Cover Image: Into the Riverlands

Into the Riverlands

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Member Reviews

Another exquisite gem of a fantasy novella from Vo in this series that features the wandering cleric Chih and their talking avian companion Almost Brilliant. Vo's language, as always, is beautiful and precise. This book has more action than the previous two, but the focus is still on the stories Chih collects and the way those stories shape our cultures. Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for a digital review copy.
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I loved this from the first sentences and it's my favorite by far of the Singing Hills Cycle. It has more adventure and action than the first two volumes, and it also has a bit more contemplation of what makes a story. Or perhaps it's just a different lens to view story through.

The first focused on the story of a pair of women, slowly revealed in pieces through objects and fragments of memories. The second contemplated how the same story told by two different cultures could end up very different. This took a broader look at how the stories and legends told by many people could weave together just enough truth to give a glimpse at the true story underneath.

The writing was as gorgeous as Nghi Vo's writing always is, sharp and incisive and true. The story unfolded beautifully, and it was terribly fun to piece it together along with Chih. I highlighted so many passages of beautiful writing, as I always do when I love a book as much as I loved this one.

Over the course of the story I came to love the Riverlands, and to fear them, and to be glad that I do not actually live there. They might be a nice (if terrifying) place to visit, but I do not think my heart could take that kind of excitement every day. I was sad to leave them behind, and sad to have to leave these very intriguing characters that I have only partly glimpsed. Mostly though, I am left anticipating Chih and Almost Brilliant's next adventure and the stories they will discover along the way.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan/Tor-Forge & Tordotcom for providing an e-arc for review.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this book!

Let me just start by saying that keep novellas in The Singing Hills Cycle coming. Few fantasy books feel as whimsical and magical as this ones.
This is the third entry and is just as consistent as the previous ones. We follow Chih and Almost Brilliant while they travel to the Riverlands and collect some tales along the way. This feels like the more action packed book of them all, since some of our characters are martial artists, so yes you need to read this one. 

Nghi Vo has one of the most beautiful writing styles I've seen and it serves this little novellas so well! These are some of the best cozy fantasy books there are. I cannot recommend this one enough if you have or not any of the previous novels. I personally think you can start by any of them, so don't hesitate to do it!

Actual rating: 4.5
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Another scrumptious installment in the Singing Hills Cycle.

This one sees nonbinary cleric Chih and their feathered friend Almost Brilliant going into a wild part of country known as the river lands. Along the way they meet a middle aged couple who are more than they seem and two women who are destined to become much more than they are.

These novellas are always concerned with stories and truthtelling, but I loved the way this one in particular grappled with history and who gets to write it, and why. And who gets to own their own stories and truths. I also really loved the imagery used in the action sequences, which reminded me a lot of classic, historical-set anime, like Rurouni Kenshin. My sole criticism is that the ending felt a little abrupt and I had trouble putting all of the pieces together. I could have done with a few brush strokes more of exposition but YMMV.
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“Into The Riverlands” is the third book in Nghi Vo’s novella series. In this book, we follow Chih and their animal companion, Almost Brilliant as they adventure along in an attempt to try and collect stories. In this novella, they come across another group of characters who provide them will tales of legendary martial artists. 

This book is very beautifully written and atmospheric. I found the characters interesting but I was missing a little more depth. I know this is a novella so it makes sense but I wanted to learn more. I have not read the other books in this series and based on reviews that I have read, that is a good thing as the other books don’t have as much of Chih as a character and they are more of a narrator. I really want to read the other books after reading this one because I loved the story telling aspect.
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Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley for an ARC.

I love follklore, and to me what makes that different than your regular SFF novel is its ability to show you the truth within what cannot be known. The Singing Hills Cycle captures all the highlights of a great folkstory, and I love how Nghi Vo weaves these tales together with so much empathy and enchantment.

In Into the Riverlands, Chih travels with Almost Brilliant to the riverlands, where they encounter fellow travelers and decide to take the journey with them. Amongst this motley crew are a martial artist and her manager, and a strict Aunty and her gentle husband. Through the journey, Chih learns more about their fellow companions, as well as the history of the riverlands. 

I've enjoyed the subtle world expansion in this series, and in Into the Riverlands, Vo shows reveals to us yet another area of the map as we piece together the puzzle of the Singing Hills world.

Though Empress of Salt and Fortune is so far my favourite, Into the Riverlands is a great addition to this series. It will leave you feeling warm, embraced, and you will be thinking of the characters in it long after you put the book down.
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This series is becoming comfort food reading to me. Nghi Vo decided to flex her muscles a bit and write wuixia this time around, and again, play more with how people react to interpretations and stories, and how they get changed and diluted as time goes on. I'm reasonably sure that this is Vo's first time writing active fight scenes that I've seen so far, and I really have to compliment her on how she gets to apply her lyrical descriptions to physical action, which let me tell you, can be fucking hard. Chih gets to take a bit more of an active role here too, which is always fun. Probably going to end up rereading the first two again soon. Pick it up - as ever, you're in for a treat here.
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Into the Riverlands, the third volume of Nghi Vo’s delightful series of novellas, continues the adventures of Chih and Almost Brilliant as they collect whatever stories the people they meet care to share. Chih also seems to be a magnet for trouble, too, although they never cause it. They are modest enough that they probably wouldn’t consider their (mis)adventures worth saving, so it’s definitely a good thing that their avian companion Almost Brilliant has perfect recall and can share all the thrilling and comical details of what befalls the pair.

Chih and Almost Brilliant walk into a tea shop for food and refreshment in the notoriously dangerous Riverlands (home of the fearsome Hollow Hand bandits, warlords, and other people who like to murder and rob) and, before their order arrives, a fight breaks out. The waitress carrying Chih’s tea collides with a belligerent man. The man starts to throw his weight around and, like a good (if less than pious) cleric, Chih attempts to defuse the situation. Chih’s efforts are in vain. Thankfully, a martial artist sitting nearby decides to throw her weight around with the bully. Fists and furniture fly in a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in a wuxia movie. The next thing we know, Chih is traveling deeper into the Riverlands with the martial artist, her sworn sister, and an older couple who take charge of the scene in the tavern before turning into something like camp counselors for the younger members of the party.

The Riverlands road the quintet travel is not entirely safe and everyone except Chih keeps a weather eye out for trouble. In between episodes of “trouble,” they tell stories to Chih and Almost Brilliant about warrior women and legendary heroes. These stories provide an extra couple of layers to Into the Riverlands, which is one of the things I love about this series; you get many more stories than you pay for here. The tellers don’t intend it but, through our vantage point at Chih’s shoulders, we can see connections in the form of women who break out of their expected roles to make their own destinies with their fists, determination, and the help of good friends. By the time Chih separates from her road companions, it’s easy to see that there might be another pair of sworn companions who might someday become legends.

These vibrant novellas are the perfect way to be transported for an afternoon; I had a wonderful time with Chih, Almost Brilliant, and their protectors in the Riverlands. I adore the way that Nghi Vo borrows from Chinese, Vietnamese, and other Southeast Asian cultures for worldbuilding and story inspiration and I hope this series continues for many more books.
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"Into the Riverlands" is proof that Nghi Vo is an excellent writer that needs to be appreciated morw than she is.

It was small lenght-wise, but a very pleasant read nonetheless. It was like reading a cleric's journal, but in a very Disney-ish way. Chih (our MC that needs to be protected at all costs) had a guide, Almost Brilliant, a neixin which helped them remember the events that they witnessed so that they can write them down for the next generations to read and study. Although helpful, I personally disliked Almost Brilliant at times, because they weren't empathetic and their words could easily hurt people's feelings. A character that I loved is for sure Lao Bing Yi, because I admired her so much. She spoke her mind, she was a woman to be taken seriously. And let us not forget her being fearless and a pro at martial arts. Moreover, I admired Khan, because he was probably the mist calm of the fellowship after Chih. Our dear cleric is such a precious bean I just can't-.

One part of the book that I liked was the companions talking about the concept of beauty on women, and how it is passed throught time. How when people read in history books that a woman was "ugly", but in reality she just wasn't a tranquil individual, but a force to be reckoned with, independent, without needing any man to show her way. In general, I came to acknowacknowledge the fact that history book are written by the winners and the privileged, and that's why they are subjunctive. And at the end of the day, "beauty" is subjunctive.

Another intereinteresting characteristic of the book were the mythical/fantasy animals. Having already being familiar with Vo's "The Siren Queen", I was hapy to read again this kind of development in this book, although still beautiful. 

Thank you Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review! This book is out on October 22!
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Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced review copy of “Into the Riverlands” by Nghi Vo. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

I’ve really been enjoying these novellas! You can read them in any order but I’ve read them in order of release so far. While I liked the new characters we meet in this story, I found myself a little frustrated by the number of times a character would tell a story off page or the story would be skipped over. I know it’s a novella and there’s limited page space but I wanted to head the stories too! 

My book also skipped Chapter 5 so I don’t know if I was missing a chapter or if the numbers were off?

I do really like this series and will continue to read them. I usually read these in audiobook form (highly recommend if you like audiobooks) and I didn’t find it a difficult switch to read this eARC instead of listening to the audiobook, 

4/5 stars
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This was my first book from the Singing Hills Cycle and I really enjoyed it! It was like a bite-sized dose of storytelling that brought me into Cleric Chih's world. It felt like being a fly on the wall in their life, a brief glimpse into a single story (full of other nestled stories within) that will one day be retold to others. I love how much of an ode to oral storytelling it is and I loved the worldbuilding. (And as a historian, I can't help but love Chih and the work they do). I definitely plan to read the other books in this series!!
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with this ARC copy


Description from NetGalley:
Wandering cleric Chih of the Singing Hills travels to the riverlands to record tales of the notorious near-immortal martial artists who haunt the region. On the road to Betony Docks, they fall in with a pair of young women far from home, and an older couple who are more than they seem. As Chih runs headlong into an ancient feud, they find themself far more entangled in the history of the riverlands than they ever expected to be.
 
Accompanied by Almost Brilliant, a talking bird with an indelible memory, Chih confronts old legends and new dangers alike as they learn that every story—beautiful, ugly, kind, or cruel—bears more than one face.
 
I am going to start by saying that I love Nghi Vo’s writing. I have read the previous two books in this series and highly recommend them. They’re all solid stories and have great characters. The novella continues to give glimpses into Chih and Almost Brilliant’s world in the short span of pages. This particular installment is a slow burn of a story. I really particularly liked the conversations around who is included in the telling of stories; i.e. beautiful women versus ugly women. This includes the telling of stories that include “ugly women” that were unsung heroes in a way. I don’t know which is my favorite of the cycle, this one or When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain. I can’t wait to see what the next installment brings for Chih and Almost Brilliant.
 
Overall: 4/5
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Chih and their talking avian companion Almost Brilliant journey through the riverlands, recording the stories local to the area which is rife with legends of formidable martial artists and tales of the famous beauties. Traveling with a pair of young women and an older couple to Betony Docks, Chih hears tales told to them by their new traveling associates as they make their way through the dangerous and unpredictable riverlands. 

Perhaps the most direct of the three anthologies, so far written by Vo for the Singing Hills Cycle series, in terms of narrative. It is also the most focused on the "wandering" aspect of Chih's vocation as a wandering cleric of the Singing Hills. While I did enjoy the novella, at the moment it is currently my least favorite of the series. This was also the easiest plot to follow as it's more schematic in nature in comparison to the first two–which I don't necessarily think of as a bad thing.

Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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Each of the books in this series is a little different in structure-- particularly between 2 ([book:When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain|53265678]), which is mostly 1 story told in 1 place, and this book, which is a few shorter tales and snippets of others, told over the course of several days.  

The books make the most sense together, as they're too short to individually engage in much world-building.  OK to read them far apart, as only general universe details are carried over, no secondary characters or events are referenced across books, requiring the reader to remember specific details.

A good continuation of the series, although the differing pacing and structure among the books makes the series as a whole feel a little herky-jerky.  Suggest the series as a unit to readers interested in fantasy set in non-European-inspired universes.  eARC from NetGalley.
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A beautiful continuation of the cleric Chih, their companion of long memory - Almost Brilliant, and the stories and people they encounter on their duty to hear and archive the history of their world. As per usual, Vo's writing is strong and flows really well. These books don't rely strongly on plot, so do note that, but Vo effectively writes a snapshot view that doesn't feel superficial.
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Having adored the previous two works in The Singing Hills cycle I went into this book with pretty high expectations. I actually ended up reading this book twice and had drastically different opinions on a reread so I shall endeavour to explain why those changes happened. 
The first time I read this I think my expectations were too high, I was expecting to be slammed with realisations in the same way that I was with Empress of Salt and Fortune but I think, on reflection and reread, that this is simply a quieter book than that was, the structure is slightly different and the subtextual meaning (at least to me) felt more subtle. On a first read I found it hard to focus and I lost some of the beauty of the prose which I then picked up in the reread. For that reason I would say this is a book to devote some time to (you won't need long it isn't a lengthy tome) but give that time up and really focus on the story and the writing - not one to read while idly staring at your phone!
I liked seeing more of the world and getting to know Chih and Almost Brilliant in a way that I don't think we did quite so much in the earlier books. My feeling is that once we have the latter books in the series that this novella will sit a little more comfortably within that context where at the moment, while excellent, it still feels like a slightly weaker story in comparison to the first two books. 
Overall I think those who love this series will enjoy this book but I would stress the importance of focussing and experiencing the story without setting your expectations too high - and maybe do a reread if you have time, trust me it is worth it!
My rating: 3.75 stars (rounded to 4)
I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley - all opinions are my own.
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This was a really great story! I loved following along Chih as they discover the tales of the riverlands, it's a pretty brutal place, and it was such a great read! I loved the stories that they collected, and how this was a series of tales, not one continuous (or two) tale. 

Chih meets some pretty interesting characters on their travels, the older couple, and the pair of young women. They were all such fascinating characters, and the stories they had of the riverlands were of it's history and the violence, and I loved it! 

A great part of this book is that it talks about the people who aren't important to stories, who are plain, so they don't have have any value to the story. That was a really great discussion, and on the standards of beauty. So I really enjoyed that part! 

Honestly, it's going to take a reread to get to understand all the threads in this book. There were a number of stories told, and given the way things ended, I don't quite have everything figured out, so I need a reread with everything in mind. 

Loved reading this story, and I can't wait for the next installment!
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This was absolutely delightful. The Singing Hills Cycle novellas feature the lyrical prose that makes Vo's work so enchanting. I love that this installment saw Chih and Almost Brilliant drawn deeper into the story than before - I love seeing that dynamic duo go from audience to participant and back. I liked getting to learn more about the people within the world of Singing Hills in this story - I look forward to re-reading the first two now with fresh eyes! Chih is kind, full of wonder, and truly devoted to their task at hand, and that devotion creates a moving central thread within all the side characters and stories within each novella.

This novella is perfect for those looking for a little more depth into the world Chih is trying to gather stories in and who want to dip their toes into a beautifully spun story.
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As with all of the novellas in this series, this is a delightful, immediately immersive story that gives you just enough to feel satisfied but leaves you wanting just a bit more, but in the best way. I loved the new characters and their warrior backgrounds, and the resolution was particularly satisfying here.
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Nghi Vo has such beautiful writing,  and I loved how that translated into the action of this novella. We're introduced to some martial artists, and as Chih and Almost Brilliant travel with their companions, there's a really cozy feeling that comes across, and the story is very whimsical. I will say that I read this without realising it was technically the third in the series, and while I don't think I needed to have read the other two before this, I do think that if you're going to say that any of the novellas can serve as a starting point, then a little more worldbuilding needed to be included in this third novella. But I am definitely looking forward to reading more in the Singing Hills Cycle!
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