Cover Image: When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain

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Member Reviews

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The second in the Singing Hills Cycle, this novella adds to the world of the first one but could definitely be read as a standalone. I have never read anything that had shape-shifters (other than a handful of werewolf books I read as a teenager) so human/tiger shape-shifting was interesting to me. I also really liked the storytelling aspect of this one, particularly the way that the tigers correct the story as it is being told.

However, there is always something that keeps me loving these books. I appreciate that the reader in thrown into the story but I never fear for the characters, despite them being placed in dangerous situations. I often feel similarly about fairy tales and so I think this may just be a personal reading preference.

Overall I liked this story and may carry on with the series. I think if you really enjoy fairy tales, fairy tale retellings, fables or stories based on folklore, this would be the perfect series for you.

3 out of 5 stars!
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This was an amazing short story, I loved this even more than the first book in the series. I really hope that Nghi Vo keeps realising these beautiful, culturally impactful stories!
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I love this novella and the previous in the cycle. The tigers are great. Chih is amazing. The elephant is amazing. Love me some war elephants. Just overall this hit everything I enjoy in a novella.
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This novella is set in the same universe but stands alone and can be read without having read The Empress of Salt and Fortune. A cleric has taken a routine trip in the mountains and is trapped in a barn by three tigers. Chih only safety is under the legs of the mammoth they rode on with the mammoth rider. A bargain very much like Scheherazade’s of telling a tale in order to pass the time and hopefully escape becoming dinner for the three tiger ladies. The tale is told two ways first by Chih and then by the lead tiger lady correcting all the wrong ways the tale of scholar and her tiger lover has been told to the cleric.  Chin dutifully writes down the corrections in order for the truth of the story to come out even if they do not make it out of the claws of the tiger ladies.  
Digital review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley
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I’d heard a lot of good things about Nghi Vo’s novella The Empress of Salt and Fortune and bought the ebook, but I kept putting it off because I always had library books or review copies to read instead. Obviously when I saw Tiger on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read both novellas. Although they both feature the same main character, cleric Chih, I would say you can easily enjoy Tiger without reading the previous novella.

It took me a few chapters to recognize this in Salt and Fortune, but Chih is a non-binary character who uses they/them pronouns. I loved how this is unremarked upon in Vo’s Asian-inspired fantasy world, and how inclusive the fantasy world is of queer and gender non-conforming characters. Both novellas tell very different stories, but I loved the world that they build together.

The beauty of this story is understanding the same events from multiple perspectives, and how different groups will retell the same story in different ways. It is a love letter to story telling, and ranges from dark to humorous to endearing. I thoroughly enjoyed how the Tigers in this story were both completely terrifying and disarming.

I highly recommend this novella and its predecessor, especially if you are a fan of folktales!
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When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain was so good! While I found myself confused with the writing at some parts, I was intrigued and really enjoyed the plot. I thought the atmosphere was well thought out and explained nicely. 

I'll be honest, I didn't realize this was book 2 so that is probably where my confusion came from. I will definitely be picking up the first book asap!
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I enjoyed this novella more than the first one. Potentially, I knew what I was getting myself in for this time but also I was much less confused about what was happening. I found the ideas about the different versions of stories really interesting and loved the push back the head tiger gave at holding both stories up as accurate.

Would recommend to anyone interested in storytelling and fairytales.
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he second novella in Nghi Vo’s The Singing Hills Cycle is fantastic. I really enjoyed the first novella and this one was equally spectacular. In this story we see the cleric Chih again, taking notes dutifully while reciting a history to three tigers while traveling through a mountain pass.

Similar to the first text in the series, a retelling of the history reveals how much of the true story has been erased. I love the way Vo strategically inserts the queer narrative using the tigers’ admonishing corrections of events as a way to rebuke the humans’ traditional telling of the legend of the Scholar and the Tiger. Just like The Empress of Salt and Fortune, this novella has equally charming characters and the unique travel / storytelling aspect.

I cannot wait to read more from this series or follow Chih around wherever they go next! So far both are stand alone stories, but I loved the connection being kept with Chih and a reference to Almost Brilliant. If you haven’t started this series yet, I recommended starting soon!
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This book made me want to actually, physically scream from my window to everyone I know about how good this was. Following the cleric Chih that we met in the previous novella, we see them this time having to narrate a story to three tigers to buy time and not be eaten by them. Yup, you heard that right. 

From the get-go, this novella had me hooked. It was action packed from the very start and I read this book cover to cover because I just had to know what happened. Essentially, Chih is traveling with a different companion, Si-yuh and they get cornered by three tigers - tigers that can take the shape of women. To buy some time and in the hope that the tigers will take pity on them, Chih starts telling the story of another legendary tiger. Turns out the story known by men is different from the story known by tigers (the truer account) and as Chih narrates the story, the tigers correct them. The back and forth was just...chefs kiss. 

I absolutely loved all the characters, their dialogue and banter. I loved the ‘story within story’ plot device that was used yet again. Absolutely fantastic. 10/10. I will honestly read anything Nghi Vo writes hereon and can’t wait for more novellas in this series.
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Story-collecting nonbinary monk is back!
Mammoths are sweethearts
Tigers are not
But they make the best wives
Forget 1001 nights just get us through this night
Every version of a story is true; every version is wrong
Nghi Vo blew everyone away with the first novella in this series, Empress of Salt and Fortune, which was published early last year. When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain is a standalone story set in the same verse with some of the same characters – and is every bit as wonderful as its prequel.

As with Empress, the premise of Tiger is superficially simple: Chih, the they/them cleric we met in Empress, is telling a story. But it’s not simple at all, because the tigers who are listening keep interjecting, and correcting, the terribly inaccurate version Chih knows.

It’s a story about a tiger, you see. A tiger and her human wife.

But that’s not really what the novella is about. When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain is much more about the nature of stories than it is about any one particular story – even if the one Chih and the tigers are swapping is a delightful tale indeed, with snark and an accidental marriage and treasure and careless rescues.

Because what it comes down to is this: Chih knows one version of this story, and the tigers know another. The events being told really happened – there really was a proud, fabulous tiger who married a human woman some time before the novella starts – but humans and tigers have two different versions of how it all went down.

Which one is right? Are either of them right? Or is the truth somewhere in the middle? Another, more wishy-washy writer would have gone with that – the truth is in the middle – but Vo doesn’t give the reader a nice pat little answer like that. We’re not told who’s right, or where the truth is. It’s up to us to decide.

And honestly, which of the two versions are correct matters far less than the fact that there are two versions. That seems to be the central message or lesson or point of Tiger – stories change depending on who is telling them. On who they’re being told to. And that would just be an interesting quirk if we were talking about, say, a fairytale – but the story Chih and the tigers are comparing is history. You’re supposed to be able to trust history. History isn’t supposed to be a story, it’s supposed to be fact. Which means there shouldn’t be different versions of it. You can’t change the past; it’s already happened. It’s not up for debate!

Well, that part’s true: the past is impossible to change without some kind of time machine. But history – well. History is just a record of the past, isn’t it? Haven’t we all heard the saying that ‘history is written by the winners’?

The past is an objective fact. What we remember – what we’re told, taught – about the past? Is not.

Vo doesn’t beat us around the head with this, because she’s far too good a writer for that. Instead she delights us with a story of a fierce, proud tiger-woman and a poor scholar, and alternates between the version humans remember, and the one told by tigers. She doesn’t have to tell us that stories change with the agenda of the teller; instead we see how, in the human version of the story, Ho Thi Thao – the tiger – has the skin of her mother, whom she murdered, hanging above her bed. But in the tigers’ version, it is the skin of He Who Leaps, killed long ago by Ho Thi Thao’s grandfather.

So the human version casts Ho Thi Thao as a matricide, vindicating the belief of humans everywhere that tigers are dangerous and terrible. Whereas the tigers’ version…well, it does say she’s dangerous and terrible, but for the tigers it’s a compliment, and regardless the difference in the bed-hangings is fascinating to me.

And it’s a whole ‘nother level of fascinating because Ho Thi Thao did kill her mother, according to the tigers – she just didn’t keep her mother’s skin over her bed. So the human version tries to cast her in a bad light…by making up something that she actually did. There are levels and levels of knots to analyse there.

One more point I want to make about this is one I’ve never considered before. I took history for my GCSEs and A Levels in the UK; it was drummed into us that no source could be trusted uncritically; everything had to be dissected for its motivations and conscious or unconscious biases. But Vo makes a point my (white, British) teachers never did;

“It is the only version of the story I know,” Chih said. “Tell me another, and I’ll tell that instead.”

“Or you will keep them both in your vault and think one is as good as the other,” said Sinh Hoa, speaking up unexpectedly, her voice gravelly with sleep. “That’s almost worse.”

Reading When the Tiger Came Down From the Mountain, this exchange was a galaxy-brain moment. Because which has more value – an outsider’s record of what happened? Or the record of the people themselves? Is a British army captain’s account of what India was like under British rule of equal worth to records written by the people of India? If a Swedish historian writes about Sami rituals, is that of equal value to what the Sami themselves write about it? Or to bounce back to Britain, should we present what the English wrote about the Great Famine of Ireland alongside the records of the Irish themselves?

It’s not that outsider accounts don’t have any value. But surely they’re not as valuable as, for lack of a better term, insider accounts?

Erasing or ignoring insider accounts is worse, as Sinh Hoa says in Tiger. But when you stop and think about it…there is something really awful in saying that insider and outsider accounts are worth just as much as each other.

Isn’t there?

And maybe Sinh Hoa is being a little unfair here, because after all, Ho Thi Thao’s wife was human. Humans are a part of this particular story, and they have a right to record it too. They have a right to their version.

…Don’t they?

I’m not sure. Especially because, in this context, tigers feel like a proud but oppressed/minority group to me – humans do hunt them, after all, and there are a lot more humans than there are tigers.

So maybe the human version is the outsider version. Maybe it’s not as trustworthy or valuable as the tigers’ version. Maybe they shouldn’t be kept side-by-side in the vault, and considered equally important.

I’m not sure.

But I know that, as well as making me swoon with what’s rapidly becoming her trademark gorgeous prose and entrancing me with the story she’s told, Vo has also left me with a lot to think about.
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I loved this one even more than te first one. Really adored the winter setting, sitting in the cold around the campfire telling stories (to not get eaten by tigers haha). Hope there will be more in this series, I think there are a lot more interesting stories that could be told in this world.
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Cleric Chih takes on tigers as they tell the story of Ho Thi Thao and Dieu in order to save themself and Si-yu from being tiger food. When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain shows the strength of storytelling and how, even the stories can perhaps save yourself from death.

Cleric Chi must face tigers and tell the story of their relative, Ho Thi Thao in order to save themselves and their friends, but, making sure that they do not offend the tigers by telling the wrong story. In order to do so, they must carefully speak the right words, or else, they are dead.

I gave When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain three stars. I had a fascinating time reading this but I felt as if the point of Cleric Chih telling the story lacked a few things. While I understood that if they didn't tell the story, they would have died, however, it felt back and forth. While that can be a good thing, it felt unnatural in When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain. What really was the point of having the back and forth occasions with the tiger and Chih? To tell how the story Ho Thi Thao and Dieu are very different when comparing the stories of the Cleric Chih versus the tigers?

When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain had a few enjoyable parts to the story, but when it came to the plot and what the story was truly about, it didn't capture my attention. Though that being said, I did not hate the book but rather think that When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain had a lot more potential.

Thank you again to NetGalley for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This fantasy novella is pure magic and even better than the first installment. Nghi Vo has this phenomenal ability to create a world, fully fleshed out, in such a short amount of time. These novellas read like magical an intriguing fairy tales and I am always so invested in the characters and their stories. I could not recommend these stories enough! This is a quick, yet beautifully crafted read.
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This book was a great companion to the first novella. It took me a moment to get into Chih’s story again, but the payoff was so incredible. This is a short little book that packs a poetic and emotional punch. The sapphic relationship portrayed in the folklore of this book was so raw and heartbreaking and I really loved the experience of it. 4.5 stars for an overall gorgeous read!
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A really well done book. I loved the storytelling aspect of this series. My only problem is that I didn't like the story being told. I couldn't get over that it was romance between a tiger and a woman. The tiger does transform into human form but the behavior still felt very tiger.  Love the storytelling aspect though.

This review is based on an advanced reader copy provided through Netgalley for an honest review.
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[Content warnings: murder, death, blood]

I enjoyed this one a little more than I did the first book “The Empress of Salt and Fortune,” but there were still many fantastical things that were facts to the characters but confusion for me.

In “When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain,” cleric Chih (nonbinary) tells the sapphic love story between tiger Ho Thi Tao and Scholar Dieu to three tiger sisters, Ho Sinh Loan, Ho Sinh Hoa, and Ho Sinh Cam, hoping that they and scout Si-Yu (sapphic) won’t end up as the tigers’ supper.

Both this and the previous novellas are stories within stories. We are with the characters in the scenes and experience interruptions as the storytelling goes on. Here, the love story between a tiger who can turn into a woman and a human woman is told by Chih, who is human, to three tigers. My main takeaway is that for history and all stories, what we learn is merely the storyteller’s version of truth, and with different perspectives, interpretations change, too.
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Superb, quietly-skilled novella, doing some interesting things with framing and fairy tale. Like "The Empress of Salt and Fortune", has some great sex and gender commentary simmering underneath; delightful anthropological worldbuilding with enchanting creatures. Highly recommended. Full review at the Chicago Review of Books.
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The story picks up again and this time focuses on tiger queens, woolly mammoths and how your life's desire might not be your life's desire as sometimes your purposes and priorities can shift.

Plus, it's full of queer people and women loving women.

I loved it, but I definitely need just ten more pages!
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When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo is a standalone sequel novella to The Empress of Salt and Fortune, which I read and reviewed earlier this year. It features the same cleric seeking stories, but everything else about the book is quite different.

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. 

Nghi Vo returns to the empire of Ahn and The Singing Hills Cycle in this mesmerizing, lush standalone follow-up to The Empress of Salt and Fortune

The framing narrative in this novella ends up being unexpectedly tense. Chih and their escort run into some tigers (the shapeshifter kind) during a mountain crossing. To avoid being eaten, Chih tells them a story. But unlike Scheherazade trying to entertain her audience, Chih's tiger audience scoffs and interjects when they perceive the story to be told wrong and/or with too-human values. It made for a delicate interplay between framing and framed narratives, that kept me interested and turning pages.

The framed narrative is a love story about a scholar and a tiger and all sorts of misfortunes that befall them. The story itself would be interesting enough, but having it deconstructed from a tiger perspective while still being told was excellent. I really enjoyed how this poked holes in the biases of the human story tellers.

I highly recommend When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain to fans of fairytales and asian-inspired fantasy stories. I hope Vo continues writing about scholar Chih or other people in the same world, because I'm really enjoying the collecting of stories and learning about the magical (and non-magical) beings of this world.

4.5 / 5 stars 

First published: December 2020,
Series: The Singing Hills Cycle book 2 of 2 so far (but they stand alone)
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Another gorgeous and lyrical tale told to the travelling cleric, Chih, filled with magic and love. In this story, Chih is both telling and being told the love story between the tiger and the scholar and I loved the way in which the two versions of the tale fought against each other and yet, still focused on the depth of love between the two protagonists. I loved the setting for the tale telling and found this to be a beautiful exploration of queer love. Once again, the prose crafted by Nghi Vo is exquisite and so evocative, placing the reader firmly in the narrative. I just wish it was longer!
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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