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
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
Earlier this year, I was gifted a copy of Empress of Salt and Fortune, the author’s first book set in this Asian-inspired world, and I adored it. (Review here). Nghi Vo takes a unique method of telling a story, looking at perspectives not often examined. With The Tiger Came Down The Mountain, that same method is used as we follow the a tale of romance between two women, told from the perspective of two cultures.
Once again, we follow Chih on their journey for authentic stories told by local voices. This time, we head north (albeit without the companionship of her neixin Almost Brilliant), to journey with a group of northerners and their mammoths. When attacked by a trio of tiger sisters, Chih fends off their inevitable doom by recounting to them one of their stories, or so they’ve heard it. A story about the romance between a tiger and a poet-scholar.
While Chih is the one telling this tale, the tiger sisters regularly interrupt, questioning and correcting their version. Quickly, it becomes clear to the reader that while Chih tells this story with a voice and perspective from the poet-scholar’s culture, the tiger’s have their own version of this story from tiger’s eyes, with the focus on their own culture. And through the different versions of this story, Vo explores respective cultural details, idioms originating from one group until they spread and lose their origin, and concepts and ideas each culture values. It’s a unique way of storytelling, paired with the simplistic yet pensive and enthralling prose, that really resonated with me.
My one complaint is that this novella felt too short, the ending a little too abrupt. I wish there was another chapter to offer conclusion for all characters involved. Instead, the ending read like, oh just another day in Chih’s life, off to the next story. However, this may have also been a stylistic choice, but it was one I felt frustrating.
Overall, I rate this book a 4.5/5. Just slightly too short, but with fantastic storytelling, characters, and the explored ideas of a story told through the lens of two different cultures.
r/Fantasy Bingo Squares:
- Setting Featuring Snow, Ice, or Cold
- Novel Published in 2020
- Book about Books (do oral stories count?)
- Romantic Fantasy/Paranormal Romance