In the Vanisher's Palace by Aliette de Bodard

When an Elder’s daughter becomes ill, magic is the only cure. But drawing on the magic of the Dragons comes with a steep price. Yên, daughter of the village healer, is the one chosen to become the payment of the village’s magical debts. Assuming she will be given to the Dragons for their amusement, she is shocked to discover that she will be playing a different role-as tutor to the feisty and mischievous young dragon children of the dragoness Vu Côn. Now living in the spirit world in a magical palace that reshapes itself to suit the needs of the inhabitants, Yên worries that her death is always one misstep away. But it’s not her life that is at stake, it’s her heart. Vu Côn is more than a magical dragon, she is also a beautiful and powerful woman.

Dark and beautifully written, In The Vanisher’s Palace is a dark retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast story. From the mysterious and powerful Dragon to the palace that is constantly changing shape, it has many of the elements of the original tale with a notable twist.

I loved the Dragon characters-they’re magical, powerful, and the children are still very much children, learning their boundaries and the consequences of their magic. There’s a magical medical ward where the children Liên and Thông definitely don’t see eye-to-eye with their mother.

The worlds are very complex and they blend history, contemporary elements and magic. The hospital beds in the spirit world are cryogenic chambers but the dragons still use magic to heal them. It can be a bit disorienting but the story moves on quickly enough for all to make sense and seem completely natural. I mean, why wouldn’t the walls just begin to shift and add windows? Of course we use magical spells to cure viruses.

Yên and Vu Côn begin as slave as master but quickly realize that there is much more going on. Even Vu Côn’s children can see that she is instantly smitten with their new teacher. They’re relationship is built on more than attraction-there is trust and also genuine concern for each other’s well being.

In the Vanisher’s Palace is dark but beautifully written. I really enjoyed dropping in to this world and I’d love to see what this author comes up with next.

Thank you to the author for the advanced copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

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