Aw man, Nghi Vo’s novellas are just so lovely. I absolutely loved The Empress of Salt and Fortune and this novella once again follows Chih, the cleric of the Singing Hills, discovering (or rediscovering) a new story.
In this novella, the stakes are a bit higher as Chih may get eaten by tigers if all doesn’t go well, along with her guide and her mammoth (I absolutely adore that there are mammoths?)
The whole novella is centred around the relationship of Scholar Dieu and a tiger (who can turn into a human, it works okay) named Ho Thi Tao. Chih has had one version of the history of the tigers that corner her and her guide have another. Chih has to diplomatically thread the needle of telling the story, and getting the tiger’s perspectives, while not annoying them enough to get eaten.
I really enjoyed the different ways the stories shifted, depending on if the story was told by humans or by tigers. Also the very different moral frameworks for each species.
There were other hints at mythologies (foxes) as well as previous hints (ghosts), which just add delightful colour to the stories and also continue to build this very interesting universe that we occasionally get to inhabit.
While I would have enjoyed almost the same framing as the first novella, the fact that there was such a different feel to this story – and yet fit so well with the universe – just makes me feel in awe of Nghi Vo’s story crafting. It was just great and I highly recommend both novellas if you haven’t picked them up already.
Also THE COVER. Gosh. Beautiful.