Into the Riverlands is the third in the Singing Hills Cycle series of novellas. But you can read them in any order, and the characters in this installment are delightful.
The Singing Hills series follows the journey of Chih, a wandering cleric of the Singing Hills Monastery and their companion, a talking Hoopoe with a perfect memory, called Almost Brilliant. The clerics of the Singing Hills Monastery and their Hoopoe companions travel collecting and recording stories. So on each of their journeys, in each book in the series, Chih listens to and tells stories. Chih and their traveling companions and their travel become a framing device around the stories that Chih tells and listens to. Each book is a story and a meditation about storytelling.
However, Into the Riverlands is probably my favorite (so far) because I can describe it as “What if the Canterbury Tales (821 C496) had non-binary characters, took place in the middle of Journey to the West (895.13 W959) and there were awesome fight scenes?”. In this story a group of travelers, each with their own story, point of view, and secrets journey together. Everyone is telling stories and arguing about stories as they make their way through a dangerous countryside and we, along with Chih, get to discover their secrets. These novellas tell the stories of people of color, women who fall in love with tiger women, older people having adventures and romance, and Chih, the non-binary cleric who listens to and tells stories with empathy and insight, like a detective solving a mystery and a friend lending an ear. The Singing Hills series makes you wish that each of these novellas was longer, so you could stay with these characters just a little more.