|The Ghost Bride|
Published August 5, 2014; William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy
"Tell you what," said Fan. " If you wish to go to the Plains of the Dead, I'll show you the way. For a price." (ch. 13)The plot: A young Chinese woman, Li Lan, in colonial Malaya of 1893, is promised to the wealthy Lim family as a ghost bride for their dead son, so that he may still bring pride to his family. However, the young woman is in love with the dead son's cousin, Tian Bai, who is very much alive.
She is distraught by the dead son's haunting her in her dreams and takes too much medicine by mistake, lapsing into a coma. Her spirit leaves her comatose body and enters a gate to the underworld, where she encounters the spirit of her dead mother in the Plains of Death. She also meets the ghost Fan, who is to play an important role in the outcome of her wanderings, and falls under the spell of a mysterious and handsome spirit, Er Lang. Er Lang enlists her help for a task in the underworld and later gives Li Lan the energy or qi she needs to stay connected and not to disappear completely from the physical and spiritual worlds.
I have perhaps given too much away about the plot, but be assured there is much more to the book than my brief synopsis.
My comments: I loved the imagination of the author who created this world of wandering spirits and ghosts, combining aspects of Buddhist philosophy of death, punishment, and reincarnation, with the Christian hell as seen in Dante's Inferno, and the Chinese traditional beliefs in the fate of the dead who are not buried and provided for in the afterlife by their living relatives.
Chinese mythology, Buddhist and faint echoes of Christian beliefs seem to mingle in this world that Li Lan wanders into and out of, with the help of other spirits. The plot also holds suspense, as Li Lan helps Er Lang to find evidence of wrongdoing among the underworld spirits, evidence to convict and detain them, depriving them of freedom in the underworld and freeing her from the haunting spirit of the dead son, her would-be ghost husband. I was also reminded of the Greek myth of Orpheus's visit to the underworld to bring back his dead wife, Eurydice.
Recommendation: If you love fantasy, adventure, a mystery, mythology, romance and magic, this is a book I would recommend wholeheartedly. My rating: 5 of 5 stars.
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Yangsze Choo is a fourth-generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. She lives in California with her husband and their two children, and loves to eat and read (often at the same time). The Ghost Bride was the Shirley Jackson Award Nominee for Best Novel (2013) and the Goodreads Choice Nominee for Fantasy (2013).
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a review copy of the book.