The Empress of Salt and Fortune : By – Nghi Vo (Novel Review and Podcast)
By – Nghi Vo
The Empress of Salt and Fortune is the sort of story that improves the more occasions you read it, and the additional time you let it live in your mind and your heart. I was surprised by the manner in which the story was told when I originally opened it, however I became tied up with the narrative format right away. The tale of the Empress, In-yo isn’t told firsthand. Instead, historical things and mementos are painstakingly logged and stories told about them, and it’s through those accounts that In-yo’s story unfurls. It separated the story into bite-sized chunks, similar to a fantasy, and I adored that feeling of being told the story as opposed to perusing it firsthand.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune is about a priest named Chih who is venturing to every part of the kingdom of Anh to record things for historical research. They happen upon an older lady named Rabbit who lives alone in a cloister (I think it was a religious community). Rabbit reveals to Chih the story of the late Empress In-yo, the nominal sovereign, who was from a land unfamiliar to Anh. She reveals to them how the Empress of Salt and Fortune was both adored and despised while disclosing to them her own story.
The story itself is sad and strong. The picture of a desolate Empress being ousted when her ‘utilization’ was up and the kinship that developed between In-yo and Rabbit was excellent. The novella is just a little more than 100 pages, yet the characters are perfectly fleshed out and all around built up that I felt more sincerely associated with them than characters in certain novels I’ve perused. The story told is tight and concise without a word waste to bring the peruser along on Chih’s discoveries.
There’s nothing wrong with the book and it has a decent story, however we just know so much about the world and characters. Rabbit is presumably the most fleshed out through both her present conversations with Chih and with the disclosure of her experience as a handmaiden to Empress In-yo. In-yo’s story uncovers the biases of expansionism, sexism, and ethnocentrism (she was viewed as primitive and came from various individuals like Rabbit) inside the universe of East Asian colonialism. It was a pleasantly done message.