Queer TBR Pile Review: When The Tiger Came Down The Mountain, by Nghi Vo

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Paperback, 128 pages
Published December 8th 2020 by Tordotcom
ISBN:1250786134 (ISBN13: 9781250786135)
The Singing Hills Cycle #2

“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 this mesmerizing, lush standalone follow-up to The Empress of Salt and Fortune.

My Review 

In The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Chih hears the stories of the Empresses life and that of her loyal companion. In this, Chih is up in the mountains, riding mammoths and being chased by tigers. Tigers who are able to turn into humans.

In order to save their life, and that of their human and mammoth companions, Chih tells a story about an earlier human Scholar who meets a tiger who can become a human. The tiger queen interrupts and corrects the story repeatedly.

This is another story within a story, although more accurately it’s two stories in a story as the tigers tell their version of events and the humans write it down for ‘correction’. And to save their lives. As Scheherazade tells stories to save her life, so Chih tells the story and listens to the tigers’ story in the hopes that the sun will rise and help will come with it.

I should have finished this a month ago but stuff got in the way and really, I rushed from reading the first book to reading this one and it was a bit too much of a change in pace and setting for me. However, this afternoon, after I walked Ezzie, had teas and then waited for the shopping delivery, I picked up this book. The last two thirds flew by in an hour. It was most inconvenient for the shopping to arrive early for a change, but I went back to the remaining pages, gripped with anticipation. How would Chih save them?

Obviously, I’m not going to tell you how, but Chih and the rest are saved, and the tigers leave. There’s a love story in the story within the story, and seeing things through the eyes of the tigers was fun, because they obviously have different priorities to humans.

I enjoyed the evocative descriptions, and the cultures and mythology of the civilisation of the books, which are clearly based on broadly east Asian, possibly more specifically Chinese and Mongolian, history, culture and mythology. I can’t wait to see what Chih gets up to next.

TBR Pile Review: The Empress of Salt and Fortune, by Nghi Vo

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Paperback, 128 pages
Published March 24th 2020 by Tor.com
ISBN:125075030X (ISBN13: 9781250750303)
Series: The Singing Hills Cycle #1

With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama, Nghi Vo’s The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women.

A young royal from the far north, is sent south for a political marriage in an empire reminiscent of imperial China. Her brothers are dead, her armies and their war mammoths long defeated and caged behind their borders. Alone and sometimes reviled, she must choose her allies carefully.

Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for.

At once feminist high fantasy and an indictment of monarchy, this evocative debut follows the rise of the empress In-yo, who has few resources and fewer friends. She’s a northern daughter in a mage-made summer exile, but she will bend history to her will and bring down her enemies, piece by piece.

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