Read an ARC from NetGalley
Content warning: emotional abuse, attempted domestic violence, arson
In a palace, Thanh returns from years abroad to a mother that doesn’t value her presence, a fire elemental which has taken to her, and a lover who won’t quite quit. The personal conflict mirrors the political conflict, a perfect blend of interior and exterior stakes.
The structure of this novel is so effective. It’s brief, with so many layers of world-building that would tickle fans of door-stopper fantasies. But it is the relationships that leap off the page. In particular, the waxing of Giang and Thanh’s connection, and the waning of Eldris and Thanh’s relationship really worked well, especially when taken in parallel with Thanh gaining her own footing politically. The precise characterizations and deliberate scenes infuse deep personal stakes that amplify and influence the political machinations. Thanh’s character journey really works. The mutual respect between Thanh and Giang is swoony and casts a warmth like firelight.