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 absolutely LOVED In the Vanishes’ Palace. It’s a such a terrific novella, and I feel like it was the perfect length for this story (although I wouldn’t mind spending even more time in this world and learning more about it).
First, there is a dream-like quality about the world itself that is just great. We’re given just enough information to understand, mostly, what’s going on, but everything feels very ephemeral, as if you could forget about it, like a dream upon waking. I think this is one of those things that’s hard to achieve in writing so when I come across it done well, I’m always excited. I think this technique works great for a shorter work like this and also helps enhance the fairy tail tone of the story. This is, after all, a loose retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The downside of this technique is that it can make everything so foggy that some readers may have issues connecting to the work, but I didn’t have that issue myself as I’m a fan of this type of writing.
I really loved Yên’s character–she’s kind and curious, and loves learning things. In a way she’s also a stand in for us, the reader, as we explore this world of the dragon, Vu Côn, and this strange ship that she lives on. Vu Côn is quite interesting too. She’s a power to be reckoned with, but she obviously has a lot of weight on her. She’s carrying the burden of a entire people, as possibly the last of her kind. She definitely feels otherworldly, and yet the vanishers, those unspeakable monsters who tried to wipe out everything in their paths, are even more otherworldly. Even the monsters in this world have nightmares.
This book is short but it explores a lot. One of the main things is colonialism. The Vanishers are colonizers. They came, conquered, took everything they wanted before disappearing and leaving the world behind a wreck of its former self. This isn’t a light tale, although there is light in it.
I really appreciated everything this novella touched on, in such beautifully written prose, with a love story to boot. 5/5 stars.