The cleric Chih is travelling when they find themselves surrounded by three tigers. In order to keep themselves alive through the night, they tell the story of a tiger and her lover.
Spoiler Free Review:
I ended up really enjoying the writing and the message of the first novella in this series, The Empress of Salt and Fortune, and while this novella still had the great writing, I didn’t really find a meaningful message.
The world of the Singing Hills is so unique and cool! This book features tigers that can transform into women and giant mammoths that are used for transport. I think one issue that I have is that I would just love to see more of this!
Chih ends up telling a story to the three tigers they encounter, though the tigers have their own version of the story. I think the contrast between the two stories being told and what is considered the “truth” was really interesting idea, but ultimately, I didn’t feel like I got any sort of conclusion out of it.
One thing I really appreciate the world presented in these novellas. I think they do an excellent job of showing what fantasy could be like if it wasn’t constantly influenced by real world biases. One example is that Chih is non-binary and it is as natural as breathing. I feel like in fantasy there is still a lot of leftover bias, whether in the form of sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. that honestly has no reason to be there because the world is literally made up, so it is refreshing to see this.
While novellas don’t usually work for me, I would love to read everything Nghi Vo comes out with because of her creativity and writing style. Her upcoming (and first full length) novel, The Chosen and The Beautiful, is definitely on my radar.