Tag: Nghi Vo

Review – The Brides of High Hill

Posted January 21, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – The Brides of High Hill

The Brides of High Hill

by Nghi Vo

Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 128
Series: The Singing Hills Cycle #5
Rating: four-stars

Nghi Vo's Hugo Award-winning Singing Hills Cycle returns with a standalone gothic mystery that unfolds in the empire of Ahn.

The Cleric Chih accompanies a beautiful young bride to her wedding to the aging ruler of a crumbling estate situated at the crossroads of dead empires. The bride's party is welcomed with elaborate courtesies and extravagant banquets, but between the frightened servants and the cryptic warnings of the lord's mad son, they quickly realize that something is haunting the shadowed halls.

As Chih and the bride-to-be explore empty rooms and desolate courtyards, they are drawn into the mystery of what became of Lord Guo's previous wives and the dark history of Do Cao itself. But as the wedding night draws to its close, Chih will learn at their peril that not all monsters are to be found in the shadows; some monsters hide in plain sight.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Nghi Vo’s latest Singing Hills novella starts off by setting you up with some expectations, right from the blurb, and skillfully leans on that to guide you through the novella to the crisis point. It feels darker to me than the previous novellas in this series, with a real sense of unease throughout — not that the others have no sense of looming consequences, but I was more frightened for Cleric Chih than I usually would be. Chih has been drawn into something they may not be able to get out of, where they’re not so much an observer anymore, or just interested in how things turn out, but a part of the tale and critically affected by whatever will happen. Which is not the first time, I suppose, but this just felt more immediate.

I think Vo does an amazing job at teasing things out, with some little hints along the way to help you catch on so that once it all becomes clear, it’s really clear. It’s difficult to say much about this story without spoiling that journey, so I won’t say any more on that.

I did find that once certain things started happening, it all unravelled really quickly and I almost stumbled. I guess that’d be my only critique, but the story caught me when I stumbled and rearranged the world so everything made sense, so maybe that moment is really just part of the experience.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Mammoths at the Gates

Posted May 7, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Mammoths at the Gates by Nghi VoMammoths at the Gates, Nghi Vo

Received to review via Netgalley

Cleric Chih returns to the Singing Hills abbey for the first time in this novella series, and finds things have changed: Cleric Thien, a beloved mentor, has died, and they’re just in time to participate in his memorial, and Almost Brilliant’s chick is growing fast and eager to meet them. Plus, there’s a pair of mammoths at the gates of the abbey, and some kind of quarrel growing up.

Homecoming can be strange, and Chih finds some of that difficult: a childhood friend is grown and even acting as the leader of the abbey, and the younger ones look up to them as an elder now. Almost Brilliant isn’t ready to travel with them again, and the abbey is strangely quiet (with everyone absent to go and record some fascinating uncovered previously-drowned ruins)… They have to navigate that and settle back down for a while, and try to figure out how to manage the whole mammoth situation (inasfar as that’s something they even ought to be managing).

It’s a lot, but as with the other novellas in this series, I loved it. We see a little more of the world, of all the stories those at the abbey gather and curate, and a little more now of where Chih comes from and what has shaped them. Especially fascinating to me, we learn a little more of the neixin, and meet several of them.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Chosen and the Beautiful

Posted April 7, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi VoThe Chosen and the Beautiful, Nghi Vo

I’m really sad this one didn’t work for me, because I love Nghi Vo’s work usually. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m not a huge fan of The Great Gatsby, and only ever read it once, a long time ago. Perhaps it’s that I’m not familiar with the American culture surrounding The Great Gatsby — some readers from the US seem to have such strong feelings around it!

Vo’s writing is great as ever, really easy to read, but I just couldn’t quite make myself care about Gatsby or Daisy or what they were up to. Jordan Baker herself is more interesting, at least as portrayed by Vo, but so much revolves around Daisy and Gatsby. The magic and wonder is an interesting surrounding to the story, but I felt like I never got a close enough look at it.

All in all, just not one for me. Siren Queen was great, with a lot of similar worldbuilding going on, so I’m inclined to lay it at the feet of The Great Gatsby.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain

Posted September 6, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of When the Tiger Came Down The Mountain by Nghi VoWhen the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, Nghi Vo

Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 8th December 2020

This is a follow-up to The Empress of Salt and Fortune, following the cleric Chih on another journey to discover and record stories. I’m a little sad that the book doesn’t contain Almost Brilliant, but in every other way I liked it even more than the first book. I think that despite giving the first book a pretty high rating, it didn’t wholly stick with me; this one, I think, will. Perhaps it’s partly the sense that Chih is not only learning the story, is not just a vessel for the reader to experience it, but is in a story themselves with a beginning and an ending and tension in the middle. That sense was missing from the first book, for me, for all that it was cleverly done.

It’s not that this one was more surprising for me — I mentioned with the first book that I knew where we were going before we got there — but that the frame story kind of supported it better, I suppose. The predictability in both cases is a good thing; it’s like seeing the end result of a puzzle, and then all the intermediate stages as you work towards it; that doesn’t “spoil” getting to the end!

I’m definitely on board for more of Chih and their travels.

Rating: 4/5

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