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When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain: The Singing Hills Cycle #2    by Nghi Vo order for
When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain
by Nghi Vo
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2020 (2020)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Nghi Vo's When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain follows The Empress of Salt and Fortune as the second in her excellent Singing Hills Cycle, set in the empire of Ahn. As before, Cleric Chih tells the story. Indeed, they tell many stories in a context reminiscent of One Thousand and One Nights.

Chih travels the empire, collecting and comparing stories. Now, they are journeying in the north on mammoth back with young mammoth corps scout Si-yu up a steep road through Kihir Pass to a way station. As they near the station, they're attacked by tigers, but not ordinary tigers. They make it into a barn, along with an unconscious scout, rescued by Si-yu on the way in.

The shapeshifting tigers (a queen and her two sisters) are very hungry, but Chih converses respectfully with them, saying he has come north to listen to the queen's stories and glorify her name. His mention of Ho Thi Thao arouses the queen's interest and she demands to hear his version of her marriage, a version she declares is bound to be untrue.

So begins a back and forth on alternate views of the life of a scholar named Dieu and her encounters - and perilous love affair - with priestess Ho Thi Thao, ancestress of the tigers. It's fascinating to see how cultural perspective changes history through time. Dieu and her lover share poetry, and food, and more. Chih's stories do run out eventually, but last just long enough for rescuers to arrive.

This Singing Hills Cycle is extraordinary fantasy and I very much look forward to what comes next for Chih in their travels through Ahn.

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