I've read quite a lot by Aliette de Bodard, so I was very pleased to get approved for a pre-release copy of this by Netgalley. Well, it was pre-release when I got it, even if it's taken me forever to get around to actually reading it and then even longer to review it! That shouldn't be taken as a comment on the quality of the story, just on sudden craziness in my life and inability to settle down and actually read stuff.
Anyway, on to the story. The basic premise of In the Vanisher's Palace is that it's set on a world where aliens had ravaged everything and the characters we come across now are literally living in the ruins of what has been left behind. One of our main characters (Yên) is the daughter of the local healer, who is dealing with all sorts of odd illnesses caused by mutating viruses, and they live in a community where being useful is the key to survival. Yên herself is a scholar and not particularly good at anything else, so when attempts to heal the daughter of one of the community's leaders fail to be effective and more stringent measures are needed, she gets traded away to the dragon Vu Côn in exchange for a more effective treatment.
Vu Côn is one of the last dragons living and takes Yên to her palace, the abandoned ship of one of their former alien conquerors (the Vanishers), a place that literally does not obey the rules of physics. Rather than being killed in a bloody and violent manner, as Yên is expecting (and as was her potential fate in the outside world for the crime of not being useful to the community), she's given the job of tutor to Vu Côn's teenage children and also find herself unexpectedly attracted to said dragon.
Anyway, no secret has been made of the fact that this is a Beauty and the Beast re-telling in any of the publicity for In the Vanisher's Palace, so you can probably figure out roughly how it all works out. Finer details would spoil the story, so I just urge you to check it out if you like stuff that's inspired (as much of de Bodard's work is) by her Vietnamese heritage. To be honest, as is often the case with novellas, I get frustrated by the fact that they just don't on for as long as I would like and this is also the case here - there's enough world-building for a novel at least and it's constrained down to support the fairy-tale storyline instead. That's probably why I didn't give 5 stars in the end.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.