Into the Riverlands (The Singing Hills Cycle #3) by Nghi Vo
Published by Tordotcom
Adult Fantasy, Queer
Release Date : October 25th 2022
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 themselves 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’ll remember what it was like to see a battle between people who don’t fight like people, who are what legends come from.
ARC provided by the publisher Tordotcom through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Into the Riverlands is a novella that is dedicated to wuxia martial arts dramas that is filled with legends and fun banter.
Nghi Vo is back with yet another instalment to a beloved and award nominated series The Singing Hills cycle. This is the third book to the series continuing Chih’s journey throughout the realm for stories with their recording bird, Almost Brilliant. Into the Riverlands is set in the Riverlands, a land famed for its lawless and brutal residents especially the legendary martial artists that have walked through the forest and along the river. Chih finds herself in a tavern where she decides to join four martial artists on their way to a different town. Along the way the martial artists shares stories about famed fighters and elusive bandit groups that haunts the Riverlands.
“This is why all the great fighters come from the riverlands,” she said, slapping Wei Jintai companionably on the shoulder. “Breathe this every day of your life, and you’ll fly where others have to crawl.”
When Into the Riverlands was first announced around the end of 2021 I was really excited because The Singing Hills Cycle is one of my favourite series of all time. The Empress Salt and Fortune & When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain blew me away with Nghi Vo’s imaginative, vivid, and beautiful writing. Reading Into the Riverlands it is no different if you are a fan of Nghi Vo’s writing. Chih’s characterization slowly blossoms with every book I read in this series. Their personality really shines through the page and with every new book they have grown to become a wonderful character. Almost Brilliant is snarky and snappy with their one liners. I have to admit that Almost Brilliant is the most sassy bird I’ve read in fantasy.
What made Into the Riverlands so unique is the homage to a wuxia Chinese drama trope of legendary martial artists and their distinctive fighting styles. Reading this book feels like a throwback to those series or movies about stories of a specific fighter, their amazing feats, memorable fights or conquest, and their memorable personalities. The stories that are told by the characters that Chih meets on this journey are all about legendary fighters. The character themselves are skilled fighters as well that left a huge impression from their first introduction.
Singing Hills knew that the truth showed up in its own time, often late and sometimes entirely unlooked for.
Final thoughts, Into the Riverlands is another hit in The Singing Hills Cycle series that is as strong as it’s predecessor. Nghi Vo never fails to amaze me with their story telling ability and writing. Though Into the Riverlands didn’t have that same melancholic fantastical wonder as The Empress of Salt and Fortune & When The Tiger Came Down the Mountain it is more action packed, intense, and unapologetically queer. There is a polyamorous relationship depicted in the story and another sapphic couple that shares a cute dynamic.
Anyway, pre-order this book if you haven’t or get in line at the library asap to read this amazing book. I highly recommend it ! And if you haven’t read The Singing Hills Cycle before go read it immediately if you love an Asian inspired fantasy that short, fast paced, and is written with beautiful prose.
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.