Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novella


Cleric Chih is accompanying a young woman and her parents to her new home. The bride, Nhung Pham, is a cheerful girl who enjoys eating and pretty things. Her parents, once wealthy, are now trading their daughter’s beauty for a good husband. Chih finds themself torn between two feelings: the first, an attraction for the lively Nhung; the second, a confused and unsettling loneliness because Almost Brilliant, their neixin, isn’t with them.

The neixin are memory spirits in the form of birds who accompany the clerics of the Singing Hills Abbey, but without their companion, Chih will have to rely on their human memory — albeit one neixin trained — to memorize the events so that they may be written in the abbey library. And what a story this one will be! A beautiful bride engaged to a much older groom; a handsome young man who will become her son, lost to madness; a house of secrets and guards and strange beast carvings hidden in small alcoves; and a warning given by Zhihao, the poor mad son: Where are the other wives?

This adventure is book five in the Singing Hills Cycle series, though they don’t need to be read in order. It is a wonderful little ghost story told with exquisite skill. The tension is almost palpable as Chih wanders the strange household laid out in a twisting spiral, caught in a dreamlike state, always looking for something that isn’t there. The descriptions of the bridal feast are gory and glorious, the food described with lavish attention — and the same attention given to the gruesome events that happen.

This is a very quick read with the author’s lyrical prose and sharp sense of humor, and I loved it. If you enjoy short stories, mysteries, mythology, and beautiful writing, you will enjoy this book. Personally, I have loved everything Nghi Vo has written, and really hope you give this one a try. It would make a wonderful spooky, seasonal read.