Aug 7, 2014

Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

The Ghost Bride
Title: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
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.

Visit the book's TLC tour schedule for other reviews.

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).

Connect with the author on Facebook or on her website

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a review copy of the book.


  1. Hallo, Hallo Harvee Lau,

    I love how both of us loved the immersion of the world by which Ms. Choo built inside "The Ghost Bride"! You brought forward certain aspects of the mythologies and traditional rootings of the story itself that I was not as certain how to express, as I have not yet read other mythologies to draw the connecting lines to this one. However, what I found was beautiful in your recollections is how you were highlighting the echoes of the diversity of past traditions and of cultural heritage that are at the forefront of the back-story! I could not help but soak into this beautiful and magical world Ms. Choo gave us all to enter and take back a foreboding of what can happen when the spirit would is stirred and dominated by those who wish to first do harm!

    I'd welcome your visit & a continuing conversation.

    My review of The Ghost Bride

  2. You do draw some wonderful connections, Harvee. This book sounds evocative and imaginative. Very lovely review!

  3. Soooo looking forward to reading this! Your review has made me even more excited -- love the melding of history, culture and fantasy.

  4. This book sounds terrific. Thanks for your review.

  5. This one sounds very imaginative. I find the fanciful elements combined with the mythology to be intriguing.

    Your connecting the story with Orpheus seems insightful.

  6. I've seen this one around and it sounds good. Glad you enjoyed it!

  7. Hello,
    I actually didn't notice the Christian aspects, although from reading your review, I realize that it does have aspects. I know some of China, but not everything. Dragon is an important symbol in Chinese culture, some parents even hope that their children, sons in particular will be born in Year of the Dragon. There might be a chance that hell idea came from India, when South Asians brought Buddhism and stories which were translated to different languages.

  8. I love the combination of fantasy and mythology and romance. What a fabulous mix!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


I appreciate your comments and thoughts...

You Will Never Be Me by Jesse Q. Sutanto, and Talking to Strangers by Fiona Barton: Sunday Salon

  You Will Never Be Me by Jesse Q. Sutanto Publication: August 20, 2024; Berkley Genre: women's fiction, thriller, suspense, adult con...