Collector of stories and historian Chih returns in this second Singing Hills novella. This time, Chih is in the far north to collect stories from the mammoth riders. When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, by Nghi Vo, recounts what happened one night when Chih hitched a ride only to find themselves in mortal peril at the hands (paws?) of a trio of shapeshifting tigers.
Chih’s job is to roam the former Anh empire to learn everything they can about the culture, customs, histories, and—best of all—the stories of everyone they can find. (Chih is non-binary.) In their first outing, in The Empress of Salt and Fortune, they got the real story about what happened to an Empress who overturned the empire that disrespected and discarded her. Chih didn’t expect that this outing in the frozen north would also become an opportunity to set the record straight; they were just getting a ride to their next destination. When three massive tigers appear, just about to kill and eat another mammoth rider, Chih’s guide springs into action…which lands them in a situation where Chih has to spin stories long enough for them to be rescued.
The largest tiger introduces herself as the queen of the entire territory and announces that she and her sisters will eat everyone. (The mammoth can go free.) Some quick talking leads to Chih telling their version of the story of the Scholar Dieu and the tiger Ho Thi Thiao. This version almost immediately displeases the tigers. Chih is not telling it right! Chih can only apologize; this is the version they were told. The tigers then take turns with Chih, telling their versions of the story. This is what made me When the Tiger Comes Down the Mountain even more than I did The Empress of Salt and Fortune. It’s probably the English major in me, but I loved how the stories had similar beats that—depending on which version you got—had completely different significance.
I look forward to more rich stories from the Singing Hills.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.