A cute little (fairy)-tale in a surprisingly fleshed out world.
Nghi paints a fantastical world inspired by Earth's East Asia. It's mostly story-within-a-story, where the whole book spans an interview by a non-binary monk with the former handmaiden of the titular empress. Or rather, Chi, the monk, is listening to the tales of Rabbit as they are readying to leave the palace at Lake Scarlet.
This novella feels like life in between stories that normally make it into books, which makes it all the more tangible.
Nghi's prose is beautiful, elevating her world's symbolism and atmosphere perfectly.
I felt so very old. At less than twenty-five, before everything that came after, I had no idea how long life was. I sat with an empress on one side and a red-haired actress on the other, feeling their touch on my shoulders, my hair, and my face, their bodies close to mine.