Titles: The Empress of Salt and Fortune (#1) & When the Tiger Came Down from the Mountain (#2)
Author: Nghi Vo
Genre: fantasy; novella/short stories; LGBTQ; women’s fiction; romance; feminism
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) #1 – A young royal from the far north is sent south for a political marriage. Alone and sometimes reviled, she has only her servants on her side. This evocative debut chronicles her rise to power through the eyes of her handmaiden, at once feminist high fantasy and a thrilling indictment of monarchy.
#2 – 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.
Review: 5 Stars
I truly enjoyed these two books. I’m unsure if there will be more, but so far there are only two. Both were wonderful. They were well-crafted, intricate stories about women, about families, about life, and about love. Both of the Singing Hills Cycle books featured Chih, a cleric who wants to record history as it was. On their journey, Chih finds that what they think they know isn’t exactly real, but a version that has been warped by others. They aim to correct it and write the narratives of those they run into.
In The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Chih is told this beautiful, tragic, and powerful tale about the exiled empress who is cunning, wild, and lovely through the eyes of a former maid, who is also cunning and wild. Chih learns from her that history isn’t always what was written from Rabbit, the maid. As the story continues, there are moments of the supernatural blended in so beautifully with the realistic. Animals, humans, spirits — it’s all so perfectly woven together so that Chih can write the the true history of empress of salt and fortune.
In book 2, Chih is hoping to get to their destination on the back of a mammoth, but ends up getting caught up in a storm and detained by tigers threatening to eat them. It’s here that they learn again that the history they have written back at the temple isn’t quite the truth. This time, the tigers tell Chih the truth, a beautiful love story where once there was just a history of violence and gore that painted the tigers like vicious monsters.
Again, Vo creates these beautiful characters, this compelling story, and this amazing moral where we’re sitting right there with Chih – remembering that we have to think critically about the histories we learn.
I loved these stories and sincerely hope there are more.