The Brides of High Hill

Nothing is as it seems as nonbinary Cleric Chih travels with a noble family to an eerie estate in The Brides of High Hill, a tightly plotted gothic fantasy novella from Nghi Vo (The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Siren Queen). The Phams are only too happy to trade their daughter, Nhung, for the stability and prestige that a marriage to Lord Guo promises, but when they arrive at Doi Cao, Chih and the young bride in their care find its buildings and people in a state of neglect--and worse. Concerned by rumors and the predatory age gap between bride and groom, Chih begins to investigate.

As Chih guides Nhung through introductions and wedding negotiations, their sense that something is horribly wrong intensifies. What are the figurines spread around the estate grounds, and why do they smell so terrible? Is Lord Guo's son truly mad, or is the powerful man trying to silence him in the cruelest ways possible? Why are Nhung's parents always sleeping? Chih's role as an outsider allows them access to people and information, but answers lie just out of reach. Vo deftly builds the mystery and tension, culminating in an explosive scene that shatters illusions and reveals the bloody truth.

The Brides of High Hill is Vo's Singing Hills Cycle series at its best: atmospheric, character driven, and compelling. Lovers of dark folktales such as "Bluebeard" and the fox legends of East Asia will devour Vo's signature blend of historical fiction and fantasy. --Suzanne Krohn, librarian and freelance reviewer

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