Cover Image: Mammoths at the Gates

Mammoths at the Gates

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Member Reviews

MAMMOTHS AT THE GATE by @nghivowriting is the fourth installment of THE SINGING HILLS CYCLE and it's as enchanting and delightful as its predecessors. Thank you to the author, @netgalley and the publisher, @tordotcompub for the e-ARC.

This episode of this cozy, historical, fantasy novella series finds Cleric Chih, our travelling cleric, returning to their home, the Singing Hills Abbey after three years of travelling and collecting stories, to help bury their mentor. They find themselves in the middle of a cultural and political battle for the corporal remains of this great cleric: his granddaughters have arrived upon the backs of royal mammoths demanding the abbey turn over his body to be buried with their clan. Chih must help to alleviate the tension between these two factions to keep the peace and protect their home.

Listen, I can't rave enough about this series. Wholesome, cozy, inquisitive, heartbreaking AND heartwarming, and magical are some descriptors that come to mind. There is lgbtqia representation, historical and cultural references from the Asian diaspora, articulate avians with fancy names, thought-provoking dialogue, adventurous journeys, found family, mythical storytelling, and much more. AND all the installments are novellas so far so they can often be read in one or two sittings.

This one is out in the world now and the next novella is coming out in 2024. Muppet arms!! What are you waiting for?!?!

What is (are) your favorite book series right now and why? I am super into novella series right now so this, WAYWARD CHILDREN and MURDERBOT are probably my current top 3.

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A beautiful look at death, grief, and the impact on those we leave behind. I absolutely love this series and this book takes a slightly different tone from the others, but suits the story and characters so well.
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I came into this newest release with some hesitation with it being the fourth in a ongoing series that I had no clue about. But this was definitely a beautiful and quick read with such through details in just ten chapters . It unveiled a lot about the magic behind a society that uses stories as a way of tradition and magic, which I enjoyed rather a lot. The fact it was so personal to the characters both human and somewhat not made it unique because it reads like a nontraditional western location thats fictional. 

That said I've heard about Nghi Vo and while definitely a newer to me author I understand the impact of her work in the reading community over that five or six years alone. She is part of a new batch of authors I can't wait to be able to consume more from when given the time and chance.
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In this 4th in the series Chih returns to the Singing Hills Abbey, to renew a friendship and help deal with a crisis.

They're shocked to see royal mammoths at its gates, along with northern Coh clan pavilions! Their mentor, Cleric Thien (once the patriarch of Coh clan), has died and their two granddaughters (the ones at the gates) demand his body for burial in the north.

The situation seems dire until Thien's neixin companion Myriad Virtue does something extraordinary.
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Thank you to Nghi Vo, Tor Publishing Group, Tordotcom, and Netgalley for this free advanced reader copy of "Mammoths at the Gates" (The Singing Hills Cycle #4) for an honest review. 


This newest installment of gloriously writtern Cleric Chih's journey & tales sees them returning home to the Singing Hills Abbey and brings with it the return of Almost Brilliant. This is a deeply touching story about the nature of growing up (both growing apart and regrowing together) and of how everyone carries the weight of grief differently. I felt my heart crying out to the characters in this one so much.
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Another fantastic installment to our Cleric Chih's journey, this time taking them back home. 
This one felt heavier than the others due to a death, reuniting with those they know. A story about love and loss.

Still beautifully written and I cant wait to see what Chih's journey goes next.
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This entire series is part of a band of comfort reads.

I love them so much, and this exploration of coming home and growing up, mixed with a gorgeous combination of grief for the past and those lost to time (but never memory), is so so perfect.

The amount of times I almost sobbed.
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A really lovely meditation on coming home, grief and change. There is not really much you can say about the fourth book in a series without spoiling, but I loved that we learned more about the Singing Hills monastery and their customs. It was lovely to see some old characters return and I love this series dearly. Nghi Vo is a fantastic storyteller and this entry in the Singing Hills Cycle is no exception.
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Nghi Vo's writing style is so special. The words on the page read like a story you're being told around a campfire or while tucked into bed. I've loved every installment of this series but I really loved this one because we get to see more into Chih's life as a cleric and their past. This is a more personal look into them as a person and the workings of the Singing Hills Abbey. Learning more about the neixin and the aviary was so interesting and I think it added more layers to the previous books. 

This is one of my all time favorite series, I absolutely adore it and devour every addition. The cover for the next one was just revealed and it's so gorgeous, I'm so excited! 

Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Books for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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If you were wondering if you can truly join in on the Singing Hills series at any point I can assure you you can as that is exactly what I did. This series has been on my radar for a long time but this is the first volume I read and it's masterfully crafted for new readers and I guess for returning ones alike.
I guess for those already familiar with the series there are a lot of crossreferences and easter eggs which are perfectly balanced for new readers to feel they are there to give more depth, more history, more atmosphere. Also, one's very soon involved with the characters emotionally even if this is the first time meeting them.

With that said, you have to prepare that this is the kind of fantasy where you're thrown into deep water. No heavy infodumps, no long preposition (this is a novella, after all), but one can soon figure out all the important background from the text, it's just not offered ready on a plate. If this is the first title in the series you read, just be aware that this is intentional and not because you started in the wrong place.
Actually, this kind of worldbuilding style is my favorite because it feels so genuine, you don't feel like an outsider who gets explained how this world is different from what you know but you can feel immersed in the world, in the story instantly.

This story is extremely character driven and the stakes are relatively low: there's a dispute over the funeral processes of a deceased which leads to a threat to the protagonist's home, which is of course high stakes for them, but no saving the world, changing history kind of thing. And personally I relly much prefer this kind of low-stakes in fantasy. 
The characters are built wonderfully, I could instantly get attached and feel all the grief and melancholy.

This is exactly the kind of fantasy I love and can't wait to read the rest of the series, and was really glad to find out the other day that the next installment in the series is already underway.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for providing the ARC.
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When I say this book is stunning, I am not exaggerating. I now want to check out the audiobook and experience it again. Getting to see the Singing Hills Abbey was so special, and this book was so special! It leaves a beautiful impact on you, just as the others in the series do. The grief and loss that are part of this novella truly blew me away, and the author is truly a master of their craft. I will read as many books in the series as they want to write!
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Such an amazing book! Beautiful and about coming back home and nothing is as it seems. I loved every second of it.
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Another excellent chapter in this series of novellas. If you liked the previous three, you will enjoy this one as well.
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I love this series so much. Mammoths at the Gates was particularly impactful due to its focus on grief and remembrance of those who have died. My friends group and I have each lost an important family member over the past couple of years, so this really struck close to my heart for what we've been going through. Thank you for the advanced e-ARC!
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I’ve said this before, but what I love about this series of novellas is that each installment is gradually building out the world and the characters in really compelling ways. Each one is a different take on the concept of stories-within-stories and also the different functions that storytelling can serve.

The first one is about storytelling as a means to combat erasure, the second one is about stories as cultural exchange, the third one is about storytelling as a means of understanding landscape, and this installment is about storytelling as memory and storytelling as ceremony in a lot of different ways.

Especially with that element of grief that’s overlaying everything in this installment, there really is that focus of stories as a means of remembering those who have passed, showing respect for them and their lives, and also understanding how the world reshapes itself around their loss. I think the story also about how the legacy of one person’s life can never be boiled down to a single story or a single narrative. It’s about how we contain multitudes and constantly change alongside an ever-changing world. So how do we honor that fluidity, that unending potential in our grief, which tends to flatten things?

Overall, I loved everything about this. I think it ties “When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain” for my favorite installment in this series so far. This story has homecoming, ghosts, political and cultural tension, and even some surprises as well. I loved it and can't wait to see where the next installment takes us.
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Everything Nghi Vo writes just shines. Mammoths at the Gates is the latest installment of the Singing Hills Cycle, which is really just getting better and better with each story. I found myself tearing up more than once in this tale; it's short, but it packs a punch, exploring grief and nostalgia and memory, and, as always with this series, the stories we tell about ourselves and one another. A beautiful, warm, heartbreaking book.

Thank you to Tordotcom for the advance review copy!
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! 

Mammoths at the Gate is that latest in a series of fantasy novellas about a cleric who collects stories. In this book, Cleric Chih deals with grief, homecoming, and reckoning with the past. This installment is unique in that a lot of the action is happening in real time, rather than the usual story within a story framework. I absolutely love this series; I think it is atmospheric and original. With the premise of the series being a collector of stories, the author could take it anywhere, and I can’t wait to see where Cleric Chih will go next!
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After being a little underwhelmed by the previous installment in this series, Mammoths hooked me right back in with all the charm of the first books and a heightened sense of investment in the characters and the world. Getting to see where Cleric Chih came from, in terms of the Abbey, their past, and their relationships, and getting to understand more about how the Abbey operated added a new dimension to the series, and the grief and conflict we experience through Chih make it all the more compelling and organic. I'm excited to head out into the world with Chih again after this novella, but it was a very welcome and necessary visit home.
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Cleric Chih returns home for the first time in years only to discover their mentor has passed away and his granddaughters are threatening the safety of the Singing Hills Abbey to retrieve his body. Chih must work quickly to honour their mentor’s life while stopping the mammoths at the gates from destroying everything the clerics have worked for all these years. 

While the author notes that the series may be read in any given order, each release can be considered its entry point; Mammoths at the Gate feels like such a brilliant story that fits easily as the middle story of Chih’s journey. (We are, thankfully, getting more from Cleric Chih. I don’t think I’m ready to let them go yet.) 
Chih has turned home for the first time in almost three years. However, the Abbey is silent as ever, as most of the clerics are elsewhere, and the few left are undoubtedly incapable of handling the giant mammoths that could trample them in seconds.

Chih barely has time to truly mourn their mentor as they are spurned to stop war at their doorstep. But Chih isn’t the only one mourning. The mammoths are controlled by the granddaughters of their mentor, Cleric Thein, the family that he left behind once he joined the singing hills, the other clerics, some old friends of Chih, some new, and not to mention Cleric Thein’s hoopoe companion, Myriad Virtues. 

Life and death and how it is passed through stories is the core element of this series, and Chih is now a character instead of a bystander this time around. This novella deals tightly with grief and change, and Mammoths at the Gate is emotional and heartfelt. Sure, Chih has shown emotions, but seeing them return to their home, to their familiar surroundings and realising how much has changed in the time they were gone felt so much more affecting.

As clerics, they understand how memory is a fickle thing, and how it used to remember the life of Cleric Thein before and after his time as a cleric was an excellent way to touch upon the topic of grief and the grieving process. His granddaughters recall a much different person than Chih, but it doesn’t mean their perspective is wrong; it reminds them that the world is constantly changing. The stories about you, too, can affect people differently. All in all, this is my favourite entry in the series so far. Simply well-done and beautiful.
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*I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for the free book*

I think I maybe should've reread the previous books before reading this novella because I had a hard time getting into the story. I liked it, I liked how returning home changed and finding home changed too is depicted and how taking on new responsibilities when one's mentor leaves and yet I somehow expected more, which is why it is only a 3 star rating. I enjoyed the book and I like the writing style. So I guess it's me...
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