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…
This book was eye-opening for me because I’ve had multiple realizations while listening to it, first and foremost the realization that not caring about a book is a much worse feeling than not liking it.
This book was… objectively fine. It had things I like in theory but didn’t care for here and things I actually liked. I just really didn’t care about any of it and I feel so bad but it is what it is.
It might be that as soon as I started listening I realized that I actually really hate the idea of B&tB retellings, so I started off with a bad feeling in my gut. When I continued listening I could see that the aspects that make me uncomfortable about B&tB retellings were handled well here, but I still might stay away from such books in the future.
It might also be that while I love f/f romances (obviously) I just couldn’t see why Yên had to be so fucking horny for a dragon like, the moment she saw her. No, not even if she has a human form. Maybe I’m just not into monster romances and that’s another things this book made me realize. Generally speaking, I don’t mind insta-lust in most cases but I also didn’t really see an actual relationship development and I just couldn’t care about the romance at all.
I also didn’t really like any of the characters except for the twins, Vu Côn’s children, and actually found them and their relationship with Yên more well developed than the one with Vu Côn.
The world…this is another one of the realizations I’ve had with this book. I like Asian-inspired fantasy but I really don’t like fantasy dystopia. Or at least I didn’t care about this one. Oh, and speaking of the setting: I also don’t like magical buildings. I can’t see stuff in my head anyway so if things are constantly changing and just plain weird it just becomes a nightmare for me.
What I really liked was the diversity, there was an all Vietnamese cast and things about the language were also present in English (like specifying different kinds of pronouns for different form of address depending on relative age/social status etc). I bet that’s going to throw off a lot of monolinguals and I secretly rejoice at the thought of confused English monolinguals growing a big question mark on their faces.
There’s also two secondary characters who use they/them and, from what I could tell, personal pronouns were never assumed based on a person’s appearance. It was nice and effortless and this is how it should be.
I considered hard whether this was more of a 2.5 or a 3 stars for me, considering that what I felt was “meh” and that I do consider it an okay book. But I decided to go with 2.5 because it just doesn’t compare to books I rated 3 stars (which are normally books where I at least enjoy most elements). Regardless of my rating, please still know that this is an objectively good book probably, it just ticked off a lot of points I don’t like or care about.