Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo – ARC Review!

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 went into this not having reading any of the previous novellas set in this world and I have to say it was super easy to get stuck into the story. I quickly bonded with Cleric Chih and Almost Brilliant, a talking bird and their companion who can recall everything they have ever been told. Their job is to roam the riverlands, in search for new stories to take back and pass on. The story starts with them meeting two young women, Wei Jintai and Mac Sang, when they stop at an Inn for lunch, quickly followed by an older couple, Lao Bingyi and her husband Khanh. All looking for safe travel, they decide to band together and risk the walk through the bandit rife riverlands. But Cleric Chih quickly comes to realise that his travel companions are not all that they seem, and before long find themselves embroiled in an ancient feud where they are forced to confront old legends and learn that every story bears more than one face.

This isn’t my first story by the author, having read Siren Queen earlier this year, but Into the Riverlands is told in a much lighter and entertaining voice that I couldn’t help but adore. For such a small story, we still get plenty of character exploration, especially around Cleric Chih and Almost Brilliant. Their interactions, were both heartwarming and hilarious in parts, and I loved how Chih understood Almost Brilliants need to stay away from danger, that the stories he carries are worth more than Chih’s life, something which he never resents.

I’m a sucker for stories that contain stories, so this was the perfect novella for me. Vo really shows how important it is to pass on tales to future generations. How stories are passed from person to person, and sometimes these are the only way we have of knowing that something actually occurred. But she also shows that perception plays such a large roll in the telling of the stories. How a person wants to be, or is perceived can change the tale completely, how focusing on one trait; their beauty, their wit, fighting skills, brains can eclipse anything else about the person, and through this novella we see how all stories have more than one perception, more than one idea of what actually happened, something that Vo shows us, not just with the tales she tells throughout the story, but through the characters in the novella itself.

Safe to say I fell a little in love with Cleric Chih and Almost Brilliant, and I will certainly be picking up the first two books in the series. If you want a little light fantasy, filled with stories and folklore but also plenty of action then I can highly recommend this series!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s