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Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Blurb from GoodReads:

“One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride…”

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

 

I really enjoyed The Ghost Bride. The concept is new to me, a living woman married to the ghost of dead man.

The villains: stalker ghost and his deceased family.

My favorite: the afterlife.

Things I expected, but didn’t get:

  • From the blurb, I thought she was a ghost bride. She got a proposal, but there was no wedding.
  • There was a trial of the villains and I would have liked to see it. I guess only the results mattered to the main character, but the omission of the trial disappointed me.

Things I Liked Least: the romance wasn’t especially convincing.

The afterlife in this book is complicated, complete with bribery and corruption, demons and dragons who serve as minor government officials. I loved it. But I really love ghosts and dragons.

The ghost stalks her from the afterlife, and had he lived, I cannot think he would be much different. If he had lived and she had married into the household (their fathers had a childhood arrangement for her marry the cousin). I think he would have been an awful in-law, the kind who would hit on her and retaliate when she refused.

He haunts her dreams and insists she marry him. He sets up a party in her dreams, complete with unappetizing spirit food, and is upset when she rejects him.

She goes to see a medium, who gives her some medicine to keep the stalker ghost away. But one day it stops working, so she takes a lot more and gets so sick her soul is ejected from her body.

That’s when the book gets interesting. She meets hungry ghosts, a dragon, and she goes to the Plains of the Dead. The Plains is the underworld, with little villages and cities of ghosts. It is wonderful. This portrayal of the spirit world was amazing. This is my favorite part of the book.

The character comes into her own here. It stands in her good with her romance with the cousin of her stalker.

So . . . Girl sees boy; girl thinks she’s in love with boy. Truthfully, this romance never worked for me. I mean, he’s a good guy. But it just happened so fast. She visits him in his dreams and he burns a horse for her (she finds it very helpful in the Plains of the Dead). So I can’t see the romance was useless. But I think it was more lust at first sight rather than love at first sight.

In fact, I think, she fell in lust with the dragon, too. Who can blame her? And no human can compete with a dragon. She left with him in the end, but I don’t buy she’s is in love with him. Plus, he rescued her. So he’s a good guy, too.

In the end, I really, really enjoyed the books. The descriptions were marvelous. The story moved forward at a fairly brisk pace. It was well-written. You should read it, especially if you like ghosts.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

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