When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (The Singing Hills Cycle #2) by Nghi Vo

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.

Fantasy, 128 pages, published in 2020

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:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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.

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The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

A travelling clerk named Chih meets an old woman named Rabbit, who was the Empress’s handmaiden. Rabbit tells Chih of In-yo, the bride sent from the north, an outsider who became empress.

Fantasy, 112 pages, published in 2020

A travelling clerk named Chih meets an old woman named Rabbit, who was the Empress’s handmaiden. Rabbit tells Chih of In-yo, the bride sent from the north, an outsider who became empress.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book was not what I expected, so it definitely took me some time to get into it. Obviously it didn’t take me too long, since this book is super short, but by the end I was feeling some super strong feelings.

I was hesitant at first about how the fantasy elements of this would play out because of the length. This isn’t hardcore fantasy, it is much more whimsical and it is what it is. I think the hints of fantasy enhance the story, rather than distracting from it like I feared.

I’m finding it so difficult to figure out how to say how I feel about this story! It was very short, but also very impactful. It is tragic, but shows the strength and resilience of women. I also really liked how atmospheric it is. I had no problem immediately picturing the world.

I had originally thought that this book featured a female/female relationship, but it doesn’t (though there is one mentioned). I was kind of disappointed by that, because that was why I was initially interested. Chih, the clerk, is non-binary and that was a nice surprise.

If you are looking for a fast, powerful read with fantasy elements woven in and great atmosphere , I would recommend this book! It looks like Nghi Vo is going to be writing more short, standalone books in this world, so I will definitely be checking those out!

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