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Mammoths at the Gates, by Nghi Vo

Review copy provided by the publisher.

This is another in the series of novellas about Cleric Chih, and this time they’ve returned home, home to the Singing Hills abbey. But home is not as they expected to find it, because there are two intimidating war mammoths with two cranky mammoth handlers at the gates of the abbey, and inside the abbey–well, inside, one of the clerics they most wanted to see has died, and one of their oldest friends has become mature and responsible in their absence.

And that’s just on the human side. Because at the Singing Hills abbey, the hoopoes must always be considered–sometimes considered first. And Myriad Virtues, beloved hoopoe of the deceased Cleric Chien, is grieving in the way that only a neixin hoopoe with perfect recall can–and none of the humans can anticipate quite what that means. Or quite what it will mean to the angry mammoth riders.

If your favorite part of this series is the hoopoes, as it is mine, this is an incredibly hoopoe-heavy novella. It is, as the saying does not go but ought to, hoopoes all the way down. With some mammoths thrown in. The cover copy indicates that the novellas may be read in any order, and I think that’s probably true? true-ish? I think I enjoyed coming into this knowing the characters (good news, this one comes out in September, so you have plenty of time to read three other novellas, or even just one if you like), but also I think it would have been fun and compelling if I’d picked it up cold. I am still happy to be along for Cleric Chih’s rambles, even–especially–when they ramble home for a minute.

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