TITLE: In the Vanishers’ Palace
AUTHOR: Aliette de Bodard
RELEASED: October 2018; JABberwocky Literary Agency
KEY INFO: Novella, retelling, romance, dragons, colonialism, healing, agency, magic and mythology
REPRESENTATION: Vietnamese, f/f romance, female protagonists
CONTENT NOTICES: woman held prisoner, sexual scene, poverty
I jumped on the chance to read an ARC of In the Vanishers’ Palace when it was first announced by Aliette de Bodard via her twitter. I had read her incredible The Tea Master and the Detective a few months before which I had really enjoyed and had cemented Aliette as one of my favourite new-to-me authors of 2018. I normally don’t go in for retellings at all but Aliette’s compelling writing, intricate world-building, and imaginative plots completely drew me in and made me fall in love with these stories. In In the Vanishers’ Palace a young scholar, Yên, is sold to one of the last of the dragons still alive, Vu Côn, and is spirited away to live in a magical palace built by the ancients to tutor Vu Côn’s two children. It is an enchanting Beauty and the Beast retelling with dragons, queerness and Vietnamese characters.
I’ve been struggling to write this review since finishing the book in October because there is just so much complexity, richness and good things about In the Vanishers’ Palace that I have had trouble collecting my thoughts into something that would make a coherent review. As such, I’ll be doing a mini-review in an attempt to give you points on why this book is great and why you should read it!
- Set in a magical, postcolonial world which is beautifully brought to life through Aliette’s writing and mastery of world-building
- The use of pronouns in the book is one of my favourite that I’ve come across so far and which captures such a diversity of different gender identities in a way which just so completely normal
- Uses Beauty and the Beast as a framework to explore, challenge and subvert many of the issues woven into the original such as power relations, agency, consent, poverty and illness, colonialism, gender and monster romances
- Fleshed out characters who constantly make mistakes for all kinds of reasons, are completely flawed, and yet who are #squadgoals. Seriously I love all of the characters, especially Thông and Liên
- I mean… it has an f/f romance between a woman and a shapeshifting dragon. What more could you want?!
If you’re intrigued and would like to read a more in-depth review I would recommend reading these lovely reviews by Alexa and Acqua who have managed to capture a lot more of the complexity, diversity and story than I have in my own review. Basically, there was just so much that I loved about this book that I can’t translate it into words. You’re just going to have to read it for yourself and I hope you fall as in love with Aliette de Bodard as I have!