been calling this ‘the year of ALL THE RETELLINGS’ and so far, it has been an amazing adventure into how people twist and turn fairy tales into brand new stories. So, when I had the opportunity to read Aliette De Bodard’s F/F Beauty and the Beast retelling, of course, I jumped at the chance.
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…
I’ve read two of Aliette De Bodard’s books and a fair few short stories in the past and every time I have a fairly similar experience. In the moment, while reading them, I have only a tenuous link to what is actually going on, I get incredibly confused, I have to skip back pages and read paragraphs multiple times because I tend to get a little lost. Normally that would be a killer for me, I like to have a handle on things, some would call me a control freak in that regard. But for whatever reason, I never seem to mind the confusion and every single time I finish anything she has written, I’m left with the overwhelming feeling that I’ve just read something I hugely enjoyed. I’d love to be able to explain this, in fact, I’d love to be able to look for that quality in other books, but I honestly can’t. All I can say is that I had pretty much the exact same experience reading In the Vanisher’s Palace.
I will say that I had a better idea of what was going on in this book, possibly because it is shorter than, for example, The House of Shattered Wings, so there was less for me to get lost in. It could also be because the idea that this was a retelling gave me a rough plot outline from the word go, though this does (as most good retellings do) veer from the original quite a bit.
This story warmed the cockles of my heart. It has amazing setup, a huge amount of detailed worldbuilding for such a short book, and a whole host of fascinating characters, but it’s the romance that really got to me. I very rarely find myself wanting two characters to get together, it’s not that I don’t enjoy a romance I just find that when books take the build-up to a romance and focus on that in lieu of a plot (naming no courts of anything and anything) it tends to be fairly boring for the reader. In this case, there is so much else going on that having that romance to cling to at the core of the story was hugely powerful.
I was frankly amazed at how much happened in the space of fewer than 200 pages. This book made me laugh, it made me smile and, unsurprisingly, it made me cry. I said this on Twitter but I’ll say it again here. I have happily added this book to my list of books that I re-read when I’m feeling a little bit down. You know the kind that you pick up like an old friend just to cheer you up a little. I actually think this is a book that will benefit from multiple re-reads as there are so many little details and twists and turns that you could get something more from it every time.
This book blew my mind, it may be my favourite retelling of the year so far. Because who among us hasn’t fallen in love with a dragon. Just me? Oh.
My rating: 5/5 stars
I received a free digital copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
In the Vanishers’ Palace publishes on the 16th of October. Order your copy today!
What say you? Will you be reading this? Let me know in the comments below!