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Ratings and Book Reviews ()

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  • Lush, multi-layered, beautifully written

    The adventures of non-binary, humble but inquisitive cleric Chih continue to amaze and enthrall with perfectly crafted prose and beautiful characterization in this standalone sequel to the equally excellent The Empress of Salt and Fortune. When last we met Chih, the travelling storytelling cleric, they happened upon a lonely old woman who really needed to have her story heard and understood, if for nothing else than at least for closure, and what a story she had to tell - one of imperial politics, exile, friendship, love and loyalty. It was a beautiful little novella, quite quiet, poetic and contemplative. The Singing Hills Cycle's second installment, When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, puts Chih in a far more volatile position, when they are forced to tell another person's story - essentially a love story between a scholar and her tiger mistress - if they are to have any hope of staying alive... but perhaps it is not their story to tell. Maybe they, as a human, can't fully grasp the nature of a narrative that seems very much a tiger's tale. Or maybe the truth lies somewhere in between the human perspective and the tiger's. Truth is subjective from culture to culture, after all. It's not necessarily about right and wrong, it's about perspective (and, more often than not, about privilege in interpretation). This is a theme that truly spoke to me - the importance of having own voices in storytelling as well as in the recording of history. A tiger, for example, won't necessarily agree with how a human describes a tiger's motivations. And vice versa. This is also why it's so important that we all learn to listen to each other. Why we need to uplift the voices that aren't always heard and give them a platform. Why we can't necessarily take over other cultures' narratives and let our voices, tinted by a different experience of life entirely, speak on history that is not our own - history that we can never fully grasp, as we haven't lived it. Here is where I want to take the opportunity to give the publisher some extra love. Tor clearly makes an effort to platform traditionally marginalised voices, thereby giving opportunities to some of the most interesting authors currently in fiction, for which they have earned my undying love and respect. Thank you, Tor. My favourite parts of this novella were the ones told from the tiger's point of view, because that perspective was obviously more foreign to me, and therefore inherently more intriguing. But the concept as a whole, of two individuals telling the same story but from slightly different angles, is brilliant and works so incredibly well with the tone of the story... everything about this novella was fascinating to me. There are many, many layers here for anyone who likes to analyse what they read. The love story between the scholar Dieu and the tigress - sometimes in human form - Ho Thi Thao was gorgeously written. Their story is touching, very romantic and yet grim, frequently unsettling and perhaps a bit dubious with its power dynamic (after all, one partner has fangs and claws and could swallow a human whole, while the other has merely her wits to depend upon). It's both poetic and spicy. I was swept away by it. I would honestly love to read a full-length novel of these two individuals on the road together, trying to reconcile their differences, learning how to live with and love each other with no holds barred. As with its predecessor, this novella feels like it could easily be part of some ancient Asian fable, only recently unearthed and edited to fit more modern sensibilities. By which I mean to say, all of the queer? Yes. Indeed, all of the queer. The concept of having a wandering storyteller as a main character is brilliant, because there is no telling where they might go next, what people or creatures they will meet, if their adventures will somehow end up being connected in some way, or where their journey will ultimately end. Now, seriously... when can I read the next part? More, please, Nghi Vo. Give me more.

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  • Read it in one sitting

    Fun and funny, really liked how it talks about the nature of storytelling giving us the two different sides of the same story.

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  • Sapphic and wonderful storytelling

    What another absolutely exceptional story! I thoroughly enjoyed following Chih (a non-binary cleric) on this journey filled with a sapphic slow-burn love story, mammoths, and a tiger queen. While I enjoyed this book, it didn't hit me in the feels nearly as much as the first one. I'll still 100% continue picking anything and everything up by this author. The writing is fantastic, and I cannot wait to see what Nghi Vo writes next!

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  • Had a smile on my face the whole time

    Cleric Chih is collecting stories for the Singing Hills order. I first met them in The Empress Of Salt And Fortune; this is a standalone sequel novella. And quite different! . This one is...storytelling, as plain and simple and complex as that. It’s got a bit of Scheherazade to it, as Chih is telling stories to stave off being eaten by tigers. But unlike the prince in 1001 Nights, this tiger isn’t going to be tamed. . The tigers listen to her story, and interrupt to say where she’s got it wrong. It was delightful! . As a whole it’s more linear than Empress. And yet it’s nonetheless different from the usual Western story arc, with a short episode at the end that doesn’t move the tiger story forward, but does remind you that this is a larger world. . Highly, highly recommended.

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  • Lovely

    A rather lovely and enjoyable read with a forward thinking and much needed approach to personal pronouns.

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