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In the Vanishers’ Palace

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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 th 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...


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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 th 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...

30 review for In the Vanishers’ Palace

  1. 5 out of 5

    Acqua

    In the Vanishers’ Palace is an adult fantasy f/f retelling of Beauty and the Beast with an all-Vietnamese cast. 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 In the Vanishers’ Palace is the first f/f one I’ve ever read, and I’m glad I found it – In the Vanishers’ Palace is an adult fantasy f/f retelling of Beauty and the Beast with an all-Vietnamese cast. 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 In the Vanishers’ Palace 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 shapeshifting dragon who tries to remain emotionally distant and Is Totally Not Into Yên but uses fruit to flirt 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 – Yên’s agency and her choices are really important here, 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. In the Vanishers’ Palace is a story about healing. 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 set in a postcolonial world. 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. In the Vanishers’ Palace is a story about leaving behind that mindset. 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. I have a weakness for magical buildings and this was everything I wanted and more. This dreamlike but deadly atmosphere reminded me of Roshani Chokshi’s books – I feel like this book could appeal to those who liked The Star-Touched Queen 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. TL;DR: read it!

  2. 5 out of 5

    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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Genevieve Cogman

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

  4. 5 out of 5

    mo

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

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    In the Vanishers' Palace 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. Aliette de Bodard 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 In the Vanishers' Palace 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. Aliette de Bodard 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 Aliette de Bodard 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 Aliette de Bodard 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. ______________ Thoughts before reading: An f/f Beauty and the Beast retelling WITH DRAGONS! Hell yes, sign me up for this one!

  6. 5 out of 5

    charlotte

    And then she'd wake up, gasping, trying to breathe, raising her hands to her face, remembering Vu Côn's touch on her skin, as wet and as cold as the oily river. Review also on Reads Rainbow Galley provided by publisher In The Vanishers' Palace 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 Beauty and the Beast and Vietnamese mythology, with dragons. If the whole premise doesn't get you, I don't know what will. (Perhaps an A And then she'd wake up, gasping, trying to breathe, raising her hands to her face, remembering Vu Côn's touch on her skin, as wet and as cold as the oily river. Review also on Reads Rainbow Galley provided by publisher In The Vanishers' Palace 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 Beauty and the Beast 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 by the author herself?) 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    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: http://readingtheend.com/2018/10/15/r...

  8. 5 out of 5

    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 https://thecaptainsquartersblog.wordp...

  9. 4 out of 5

    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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeraviz

    Una de las historias más únicas que he leído en mucho tiempo. Aliette de Bodard nos trae una fantasía romántica basada en La Bella y la Bestia. Pero en este caso, la Bestia es una dragona. Además, tiene un sistema de magia peculiar en un ambiente post-apocalíptico e inspirado en la mitología vietnamita. Personajes LGTB, uso del género neutro en algunos de ellos, un ambiente de magia milenaria pero a su vez parece que transcurre en una tierra apocalíptica del futuro... La única pega es que se alar Una de las historias más únicas que he leído en mucho tiempo. Aliette de Bodard nos trae una fantasía romántica basada en La Bella y la Bestia. Pero en este caso, la Bestia es una dragona. Además, tiene un sistema de magia peculiar en un ambiente post-apocalíptico e inspirado en la mitología vietnamita. Personajes LGTB, uso del género neutro en algunos de ellos, un ambiente de magia milenaria pero a su vez parece que transcurre en una tierra apocalíptica del futuro... La única pega es que se alarga demasiado en algunos tramos quedándose a medio camino entre la fábula y la novela.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Crini

    In the Vanishers' Palace is a f/f retelling of Beauty and the Beast but with a DRAGON. Aliette de Bodard did an excellent job on this one! The writing and the world she created was just MAGICAL. I immediately fell in love with the setting and the characters. And it's not just a romance but also so much about family and motherhood and has the most adorable pair of siblings! . 5/5 from me for an adorable romance, a mind-fuck of a setting, being hella queer (bi/lesbian/non-binary characters of color), In the Vanishers' Palace is a f/f retelling of Beauty and the Beast but with a DRAGON. Aliette de Bodard did an excellent job on this one! The writing and the world she created was just MAGICAL. I immediately fell in love with the setting and the characters. And it's not just a romance but also so much about family and motherhood and has the most adorable pair of siblings! . 5/5 from me for an adorable romance, a mind-fuck of a setting, being hella queer (bi/lesbian/non-binary characters of color), beautiful writing, precious siblings, and being an overall gloriously dark retelling (more of the original than the Disney version too I would think).

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sarah (CoolCurryBooks)

    I’ve been telling everyone I know about In the Vanishers’ Palace, a f/f retelling of “Beauty and the Beast”… with dragons! So get ready for a really excited review. Yên is a failed scholar in a harsh world. She and her mother are barely accepted in their village community for her mother’s skills as a healer, but Yên knows their situation is precarious and that they are likely to someday be cast out or killed. When Yên’s mother summons the dragon Vu Côn to heal the daughter of a village leader, Vu I’ve been telling everyone I know about In the Vanishers’ Palace, a f/f retelling of “Beauty and the Beast”… with dragons! So get ready for a really excited review. Yên is a failed scholar in a harsh world. She and her mother are barely accepted in their village community for her mother’s skills as a healer, but Yên knows their situation is precarious and that they are likely to someday be cast out or killed. When Yên’s mother summons the dragon Vu Côn to heal the daughter of a village leader, Vu Côn demands a life in payment. The village chooses Yên, and she’s sent to Vu Côn’s home in the labyrinthine palace left behind by the rulers of the world. Yên thinks she will die, but she soon finds that Vu Côn has another use for her: Vu Côn is the mother of two, and she needs a tutor for her unruly children. First of all, In the Vanishers’ Palace is beautifully written. Aliette de Bodard’s prose is always on point. If you want evidence, just read one of her short stories — she’s got a multitude of fabulous tales floating around the internet. Similarly, de Bodard never fails to create breathtaking and complex worlds. In particular, I love how In the Vanishers’ Palace mixes science fiction and fantasy elements together. Magic and aliens. What a delightful combination! The aliens in question invaded the world and unleashed havoc, creating genetically engineered viruses that run rampant through the population. For unknown reasons, they left the world behind, but the world is a shattered ruin in their wake. In the Vanishers’ Palace is an excellent stand-alone story, but the world de Bodard has created is the best sort: the type that seems to stretch beyond the limits of the page. Oh, and it’s worth noting that this world doesn’t include homophobia or transphobia and that nonbinary genders are completely accepted. The narration switches between Yên and Vu Côn, and I enjoyed both of them as protagonists. I will admit that I had moments where I questioned what Vu Côn saw in Yên; it felt like most of their interactions were very brief. Relatedly, I sometimes felt like the romance was moving too fast, although in the end, I was okay with how it developed. Still, more emphasis on character interactions couldn’t have hurt. I also would have liked to see more of Yên tutoring the twins (who are delightful!). The original “Beauty and the Beast” tale obviously has some consent issues, and de Bodard brings those to the forefront here. Motherhood is also a huge theme of In the Vanishers’ Palace, both because Vu Côn is a mother and because of Yên’s relationship with her own mother. In general, In the Vanishers’ Palace takes the premise of the old fairy tale and recenters it around women as well as placing it in a Vietnamese cultural context. I loved In the Vanishers’ Palace, and I know I’ll be recommending it going forward. I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review. Review from The Illustrated Page.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    LOVE full review to follow shortly

  14. 4 out of 5

    Maraia

    4.5 stars

  15. 4 out of 5

    Elle Maruska

    Ok I want to scream forever about how good this story is. First of all: f/f, Viet-inspired retelling of Beauty and the Beast WITH A DRAGON and a powerful message about choice, identity, value, colonialism, and what remains when everything is taken. Second of all: this book is a perfect example of just how much SF/F stories can do; we have a beautifully-crafted world that's been broken: a colonizing race of creatures called Vanishers arrived, remade the world as their plaything, and then left whe Ok I want to scream forever about how good this story is. First of all: f/f, Viet-inspired retelling of Beauty and the Beast WITH A DRAGON and a powerful message about choice, identity, value, colonialism, and what remains when everything is taken. Second of all: this book is a perfect example of just how much SF/F stories can do; we have a beautifully-crafted world that's been broken: a colonizing race of creatures called Vanishers arrived, remade the world as their plaything, and then left when they grew bored. Now in the aftermath, humans struggle to survive the deadly diseases and abandoned machinery of the Vanishers. It's a brutal world where people are judged only by what service or labor they can provide; there's no value in just being human. But despite the despair there's a fierce hope, a ferocious desire to not just survive but live that animates the characters, both dragon and human. There are so many important things happening in this story. Issues of parenting, responsibility, and consent are discussed openly between the characters in ways you rarely find in books like this. The Beauty and the Beast story can be very iffy when it comes to Beauty falling in love with the Beast who is, essentially, her jailer. But in this story the power differential is addressed carefully and respectfully and true to who the characters are. I enjoyed so much the way the author takes on difficult concepts and weaves them throughout her story, allowing us to see them from different angles and different perspectives THE WORLDBUILDING IS SO GOOD BY THE WAY. The fusion of magic and technology, of spirit and humanity is absolutely breathtaking. The creativity of the Palace, its bending of physics and reality, its immensity and its inscrutable nature is so amazingly, carefully, intricately described that I felt the same vertiginous sense of wonder and terror as the main character. This is SF/F at its finest: creative and thought-provoking worldbuilding, a story that challenges as it entertains, and characters that are so carefully, respectfully, and beautifully drawn that you're loath to leave them behind.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Leseparatist

    I read this book courtesy of the author via NetGalley, in exchange for a review. In the Vanishers' Palace has been described as a sapphic retelling of The Beauty and the Beast. This is true, though it focuses on the parts of the book I liked the least, at the expense of those I liked best. This novella tells the story of Yên, a scholar (and teacher) and daughter of a village healer, and Vu Côn - a dragon, and mother to two teenagers just coming into their own powers. All this happens against the I read this book courtesy of the author via NetGalley, in exchange for a review. In the Vanishers' Palace has been described as a sapphic retelling of The Beauty and the Beast. This is true, though it focuses on the parts of the book I liked the least, at the expense of those I liked best. This novella tells the story of Yên, a scholar (and teacher) and daughter of a village healer, and Vu Côn - a dragon, and mother to two teenagers just coming into their own powers. All this happens against the backdrop of a devastated, post-apocalyptic (postcolonial) world of danger, disease and human unkindness. The worldbuilding is superb. The Vietnamese cultural and linguistic inspiration is rendered in exquisite and beautiful detail, and combined with science fictional ideas that would be enough for a whole saga of novels. The descriptions of words and their power were worth the admission price all on their own. They were spellbinding. I liked the family relationships, too. The bonds between Yên and her mother, and especially between Vu Côn and her children are written well and when the latter receives narrative attention, the book becomes quite gripping. Unfortunately, (and YMMV here,) the sapphic aspect of the book didn't command comparable attention from me. I found the plotting and pacing, particularly with regard to the romantic storyline, to be relatively uninteresting. I didn't see much chemistry between the characters (despite occasionally great descriptions of desire). To me, their relationship lacked depth and the emotions they experienced didn't ring true or seem compelling. I really wanted to care about the romantic storyline, but I didn't. I wish some aspects of the world and particularly characters actions and emotions had been explained a little more clearly. Occasionally, the story seemed to assume certain actions and decisions have obvious motivations, when that was not quite the case; at other moments, characters reacted with shock and surprise to actions that seemed entirely in character based on everything we (and they) knew. All in all, I am glad I read the novella for its descriptions and language, but I wish the plot had been stronger.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Heather Jones

    One of the reasons I anxiously anticipate every new Aliette de Bodard release is because I can just assume there will be casual queerness somewhere in every story. (Note: I’m not entirely fond of the wording “incidental lesbians” that has become popular in lesfic circles because I’m not interested in either the characters or their orientations being “incidental”--I want them to be essential to the story, just not in a way that makes orientation or identity itself the essence of the story. For me One of the reasons I anxiously anticipate every new Aliette de Bodard release is because I can just assume there will be casual queerness somewhere in every story. (Note: I’m not entirely fond of the wording “incidental lesbians” that has become popular in lesfic circles because I’m not interested in either the characters or their orientations being “incidental”--I want them to be essential to the story, just not in a way that makes orientation or identity itself the essence of the story. For me “casual queerness” better evokes the thing that makes me happy.) In the Vanishers’ Palace not only has casual queerness, it has casual Vietnamese-rooted fantasy in a post-apocalyptic, post-colonial setting that evokes the experience of having had your entire world and culture trampled and ruined, without direct reference to specific historic events. But that’s only the context, not the story itself. Yên is a failed scholar, trying to help her mother heal their fellow villagers of the myriad plagues left by the genetic tinkering of the departed Vanishers. Vu Côn is a dragon--a shape-shifting river spirit. Her healing assistance can be begged for a price. When Yên’s mother heals the daughter of an important family with Vu Côn’s help, her own life is that price and Yên is driven both by filial piety and despair to demand to take her place. As the story is billed as a Beauty and the Beast take-off, one may easily (and correctly) guess where this is going, but beyond the theme of falling in love with a frightening creature, don’t expect the plot to follow the traditional lines. The in-story forces that keep Yên and Vu Côn at arms’ length rise out of the cultural setting: the social dynamics of status and respect, the power differential when supernatural creatures are involved, but with not even a hint that the same-sex aspect is a relevant issue. That’s what I mean by “casual” queerness. And as we delve deeper into the looming dangers of the Vanishers’ palace--a warped space of impossible geometries and fatal traps--the fantasy trappings merge seamlessly with science-fictional ones to create a genre that defies categories. The happy ending never feels guaranteed, despite genre expectations, making it feel well-earned. In sum: I loved loved loved this novella, both for the exquisite writing that I’ve come to expect from de Bodard, and for the way I feel seen and included as a reader.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Zen Cho

    An intense, atmospheric read from a brilliant writer.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kaa

    Intense, dark, and very lovely. Aliette de Bodard is marvelous at building broken, grimly beautiful worlds. I loved the fairy tale feel of this book and the way Viet culture is woven into the retelling of a classic story. It was also fantastic to see a Beauty and the Beast story that made freedom of choice and personal autonomy such strong themes. I think I was a little thrown at first because I was expecting more of a romance and this is really about attraction and potential rather than a full Intense, dark, and very lovely. Aliette de Bodard is marvelous at building broken, grimly beautiful worlds. I loved the fairy tale feel of this book and the way Viet culture is woven into the retelling of a classic story. It was also fantastic to see a Beauty and the Beast story that made freedom of choice and personal autonomy such strong themes. I think I was a little thrown at first because I was expecting more of a romance and this is really about attraction and potential rather than a full love story, but upon reflection I think this worked better with the story structure and the other dynamics of the relationship between Yen and Vu Con.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Aliette de Bodard is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors of short fiction - In the Vanishers' Palace is her latest release and it's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast inspired by Vietnamese folklore and dragons. It's set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world which has been partially ruined by a mysterious group of creatures called the Vanishers who have now vanished and left the people of world to try to pick up the pieces. It's fantasy (because dragons and magic) but also felt science-f Aliette de Bodard is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors of short fiction - In the Vanishers' Palace is her latest release and it's a retelling of Beauty and the Beast inspired by Vietnamese folklore and dragons. It's set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world which has been partially ruined by a mysterious group of creatures called the Vanishers who have now vanished and left the people of world to try to pick up the pieces. It's fantasy (because dragons and magic) but also felt science-fictional in places (post-apocalyptic and I kept feeling like the Vanishers might be aliens). Adding in the romance element and it's a testimony to de Bodard as a writer that such a short work can successfully manage all these elements. The prose was beautiful as I've come to expect from de Bodard and the story was poignant. Plus there's an awesome description of the beast's library :-)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shealea

    As someone who actively advocates Asian-inspired fantasies, no one is more disappointed in me for not liking this book... than, well, myself. I really, really wanted to love this. I was so excited to dive in! But... nothing worked for me. In the Vanishers’ Palace is easily the weirdest book I’ve read this year. It’s messy and confusing and ugh, I need some time to process all of this. Quick thoughts: - All sorts of weirdness going on. - What was really the plot here? And how is this a retelling of B As someone who actively advocates Asian-inspired fantasies, no one is more disappointed in me for not liking this book... than, well, myself. I really, really wanted to love this. I was so excited to dive in! But... nothing worked for me. In the Vanishers’ Palace is easily the weirdest book I’ve read this year. It’s messy and confusing and ugh, I need some time to process all of this. Quick thoughts: - All sorts of weirdness going on. - What was really the plot here? And how is this a retelling of Beauty and the Beast? It all seemed farfetched to me. - Beastiality that I 100% could not appreciate. Dragon sex??? Algae aftertaste from a kiss??? Oily??? - The characters had no personality at all. - Absolutely no chemistry between Vu Côn and Yên. Their relationship was so poorly developed. - A ton of cringing on my part. - I was happy to see an all-Vietnamese cast. - The magic system was confusing for me, too. - The Vanishers??? - I swear, I tried really, really hard to like this bUT I JUST CAN'T. Full review to follow! Rating: 1 star. * Find more of my bookish shenanigans in my natural habitat!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Alexa

    I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I had to read this entire book before I realised it's written by the author of The Tea Master and the Detective, the Sherlock retelling I've been meaning to read. In The Vanishers' Palace is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast where Beauty is a scholar and the Beast is a spirit dragon that lives in a Palace impossible to understand. Also, they're both women. This was a brilliantly written novel with fantastically visual descripti I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I had to read this entire book before I realised it's written by the author of The Tea Master and the Detective, the Sherlock retelling I've been meaning to read. In The Vanishers' Palace is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast where Beauty is a scholar and the Beast is a spirit dragon that lives in a Palace impossible to understand. Also, they're both women. This was a brilliantly written novel with fantastically visual descriptions, although it made my head spin sometimes. The world and the culture whose mythology its based on was very unfamiliar and sometimes I felt like I was lacking some basic knowledge to really understand, but I still enjoyed becoming familiar. The book has two major nonbinary side characters, but that is not the only reason why it's nonbinary-friendly. Nobody's gender in this book is assumed by their appearance, and they are only referred to with gendered terms once they established it with the language they use for themselves. Read the full review on my blog, A Thousand Worlds.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Devann

    I received an ARC copy of this book from NetGalley. This is billed as a F/F Beauty and the Beast retelling where the Beast is a dragon and definitely the bare bones of the B&tB story are there, but this is very much its own story. I for one was very thankful for that because I'm always afraid with B&tB retellings that they are going to stay too close to the original and it will be too Stockholm Syndromy for me, but this one was really cute and I liked the way it developed and moved away f I received an ARC copy of this book from NetGalley. This is billed as a F/F Beauty and the Beast retelling where the Beast is a dragon and definitely the bare bones of the B&tB story are there, but this is very much its own story. I for one was very thankful for that because I'm always afraid with B&tB retellings that they are going to stay too close to the original and it will be too Stockholm Syndromy for me, but this one was really cute and I liked the way it developed and moved away from the standard story as it went on. The world is very interesting and the characters were enjoyable. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is looking for a short F/F story with a fairytale twist.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Runalong

    Great SF (or is it fantasy?) retelling of Beauty and the Beast Full review - In The Vanisher's Palace by Aliette de Bodard https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/bl... Great SF (or is it fantasy?) retelling of Beauty and the Beast Full review - ‪In The Vanisher's Palace by Aliette de Bodard https://www.runalongtheshelves.net/bl...‬

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dumbledore11214

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 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, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference. When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons w 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, 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... Review. Dear Aliette de Bodard, I usually love your books and I love the "Beauty and the Beast" and the books inspired by its themes, so preordering this was a no brainer. For the most part I really enjoyed it. Your words paint such a beautiful and delicate picture even when you tackle dark subjects. When Yen's mother who is a village healer summons a dragon out of desperation to help ailing patient, dragon strikes a bargan and demands a payment. Very soon after the patient is healed ( we later learn some problematic details about that healing), village Elders are all too happy to give Yen to the dragon and while Yen herself is not happy to leave her mother and children she taught, it is all too obvious that she is not happy in the village either. Her confidence seemed beyond low to me when I first meet her on pages of this story. "“Helping the village,” Yên said. She kept her voice slow, as measured as Elder Tho’s. Elder Tho ranked everything in terms of use, and Yên was the epitome of useless in her world: a failed scholar, teaching the children reading skills not indispensable to the village’s food supply; an indifferent healer’s assistant, nothing more than a set of hands to prepare bandages or mix ointments." I was pretty sure that village people could have gotten a lot more "use" from her talents contrary to how Yen described herself, but my speculation was neither here nor there and off Yen goes to the spirits world. As blurb tells you, this world is deeply hurt, and in the spirits world Yen gets to face even more close and personal how much devastation Vanishers wrecked before they left. It is never very clear how they came to be and why they left, but their effect on the native world is pretty clear - illnesses and devastation on so many levels. It would take healers who are able to do so years to make things better, if ever - this was my impression anyway. The book certainly pays homage to Beauty and the Beast, but I do not know if I would call it a retelling . I guess the set up is similar in a sense that a completely innocent person has to go and live/work in the presence of the entity whom she considers to be an Evil/dark one. We learn pretty fast though that Dragon, flawed as she is is not really a bad person because we see things from both Yen's and hers POV. It is a novella, so I am even more hesitant than usual to talk plot developments, but the blurb does talk about romantic attraction between the main characters, so I think I will talk a little bit about it. I absolutely believed in their chemistry and at the end of the novella I thought they may even have a future. "She turned, found the dragon staring at her in the doorframe of a corridor framed by stars. “There’s no point in empty formalities. Let’s address each other less ceremoniously, shall we?” She’d shifted pronouns, to something that was just—barely—suitable for master and servant. “My name is Vu Côn.” “Mistress,” Yên started, and an invisible wind brushed her lips, silencing her and sending a shiver up her spine. “Vu Côn,” the dragon said. “Remember.” As if she would ever forget." The only nit pick I had is that in the middle of the story certain emotional beat felt off ( no, I am not talking about sex). The dragon decides to do something nice for Yen and I was wondering if I missed a page or two from the story. The dragon portrayed as a multilayered being and I wanted to see why she changed her mind. Still a very enjoyable story overall. Grade: B

  26. 5 out of 5

    wanderer

    I received an ARC of this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This was just plain lovely. The Vanishers had broken the world. They had taken and enslaved as they’d wished, leaving constructs and plagues as their legacies. Their magic was all chains and knives and diseases, everything that bound and broke and devastated. Even their rare healings had been double-edged, leaving people riddled with tumors and shriveled elements. In the Vanishers’ Palace is, at its core, a delightfully I received an ARC of this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This was just plain lovely. The Vanishers had broken the world. They had taken and enslaved as they’d wished, leaving constructs and plagues as their legacies. Their magic was all chains and knives and diseases, everything that bound and broke and devastated. Even their rare healings had been double-edged, leaving people riddled with tumors and shriveled elements. In the Vanishers’ Palace is, at its core, a delightfully queer retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in alternate Vietnam. Yên is a failed scholar, assisting her healer mother, but thought to be fairly useless. When her friend and a daughter from an important family, Oanh, falls gravely ill, she is exchanged for a cure from the dragon, Vu Côn, expecting to be killed, but instead becoming a teacher to her children. I admit I went into this book more than a little hesitant. A romance between a dragon and a young woman who is sold to her? It sounded like it could end up all sorts of creepy, even though the friend who recommended it to me assured me it isn’t. And luckily, the issue of consent in such a situation is explicitly addressed and handled both delicately and well. So no fears there. The characters weren’t as developed as I would have liked, but the prose is good and the setting more than made up for it. There’s a slight whiff of sci-fi and biotech. The titular Vanishers’ palace is strange and dangerous and wonderful as is the magic, and the Vietnamese setting is way more than just window-dressing. The characters clearly speak a different language, with different pronouns and means of address based on the person they are speaking to, which is a nice twist and done well. However, as always with novellas, I wish there was just a little more time spent exploting the setting and especially the characters. In a way, parallels could also be drawn between the Vanishers and colonialism - they came, took over, exploited the land and its people, then went away and left everything broken behind them. Enjoyment: 4.5/5 Execution: 4.5/5 Recommended to: anyone who wants a shorter book, those looking for good prose, non-Western settings from ownvoices authors (de Bodard is Franco-Vietnamese), and LGBTQ+ representation Not recommended to: character-focused readers More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Velvet Lounger

    Yên, scholar and healer’s daughter, feels worthless and unworthy, knowing her place in the village is tenuous and her value low. When her mother summons the magic of the dragon to save the village leaders daughter from a fatal virus, Yen is not surprised when the all powerful village elders sacrifice her to the dragon. But rather than being torn apart Yên finds herself in the Vanisher’s Palace, servant to the dragon Vu Côn and teacher to her teenage children. As the attraction grows between Yên a Yên, scholar and healer’s daughter, feels worthless and unworthy, knowing her place in the village is tenuous and her value low. When her mother summons the magic of the dragon to save the village leaders daughter from a fatal virus, Yen is not surprised when the all powerful village elders sacrifice her to the dragon. But rather than being torn apart Yên finds herself in the Vanisher’s Palace, servant to the dragon Vu Côn and teacher to her teenage children. As the attraction grows between Yên and Vu Côn both must learn some hard lessons; Yên that she is worthy, Vu Côn that her power dos not make her right. This is, undoubtedly, an unusual take on the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast. Set in post-apocalyptic Vietnam and infused with Viet language and customs, we are transported to a version of the world where a cruel and heartless race of aliens, the Vanishers, have come, abused, tested and broken the world, leaving behind them fantasy palaces and mutating gene viruses. They have also left behind magic, the magic of words, a little of which remains with the healers and the one remaining dragon, Vu Côn. Aliette de Bodard’s writing is exquisite, lyrical, flowing, pure poetry in prose form. The descriptions, both physical and emotional, leave you with vivid mental images; from the village with its poverty and minimalist survival to the Escher like Palace with its magic powers and fantasy proportions, and the horror of the Plague Grove, you cannot read this and be untouched. Ethics and integrity play a fundamental role in the telling of the tale, from the abuse of power to the nature of real power, the treatment of a subservient race to the place of servants and the role of masters. And, unlike in the original fairy-tale, the consequence of abduction and virtual slavery is questioned and challenged. Even the happy ever after we would expect remains a completely unknown quantity until the very end, because in this cruel world what could possibly be a happy ever after. This isn’t the easiest read, at times it is a steep learning curve to catch the sense of the complex worldbuilding and customs. It challenges the reader too learn, adapt and follow, while also giving an intricate and very adult take on the morals of a world torn apart and the people scraping by to survive. It’s not something I would normally pick up, but I am glad I have read it and been introduced to this amazing author.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Book Gannet

    This is a beautiful, incredibly imaginative story that really rewards a slow, savouring read, where you can best enjoy the sumptuous imagery and clever world-building. The way it tackles the familiar Beauty and the Beast story, by mixing Vietnamese mythology and post-colonial destruction with intriguing sci-fi elements, really worked for me. B&tB is one of my favourite fairy tales, so it was lovely to get such an original re-imagining. The fact that Vu Côn is a dragon was just more icing on This is a beautiful, incredibly imaginative story that really rewards a slow, savouring read, where you can best enjoy the sumptuous imagery and clever world-building. The way it tackles the familiar Beauty and the Beast story, by mixing Vietnamese mythology and post-colonial destruction with intriguing sci-fi elements, really worked for me. B&tB is one of my favourite fairy tales, so it was lovely to get such an original re-imagining. The fact that Vu Côn is a dragon was just more icing on an already delicious cake. I loved the world-building, it’s the best part of this story for me, but I liked the characters too. Yên is definitely a woman out of place, desperate to find a way to fit – not just inside the Vanisher’s palace, but in the world beyond where she was viewed as not useful enough. I liked her, but I also found her a little dull compared to the others. Her mother is much more interesting, and I liked both children, Thông and Liên. However, I wish we could have actually seen a lesson and how Yên tackled teaching them. Vu Côn was fascinating, and had many changes to make in her behaviour and beliefs, although I’m still not sure what drew her to Yên. It is a short read, though, and I think the romance suffered the most because of it. These two don’t spend much time together, their feelings aren’t really explored and the sex scene was a bit too close to monster porn for my personal tastes. Which is a shame, because there are flashes of sweetness between them, but mostly the wider plot is busy getting in the way and forcing their attention elsewhere. Which is fine, because the wider plot is fascinating and intriguing and has a lot to say about living in a post-colonial world. So even though it isn’t perfect, it’s still beautiful and well worth a repeat read. (ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mel (Daily Prophecy)

    I loved the fact that this is a f/f retelling of Beauty and the Beast, where the Beast is actually a woman who can transform into a dragon. She is raising two adopted children in a world that is left destroyed by the Vanishers. Yên is a failure in the eyes of her society, so they can't wait to get rid of her when they sell her to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons, as payment for her service. Yên expects to die, but instead she has to teach the two children. The setting is great. The romance is ador I loved the fact that this is a f/f retelling of Beauty and the Beast, where the Beast is actually a woman who can transform into a dragon. She is raising two adopted children in a world that is left destroyed by the Vanishers. Yên is a failure in the eyes of her society, so they can't wait to get rid of her when they sell her to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons, as payment for her service. Yên expects to die, but instead she has to teach the two children. The setting is great. The romance is adorable. The story sticks closer to the original tale than Disney and that was fantastic as well, but I didn't click with the writing, so I will settle with 3.5 stars.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Naw

    I really enjoyed the writing and the world-building of this book, but the scenes of intimacy between the two main characters made me feel very uncomfortable. Bestiality, even when it's only partial like here, is just cringe-inducing for me. Especially with the vocabulary used repeatedly to describe the dragon (even when in human form)... Slimy, for example, doesn't make it sound really appealing, I believe. Now it never went into graphic territory so rest assured, if you're like me, you can still I really enjoyed the writing and the world-building of this book, but the scenes of intimacy between the two main characters made me feel very uncomfortable. Bestiality, even when it's only partial like here, is just cringe-inducing for me. Especially with the vocabulary used repeatedly to describe the dragon (even when in human form)... Slimy, for example, doesn't make it sound really appealing, I believe. Now it never went into graphic territory so rest assured, if you're like me, you can still read this quite safely without ending up traumatized. Also, I thought the story really took its time to set everything in motion, to create an atmosphere and give us a taste of the world we were discovering... But somehow the ending felt rushed and quite anticlimactic in my opinion. This is still excellent literature, though, and I definitely will be checking out other works by Aliette de Bodard, which I'm sure I'll be able to enjoy much more without cringing as long as it doesn't involve make-out sessions between human mouths and dragon snouts.

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