In the Vanishers’ Palace

In the Vanishers’ Palace

From the award-winning author of the Dominion of the Fallen series comes a dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast.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, co...

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Title:In the Vanishers’ Palace
Author:Aliette de Bodard
Rating:
Edition Language:English

In the Vanishers’ Palace Reviews

  • Acqua

    In this book, the “beast” is a shapeshifting dragon, and since the only thing that is better than both f/f romances and monster romances is an f/f monster romance, I knew I had to read it.

    Monster romances have always been one of my favorite kinds of romance. I’m sure there are others out there, but

    is the first f/f one I’ve ever read, and I’m glad I found it –

    In this book, the “beast” is a shapeshifting dragon, and since the only thing that is better than both f/f romances and monster romances is an f/f monster romance, I knew I had to read it.

    Monster romances have always been one of my favorite kinds of romance. I’m sure there are others out there, but

    is the first f/f one I’ve ever read, and I’m glad I found it – I’ve been looking for a f/f couple with this dynamic for a while, after loving so many m/f ones. Vu Côn, the

    was exactly the kind of character I wanted to read about.

    The thing about Beauty and the Beast retellings is that the relationship usually starts on an unequal footing, and this can lead to unaddressed unhealthy aspects in the relationship (too many of them read more like Stockholm syndrome than romance). This never happened in this book –

    , and this is a story about two characters in an unhealthy place working together to make it less so. It doesn’t work out immediately, it isn’t easy, and I really liked reading about their journey.

    I loved Yên and Vu Côn both as characters and as a couple.

    Not only because the inciting incident itself happened because of an illness and some of the major characters are healers, but because this is a story

    . The “Vanishers”, mysterious and powerful creatures, have left, but they left behind a broken world. Their experiments caused people to catch new, deadly illnesses, and now the survivors value only what’s “useful” – and this includes people.

    My favorite aspect of the worldbuilding was the Vanishers’ palace itself. From magical libraries to stairways that seem not to lead anywhere, from waterfalls that defy gravity to dangerous gardens and windows opening on the floor, it was a place of beauty and horror and one of the best settings I’ve read in a while.

    . This

    atmosphere reminded me of Roshani Chokshi’s books – I feel like this book could appeal to those who liked

    and want to read something shorter and less slow-paced.

    I also really liked the side characters. Yên was a teacher when she lived in her village and she also becomes a teacher for Vu Côn’s two children, Thông and Liên, who were adorable disasters.

    And, as usual, the writing was wonderful – it was atmospheric without being heavy, the dialogue felt natural, and I loved the descriptions.

  • Genevieve Cogman

    Loved it. A beautiful read - rich, detailed, enjoyable, meaningful.

  • charlotte

    is the first book by Aliette de Bodard that I've read, and boy is it a good one. It's an f/f, dark fantasy inspired by

    and Vietnamese mythology, with dragons. If the whole premise doesn't get you, I don't know what will. (Perhaps an A

    is the first book by Aliette de Bodard that I've read, and boy is it a good one. It's an f/f, dark fantasy inspired by

    and Vietnamese mythology, with dragons. If the whole premise doesn't get you, I don't know what will. (Perhaps an AO3 tags style description of the book

    ?)

    The thing I most loved about this book was the relationship between Yên and Vu Côn. It starts off cold and unfriendly, given that Vu Côn effectively kidnaps Yên in "payment" for healing a member of the village. But there is still attraction there, and Aliette de Bodard develops it really well into something more romantic. And manages to have both Yên and Vu Côn develop as characters individually as well. (As do Liên and Thông, which was good to see, as they were more side characters.)

    The writing and worldbuilding was also really good. The reader is somewhat thrown straight into the world with not that much explanation at times (especially with regard to the Vanishers), so I found that a bit difficult from time to time. Not so much that my enjoyment of the book was impacted at all, but still noticeably.

    So, in summary, you should definitely mark this book to read. Because who doesn't love fairytale reimaginings, especially when they're sapphic. Aliette de Bodard is definitely an author I'll be coming back to.

  • Gin Jenny (Reading the End)

    riends, I am very, very choosy about my “Beauty and the Beast” retellings. To the best of my recollection, the only one that I have ever loved is Robin McKinley’s Beauty. I liked Uprooted, but I loved it best when it was doing things other than retelling “Beauty and the Beast.” I hear good things about W. R. Gingell’s Masque, but I am not pinning my hopes on it. So when I tell you that I was blown away by Aliette de Bodard’s novella In the Vanishers’ Palace, a queer retelling of “Beauty and the

    riends, I am very, very choosy about my “Beauty and the Beast” retellings. To the best of my recollection, the only one that I have ever loved is Robin McKinley’s Beauty. I liked Uprooted, but I loved it best when it was doing things other than retelling “Beauty and the Beast.” I hear good things about W. R. Gingell’s Masque, but I am not pinning my hopes on it. So when I tell you that I was blown away by Aliette de Bodard’s novella In the Vanishers’ Palace, a queer retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” I want you to understand that the bar was high, and In the Vanishers’ Palace easily cleared it.

    Yên is living on borrowed time. After the world was poisoned by the Vanishers, who introduced viruses and gene mutations and ruined everything and then left, villages only keep people around if they’re useful, and Yên knows she isn’t. So it’s not much of a surprise when the village offers her to the shapeshifter dragon Vu Côn in payment of a healing Vu Côn has performed for them. When she gets to Vu Côn’s palace, she learns that she’s to be a tutor: Vu Côn is a mother, and doesn’t have the time to provide an adequate education to her twin teenagers. But the longer Yên stays at the palace, the more drawn she is to Vu Côn.

    The device of the Beast needing the Beauty for something specific is a brilliant one. So often in these retellings, the Beauty character has nothing much to do except wander around the palace poking her nose into things and getting into trouble. Here, Yên immediately has a task, and Aliette de Bodard won my heart completely with these two kids. The truism about teenagers is that they’re sulky, uncompliant, and irresponsible. Thông and Liên are definitely finding ways to separate themselves from their mother, as teenagers do, — especially Thông — but they both care deeply about being good people and doing the right thing. It’s a major subplot in the book! How to raise children into good people; how to be a good person despite one’s worst instincts. In these troubled times, but also always, these are themes that resonate with me very strongly.

    The bigger pitfall in “Beauty and the Beast” stories is, of course, consent. Fairy tales have a dreamy, unspecified quality that makes it possible for them to get away with leaving a lot of things unexplained. Retellings don’t have that luxury, and it’s rare for me to feel happy with the way an author manages the question of whether Beauty, a lifelong prisoner, can meaningfully consent to a relationship with her captor. In the Vanishers’ Palace cares deeply about this question, and the broader corollary of what it looks like to be the more powerful one in a relationship. What can we decide for the ones we love? What should we? Vu Côn grapples with this throughout the book, and I love where she ends up.

    An atmospheric gem of a retelling. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy when it comes out tomorrow.

    PS: In the language of the book, “I” pronouns are gendered, so that when a person says “I” you immediately know what pronouns to use for them. What a great idea! Is English working on this? Gendered first-person neopronouns? Can we have those?

    PPS: I received an e-ARC of this book for review consideration.

    PPPS: This review was originally posted on my blog:

  • Sarah

    is the third Beauty and the Beast retelling I've read recently (I can't help it, it's my favourite fairytale so I can never resist retellings!) and I think it was the most unique of the three.

    has created a really interesting world based on Vietnamese mythology which I just wanted to spend more time exploring. I could happily read book after book set in this world learning more about the Vanishers who devastated the earth before disappearing and leaving

    is the third Beauty and the Beast retelling I've read recently (I can't help it, it's my favourite fairytale so I can never resist retellings!) and I think it was the most unique of the three.

    has created a really interesting world based on Vietnamese mythology which I just wanted to spend more time exploring. I could happily read book after book set in this world learning more about the Vanishers who devastated the earth before disappearing and leaving humanity behind trying to pick up the pieces.

    This is an f/f retelling where the beast is actually a shapeshifting dragon, with a full asian cast and plenty of diversity which is another huge plus for me. I loved that there were a couple of gender neutral characters and nobody seemed to bat an eyelid at same sex relationships, that was all just a normal and accepted part of the world just like it should be.

    Yên's mother is a healer and Yên has always been her apprentice and a scholar but their family is very low in the hierarchy of their village and the Elders have very little use for Yên so when they need to give a sacrifice to the dragon Yên is the one who is chosen to be sent away. Yên knows she's been given a death sentence, everyone knows the dragon is a murderer, but she knows she'll never be accepted in another village and it's too dangerous to be wandering around unprotected so she has no choice, especially when the Elders threaten her mother if she doesn't go along with them.

    Vu Côn may be a dragon but she is nothing like what Yên is expecting, instead she finds that Vu Côn is a compassionate healer who would do anything to protect her children. Yên is given the task of teaching the twins, Liên and Thông, and quickly starts to settle into life in the palace. What she doesn't realise is that Vu Côn is keeping a major secret, one that Yên will find very difficult to forgive.

    I've already mentioned how much I enjoyed the world

    has created and I can't say enough how much I want to spend more time exploring it. I did feel that the romance between Yên and Vu Côn felt a little rushed to me and unfortunately the sex scene was more of a turn off than a turn on thanks to the way Vu Côn's human form was described. Every time Yên mentions touching Vu Côn she uses words like cold and slimy, even when the dragon is in human form and to be honest I was a bit creeped out when she started changing back into her dragon form while they were in the middle of having sex. I just don't think snouts and slimy tails have any place in the bedroom!

    This was the first story I've read by

    and even though there were parts of it that didn't work quite so well for me I'm definitely interested in trying more of her books, she has a really lovely writing style and her world building was very creative so I'm looking forward to seeing what else she can come up with.

    ______________

    An f/f Beauty and the Beast retelling WITH DRAGONS! Hell yes, sign me up for this one!

  • The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy/sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

    I have read some of the author's short stories and enjoy her writing style.  This is a beauty and the beast retelling based on Vietnamese myths and culture.  The story is an interesting blend of fantasy and sci-fi.  The tale takes place in a world destroyed by an alien race called the Vanishers.  The Vanishers used Earth as a plaything and left chaos behi

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy/sci-fi eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .

    I have read some of the author's short stories and enjoy her writing style.  This is a beauty and the beast retelling based on Vietnamese myths and culture.  The story is an interesting blend of fantasy and sci-fi.  The tale takes place in a world destroyed by an alien race called the Vanishers.  The Vanishers used Earth as a plaything and left chaos behind.  Humans are barely surviving in the barren wasteland.  Disease, starvation, and lack of resources are the norm.  In order to have a place in society, members must have viable skills to keep their place.  Life is harsh and unfair.

     Yên lives in one such settlement.  She is a failed scholar and barely adequate healer's apprentice.  Her position in the village is due to her mother's skill as a healer.  But one day, a prominent leader's daughter is diagnosed with a fatal disease.  Should she die, both Yên and her mother's places are forfeit.  So Yên's mother makes a magical bargain with a dragon for the girl's life.  Only the price of the healing turns out to be Yên's servitude to the dragon.  Yên is taken to the Vanishers' palace to be a teacher to the dragon's two children.  Only Yên is drawn to the dragon.  What will become of her?

    I have to say that this was just an okay read for me.  I had a hard time getting drawn into the story.  I liked many of the individual elements but the story didn't end up being an cohesive whole.  I loved the "word" magic.  I loved the f/f relationship.  I loved Yên's mother.  I enjoyed the blend of sci-fi and fantasy elements.  I liked that Yên stood up for herself and demanded to be allowed to make her own choices.  And yet the excitement was lacking. 

    Part of that may have been the dragon's aloof nature.  Part of that was the many descriptions of the odd architecture and nature of the palace itself.  I didn't really even feel the fairy tale retelling vibe.  But overall, I am not sure what the disconnect was.  I just did not love this story like others by the author.  This story does seem to be loved by many of the crew.  So while this story was not mesmerizing, I am glad to have read it.  And I still will be readin' more of the author's work.  

    So lastly . . .

    Thank you JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc.!

    Check out me other reviews at

  • Lindsay

    The setting is a post-apocalyptic disaster left by a biotech-based singularity with Clarke's Law in full effect. In that completely alien setting de Bodard gives us a queer retelling of Beauty and the Beast, where the Dragon Vu Côn accepts the life of the young scholar Yên in payment for an act of healing. Yên thinks she's doomed, bu Vu Côn has her teaching the Dragon's two foundling children Thông and Liên in an effort to ready them for a life beyond the Dragon's abode in the Vanishers' Palace.

    The setting is a post-apocalyptic disaster left by a biotech-based singularity with Clarke's Law in full effect. In that completely alien setting de Bodard gives us a queer retelling of Beauty and the Beast, where the Dragon Vu Côn accepts the life of the young scholar Yên in payment for an act of healing. Yên thinks she's doomed, bu Vu Côn has her teaching the Dragon's two foundling children Thông and Liên in an effort to ready them for a life beyond the Dragon's abode in the Vanishers' Palace. (The Vanishers' are the super-beings responsible for the devastation of the world).

    Full marks for the brilliant world-building and amazing setup, and while I enjoyed the relationships between each of the characters here, I found there points-of-view to be just a little too alien for me to relate to. I liked how the story interrogated the issues of consent in relationships like this, and I also really liked the characters and Vu Côn especially, but I felt that at several points in the story the actions taken by the characters didn't follow from what I understood of their motivations. Overall that left me a bit cold towards it all.

    Even so, I think the shear inventiveness of this makes it worth a read, and your mileage may vary in terms of how you relate to the characters.

  • mo

    f/f beauty and the beast retelling with DRAGONS? sign me the fuck up 👌👀👌👀👌👀👌👀👌👀

  • K.J. Charles

    A wonderful SFF book (I love a blend of tech and magic so much) set in a post-colonial dystopia where the brutal ruling people have wrecked the place including the climate, left a horrifically damaged society behind them, and buggered off leaving their victims to make something of what little they have left. /looks at camera/

    It's superbly depicted with magnificent economy, and utterly miserable, until our heroine is taken by a (lady) dragon as sacrifice and the story moves into a Beauty and the

    A wonderful SFF book (I love a blend of tech and magic so much) set in a post-colonial dystopia where the brutal ruling people have wrecked the place including the climate, left a horrifically damaged society behind them, and buggered off leaving their victims to make something of what little they have left. /looks at camera/

    It's superbly depicted with magnificent economy, and utterly miserable, until our heroine is taken by a (lady) dragon as sacrifice and the story moves into a Beauty and the Beast tale. The romance is understated but intense, the mystery element well laid, but mostly this story gets its power from the visible damage done by the colonial power (the Vanishers--the bastards even colonise the book's title!) not just to the world but to the psyches of everyone involved. This book isn't sugar coating how hard it is to love healthily when you live in an unhealthy world.

    It's an intensely Viet world, with things like intimacy levels and one's own gender expressed in speech in a way English doesn't do, and beautifully realised. This author's novellas are masterclasses in storytelling, worldbuilding and imagination packed into small spaces. Hugely recommended.

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