REVIEW: The Brides of High Hill (The Singing Hills Cycle Book 5) by Nghi Vo

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The Cleric Chih accompanies a beautiful young bride to her wedding to the aging ruler of a crumbling estate situated at the crossroads of dead empires. The bride’s party is welcomed with elaborate courtesies and extravagant banquets, but between the frightened servants and the cryptic warnings of the lord’s mad son, they quickly realize that something is haunting the shadowed halls.

As Chih and the bride-to-be explore empty rooms and desolate courtyards, they are drawn into the mystery of what became of Lord Guo’s previous wives and the dark history of Do Cao itself. But as the wedding night draws to its close, Chih will learn at their peril that not all monsters are to be found in the shadows; some monsters hide in plain sight.

Though all the novellas are standalone, I would recommend reading at least one or two earlier ones to get a feel for the world and more information on the background of Chih and Almost Brilliant.

Dear Nghi Vo,

A new Singing Hills novella with Cleric Chih! This time it’s got some weird goings on, a strange family, a mystery. But where is Almost Brilliant?

Cleric Chih, a story gatherer from the Singing Hills Monastery, is on the road, traveling with a young bride and her parents on her way to meet a man her parents want her to marry. Pham Nhung is very young, sweetly charming, and acts and is treated as if she’s more fragile than fine porcelain. When the retinue reaches the compound, Nhung takes Chih with her ahead of the rest and surveys the strong walls that surround it, wondering aloud if she will find her future here.

The events get weirder after that when a bizarre young man warns Chih to have Nhung ask the lord what happened to his other brides. Wandering around the grounds that night, Chih and Nhung enter several buildings with Nhung coyly asking Chih to go in first and check for monsters. The mystery of the place deepens when the lord’s son, the young man from earlier, warns Chih and reveals something awful about his situation there and old family secrets. But the monsters Chih is expecting aren’t the ones they find.

“The world starts with a story. So do dynasties and eras and wars. So does love, and so does revenge. Everything starts with a story.”

Once again, a perfectly paced story unfolds in novella format. Some novellas end up too rushed or too thinly written with not enough to keep me interested. With the Singing Hills stories, I know that this won’t be the case. Words are carefully used to create and shade in the background worldbuilding which is filled with characters given nutshell sketches that tell us all we need to know about who they are without wasting pages on unneeded information.

The terrible situation is slowly built up, little by little with an aftertaste of unease, like a fire started and then allowed to heat up before bursting out in raging flames. There are subtle clues but they are softly dropped into the story and the reader is allowed to notice them and ponder what they mean before all the plot points are tied together and everything is let loose.

What didn’t work quite as well for me is

Also some threads are left hanging and unresolved. Cleric Chih is going to have a hell of a story to add to the ones at the Singing Hills Monastery but I didn’t feel as if I got all the resolutions by the end that I wanted to have explained. B

~Jayne

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Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.

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