Friday, May 03, 2024

The Brides of High Hill by Nghi Vo: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

The Brides of High Hill by Nghi Vo

The Brides of High Hill is book five of The Singing Hills Cycle of stand-alone fantasy novellas set in an empire that resembles ancient China. I haven’t read the earlier stories, but that wasn’t necessary, although I might have appreciated some elements more if I’d read them.

Cleric Chih finds themself travelling with a family who is escorting their daughter, Pham Nhung, to be married to a wealthy man. The daughter has insisted they accompany her, and they have agreed. Their job is to collect stories, and this is a good opportunity, even though their neixing, a memory spirit that looks like a bird, isn’t with them on this journey to record the stories. The reader is given a notion her absence is meaningful, but nothing more is said about it, other than that Chih misses her.

The bride-to-be is in high spirits, both eager to be married and frightened of the prospect. Chih does their best to support her. But the moment they enter the estate of the groom who is several decades older than Nhung, Chih gets a notion things aren’t as they ought to be. Reader soon suspects this is a retelling of Bluebeard, with scores of missing wives. But when the monsters appear, rather abruptly, they come from a different direction entirely.

This was a delightful, slightly spooky novella, easily read in one sitting. Chih was an interesting character, even though we don’t learn much about them. They are a recurring character though, so earlier books might have more. Their struggle to get out of the web they don’t even know they’re in is fairly abrupt, and the reader is taken slightly by a surprise, but it worked for a story this length. The atmosphere could’ve been spookier though, as the novella is advertised as a gothic mystery. Now it was a fairly pleasant read with a gory end. But I’m intrigued enough to check out the earlier stories in the series.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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