I liked this so much I’m going to go read again. Brb.
The third installment in a series of novellas that loosely centers on Chih, a disciple of The Singing Hills monastery in China, which collects stories. Any and all stories, traveling the land with their neixin bird, Almost Brilliant, who has eidetic memory and serves as a living story repository. They’ve come to the riverlands to seek new stories.
“The whole world talks about the martial legends that come out of the riverlands, and I would like to see what the riverlands might want to say if they were asked.”
Character development is perfect for a novella length story, giving us insights into travelers Chih and Absolute Brilliance meet on their journey. They meet the young women Wei Jintai and Mac Sang in an inn when they stop for lunch, and are soon joined by the middle-aged couple Lao Bingyi and her husband Khanh. Chih’s plays a larger role in this book, not just guiding story collection, and I found I enjoyed the moments the narrative focused on them.
“They weren’t brave, and despite the shaved head and the indigo robes, they weren’t particularly virtuous, but more than anything else, they were curious, and sometimes that could stand in for the rest.”
Chih’s development builds nice layering into the meaning of Into the Riverlands and about how stories are both historical and living; that even as we are the audience for stories, meaning is different on perspective; stories are also lived, and in fact, one may be part of a living story right now.
“‘Sometimes you get told about it,’ they said thoughtfully. ‘Maybe you get told about it two or three times, and you just don’t know what you’re hearing.'”
There’s also the story-within-a-story device, and those shorter pieces are equally well developed.
Really, it’s an intriguing little tale that I wanted to go on and on. It reminds me quite a bit of Bridge of Birds, with less silliness, more gravitas. It also reminded me just a little of The Steerswoman, which also contains a community of people devoted to collected knowledge by travelling throughout the land. Highly recommended. This is a series that would be a delightful addition to have in hardcover for my library.
Many, many thanks to NetGalley and Tor/Forge Publishing Group for the ARC. Of course, all opinions are my own.