Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: The Ghost Bride

THE GHOST BRIDE by Yangzshe Choo was represented by Jenny Bent.
The book club has been coming up with some odd selections this year, but I can't tell if it's because that's all that is available at the local indie bookseller or if some of our members have different tastes in books.

At any rate, THE GHOST BRIDE is a work of some genre I don't normally read. Is it magical realism? Is it a historical fiction fantasy? What does one call a fairy tale?

Li Lan is the daughter of a once prosperous merchant, and her mother is dead. Aren't most of the Disney princesses cursed with dead mothers? The setting is Malaysia during British rule, a time when the old ways were still alive. The reader has a chance to discover an interesting culture, but if you aren't in the mood for frequent explanations you will grow weary of the lessons. Which is why I took to skimming, in search of the meat of the tale.

This being long ago times, Li Lan is most interested in securing a marriage contract but her opium-addicted father isn't up to the task. The best he can do is field a request that she marry a dead man and be a ghost bride. Again, the author is delving into old customs and the concept is well explained and rather fascinating.

After that, the story devolves into dreams and ghosts and a fanciful tale of the afterlife, as if Orpheus had become a Chinese girl but instead of searching for a lost love she is searching for the answers to a murder mystery.

So in a way the book is a whodunit, but told from the perspective of the dead.

Li Lan must undertake a perilous journey outside of her body and cross over to the other side, so to speak, where she must avoid capture by strange creatures while spying on some dead characters who are plotting a revolt in Hell. There's the dire consequences right there. If she fails, all Hell breaks loose on earth. And then there is her body still at home, and she must return before she reaches the point of no return, in which case she will be really dead and not just in between states.

There is a late developing romantic angle that ties up the loose ends but still falls a little flat, even though it keeps with the element of fantasy.

I can't say I really enjoyed the novel but that has more to do with my personal preferences. To me, the story was silly, like an updated retelling of children's stories that don't translate well into adult fiction. There are those who like to escape into fantasies, however, and they may find this novel to be entertaining.

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