“Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves. ”The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo
The Singing Hills Cycle is a fantastical Asian-inspired short story series featuring a non-binary cleric named Chih and their mystical memory recording bird named Almost Brilliant as they journey all over the lands to look for and record histories and stories from different people. Both books are stand-alones, and can be read in any order, however, I would highly recommend reading The Empress of Salt and Fortune first to be able to get a grasp of the world and characters involved.
At first, it was a bit hard to get into since there was a new set of world and characters being introduced, but also because of the author’s writing style itself. Things were definitely a whole lot of vague and confusing for at least 1/3 of the story, but as soon as you get pass the flowery prose and hidden messages underlying in the story, the story finally flourishes and I’ve practically let myself get through it quickly. I really adored the author’s use of an intricate way of telling her tale, because it opens up the readers’ imagination even further, and it was very thrilling to figure out what the story was trying to tell. Both books have the same lyrical quality to it, and it is such a nice way to present the magical story. The author has a really great way in telling her stories that will immediately captivate you from the very beginning.
Character-wise, I love Chih. Their curious mind was such a thrill to explore, and I love how they just kept asking a lot of thought-provoking questions to her audience, but also know how to tell a powerful tale. I really enjoyed their quirky personality and their hunger to know more despite the dangerous consequences being presented to them. Even though the current narrators are the ones who are telling the tales of the Empress of Salt and Fortune and The Scholar and the Tiger, the way they told their stories made the readers feel like you were inside them and you can empathize with them more.
While I enjoy both books immensely, I love The Empress of Salt and Fortune even more because it had such an impact, and the story just gripped me even better than book 2 did. Although, I did find When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain more adventurous and funnier than its predecessor. It is a nice collection of stories featuring powerful feministic ideas, war and hope, an abundance of culture surrounding the world, and love in all of its many forms. I practically read the two books in a day because of how compelling and good it was!
I highly recommend this series, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as well.
“I am yours, and so I will be your light and your laughter. I am yours, so open your eyes to look at me, and open your mouth so that I may kiss it. I am yours, I am yours, and nevermore will I leave. ”When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, Nghi Vo
My Series Rating
About The Author
Nghi Vo lives on the shores of Lake Michigan, and her fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Expanded Horizons, Crossed Genres, and Icarus Magazine. She likes stories about things that fall through the cracks and live on the edges, and she has a deep love for tales of revolution (personal and political), transfiguration, and transmutation. She’s a writer by trade, a storyteller by nature, a volunteer by inclination, and a dreamer by design.