“THE TAVERN WAS LITTLE more than a waxed canvas tent, tilted towards the south by the wind that rushed headlong down the mountain. The woman who tended the makeshift bar had a thin wispy mustache styled into pointed wings over her lip, and Chih took down her family history while the mammoth scouts argued outside.”
So begins Nghi Vo’s When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, second novel in the impressive series, The Singing Hills Cycle. With the wandering cleric Chih as our primary narrator, we venture into the frozen northern part of the realm where there’s an entirely different culture to explore. One we’ve heard of before.
Mammoths and their riders played an enormous role in the Empress of Salt and Fortune. Here we get a better understanding of the animals themselves and the culture that surrounds them.
Chih requires aid through a pass and it’s a mammoth and it’s rider that will escort them. Chih is genderqueer, pronouns of they/them. Whether it’s due to being a Cleric or by a personal preference isn’t made entirely clear. It just is. Sexual orientation and gender identity isn’t a issue in the stories. It’s part of who someone is.
The ride, which as with everything Chih experiences, turns into a learning (recording) journey with the mammoth rider Si-yu, an irrepressible force and her special mammoth Piluk.
Then comes the tigers.
Who turn into people who are very much still tigers. Hungry ones.
And it’s Chih’s remembered story, a particular story, that ends up being told from different perspectives, that saves the day. So to speak.
It’s a fascinating concept, and an even more intriguing story. Or stories. As it changes from human perspective to tiger and back again.
One that involves grief, hunger, ghosts, poetry, betrayal, and love.
So textured and beautiful.
I found the ending almost abrupt for all that went into this richly detailed piece and needed to know more past this ending.
And no Almost Brilliant wasn’t in this. Hopefully in the next.
Vo’s stories reminds us that in every tale there’s another perspective other than the one we’re currently listening to. And that for every hunter, there’s a path when they may become the hunted. Nothing is one-dimensional, every being is more than it seems.
I’m highly recommending When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain (The Singing Hills Cycle #2) by Nghi Vo for all lovers of fantasy fiction and magical writing.
No romance herein except in the story that’s being told between the Cleric and the Tigers.
Singing Hills Cycle:
✓ The Empress of Salt and Fortune #1
✓ When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain #2
◦ Into The Riverlands #3
◦ Mammoths at the Gates #4 – September 12, 2023
Btw, these covers are brilliant.
From Locus and Ignyte finalist, Crawford Award winner, and bestselling author Nghi Vo comes the second installment in a Hugo Award-winning series
“A stunning gem of a novella that explores the complexity and layers of storytelling and celebrates the wonder of queer love. I could read about Chih recording tales forever.”―Samantha Shannon, New York Times bestselling author of The Priory of the Orange Tree
“Dangerous, subtle, unexpected and familiar, angry and ferocious and hopeful. . . . The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a remarkable accomplishment of storytelling.”―NPR
The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover―a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty―and discover how truth can survive becoming history.
Nghi Vo returns to the empire of Ahn and The Singing Hills Cycle in When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, a mesmerizing, lush standalone follow-up to The Empress of Salt and Fortune.
The Hugo Award-winning Singing Hills Cycle