Monday, August 29, 2016

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

In Chinese culture, it's believed that the seventh lunar month (the seventh month in the Chinese calendar) is when the gates of hell open and the dead can come back to the world. It's a month where the smell of incense is thick (and the haze makes it worse). If you're not a fan of all this smoke and ashes, you may wish for the Japanese Obon, which is similar but only lasts for about a week. At any rate, it's the seventh month now, and I decided to read The Ghost Bride.

Anyway, The Ghost Bride is a fantasy novel set in Malacca, back when it was still a British colony. Li Lan is the beautiful protagonist, and the story starts when her father asks her if she'd like to be the bride in a ghost marriage.

Her family's quite poor, but the groom's side is rich, so if she marries him, she'll live in comfort. But the prospective groom visits her in her dreams (bad decision on her part) and he is so repulsive of course she won't want to marry him. Instead, she prefers his cousin, who was originally her intended.

And because the story is complicated, this isn't even the main plot.

The bulk of the book features Li Lan after she accidentally left her body and meets Er Lang. He enlists her help in finding out information from her prospective ghost groom, and we get to see what the spirit world is like.

While it's quite complicated to follow, I didn't have any problems with the plot, probably because I have years of Chinese dramas behind me. I thought it was pretty well-paced, and I never grew bored with the story.

I really liked the descriptiveness, although it went a bit overboard sometimes. Although I could believe the idea that Li Lan didn't really know about the spirits because of her father being a strict Confucianist, I didn't get why she had to explain every single little bit of life, including translating the word 'baju' into English. I can only assume it's for the ang moh's, or perhaps the author is illustrating the hold our ex-colonial masters still have on us.

Oh, and even though relationships (and romance) is one of the pillars of this book, I wasn't annoyed by it at all, which is a first for me. I mean, there are three guys that Li Lan gets involved in and they are:

- the Ghost Groom: Odious so whatever
- Tian Bai (Ghost Groom's cousin): Li Lan gets a crush on him because who wouldn't when their intended is so repulsive
- Er Lang: the mysterious dude that helps Li Lan. They bicker a lot, but I genuinely like how their relationship develops.

So to me, it's not a love rectangle because two of the three guys aren't even serious candidates. Which really helps because I am not a fan of love triangles or shapes of any kind.

If you're looking for a lyrical, absorbing fantasy book set close to home, you should definitely pick this up.


  1. I am glad you enjoyed this one. I thought it was beautifully written and was really swept up in the story. Er Lang was such an interesting character.


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