Book Review – Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Margaret the First is a short novel, a novella even, but it feels like a story that goes on forever in the most wonderful way. In this novella, Margaret Cavendish tells us about the early years of her life to when she wrote her poems and philosophical treatises. In the second half of the book, Dutton gives us her own retelling of Margaret’s life. Margaret is portrayed as an ambitious, yet insecure woman – aren’t we all? I relate to Margaret as someone who wants to do and say everything, and yet realizes the obstacles not only in society, but those that are within the self.

What surprised me about Dutton’s telling was that Lord Cavendish, Margaret’s husband, was actually very supportive of her. I very much hope that this was the case in real life. What also surprised me was how disliked she seemed to be by the British public – all of my limited learning of Margaret made her out to be a smart and likable person, though perhaps that was wishful thinking on my part.

Dutton writes such human emotions and thoughts into Margaret’s character, it makes me want to meet her. Since I cannot do that, I am eager to read Margaret’s own works. Dutton’s imagery tells an amazing story that I never wanted to end, and I will have to check out her other works as well.

My only critical comment is this: half the book is told in the first person perspective of Margaret, the second half in third person. This in itself is not a bad thing, only that the transition from one to the other is a bit jarring, and I would have liked a bit of a segue.

I recommend this book to those who love cool women of history, and who want a very human story.



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Book Review – The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This novella is a deep, fantastical read, full of myth and history, which I believe is based on Chinese history and myth. It is also about stories and storytelling; memory; female companionship in all senses of the term; the role women play. The last one is really what makes this novella. The women in this book define their own roles, from the Empress herself, to Rabbit, the Empress’ confidant and teller of her story. In the end it is Rabbit’s listener, Cleric Chih, who will go on to remember and retell the stories.

The book starts off slow, and a bit confusing. The history is the core of the story, though we as readers, as well as Chih, do not understand this until well into the story. That is okay though, as it gives the reader the sense that we are indeed listening to a complicated past unfold itself, and that we are now the storytellers. It reminds us that all is stories, and we must continue such a tradition.

I recommend The Empress of Salt and Fortune to those who love historical high fantasy, similar to books like The Black Tides of Heaven and The Encyclopedia of Early Earth.



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