AUTHOR: Aliette de Bodard
RELEASE DATE: 9 FEBRUARY, 2021
genre: FANTASY (LBTQ+)
Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.
Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.
Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate—and her own?
“A powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world.“
Concise, lyrical, and engaging; this story pulls you right in from the first chapter, keeps you there till the very end and leaves wanting for more. For such a short story, Bodard has done an amazing job in building up the characters, including fantastical elements and even succeeds in implementing the feel of a “mystery”, which adds to the political turmoil – which is a major part of the plot – and even developing a F/F romance, a love triangle that weaves itself right into the main plot. Beautifully done!
Our main character, Princess Thanh struggles to live up to her mother’s expectations and strives to fulfill all her demands, but nothing is ever enough. While she fights to secure a place for herself in the court and navigates through politics with her quiet wisdom and compassion, she battles with her trauma from the past and tries to understand the abusive treatment of her heart, when things start to finally reveal themselves in the form of a burning raging fire, her only fear.
“Solitude is nothing but a carefully maintained facade.”
A story of healing, finding oneself and learning to live with dignity.
“Then that’s all we really need to be happy, isn’t it? Life is too short to be ringed by other people’s expectations of proper behaviour.”
The world-building, I must admit, was a bit disappointing. There are many unanswered questions, but nonetheless, the story is very well written, in a lush and easy language that is easy to read. Another thing that I found odd, was that there were no male characters at all. It felt odd to me, but it is not that bothersome. It just felt like “men”, didn’t exist in that world, except for being merchants. Barring all these, I enjoyed the story and was able to finish it in one sitting.
The story ends on a good note, and I hope that this is just the beginning of a heartfelt fantasy series. I would love to read more from this author!
“What follows will be neither easy nor pleasant, but there is a way forward that wasn’t there before.”
UNTIL NXT TIME!