In the Vanishers' Palace | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐
"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."
In the Vanishers' Palace is a standalone fantasy novella by Aliette de Bodard.
This is penned as a Beauty and the Beast retelling, which, you should probably cast out of your mind because it really isn't. It is only very, very, loosely based on that so I think it was only called a retelling for marketing purposes. Nonetheless, think of this as a (loose) retelling, but make it sapphic, Vietnamese, and with dragons.
While that honestly sounds better than the original to me, I didn't get much out of this story, and not because it was on the shorter side. I found this to be a bit hard to read as it was a bit complex for a novella, and because some of the terms went right over my head. I also think that if this was just fantasy instead of SFF, I might have enjoyed it a bit more as the sci-fi elements seemed out of place to me.
Rather than Beauty and the Beast, I would compare this more to Bride of the Water God as the concepts are very similar.