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.
After loving Empress of Salt and Fortune earlier in the year and just wanting more of the story, I was very excited when I saw the announcement for this sequel and even more happy when I got the ARC. And this one turned out to be even better than I thought.
I think I did the right thing listening to the audiobook of the first book just just a week before starting this, because it refreshed my memory of the world and it made me feel connected to this story immediately. As storytelling forms the main narrative of this novella, the author uses her poetic and beautiful writing style to weave a story within a story, while also keeping up the tension taut and us readers hooked to every single word. I was lost to the mesmerizing words and didn’t even realize that the book was almost over. The book is quite fast paced, the story that Chih is narrating builds up slowly and I was quite excited to know what was gonna happen next, and all characters had very interesting personalities. The banter between them was also absolutely perfect and I had such a fun time reading the book even when it was intense.
I loved the themes that the author was trying to convey with this narrative. I have found many books in recent times deal with the concept of truth and fact, whose truth gets to be told as history and passed on across generations, and what other narratives are lost. In a similar vein, the author here tries to showcase how the same history of a scholar/Tiger couple can be told in different ways based on who is doing the narrating, and the version which gets archived for posterity depends on who controls the scholarly domain. I think this is very relevant to our current times as well and I enjoyed the way the author imparts us this message through the narration of a love story.
To conclude, this novella is storytelling at its finest, very captivating in tone, and beautiful in the imagery. I’m now more in love with this world and the author than I was before, and I hope we get more books in the Singing Hills series. And if you are someone who loves stories, you just can’t miss this masterpiece.
PS: Thank you to Tor.com and Netgalley for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.