The Ghost bride‘s strength lies in its vivid settings, served by a lush imagery. It shines with its palpable atmosphere, with the fascinating descriptions of Malaysian culture and traditions. I fell in love with the evocative and compelling qualities of Yangsze Choo’s writing. Moreover, as I’ve mentioned in my weekly check-in, her narration is fantastic and suits the book perfectly – listening to Li Lan’s story enhanced its out-of-the-world feel, and I adored that.
So. What is The Ghost Bride about ?
Set in Malaysia, at a time when British imperialism extended its claws over half the world, The Ghost Bride follows Li Lan, a seventeen years-old whose genteel family stands on the verge of bankruptcy. One day, Li Lan’s debts-ridden father informs her that Tian Chiang, heir of the wealthy and powerful Lim family, has proposed. Only problem? He’s a tool, and oh! He’s dead. Li Lan is horrified, of course, even more so when he starts – literally – haunting her dreams, his tantrums becoming scarier and scarier. It doesn’t help that she has convinced herself that she’s in love with his cousin, and heir-to-be, who is very much alive (she doesn’t. It’s a childish infatuation, at best : her vision of love is overdramatic and immature but it never annoyed me – how can we be anything else than lenient and understanding, given her situation?). Tian Bai, the recipient of her “love”, is perfectly nice, I suppose. Yet because he’s so very bland, I could never care for him. I didn’t mind, though. But I’ll come back to this.
Riddled by nightmares and horror, Li Lan is desperate to get rid of her unwelcome suitor, even though her acceptance would mean her father’s cancellation of debt. And who can blame her? Faced with mysteries and not knowing whom she can turn to and whom she can trust, she embarks in a dangerous journey, from her city of Malacca to the realms of the dead, where she’ll have to navigate between ferocious foes and unexpected allies.
What about the pacing ?
Almost all the reviews – even positive ones – I read complained about the middle and the slow pace but, I don’t know, I never felt bored or even impatient. I’m pretty sure that’s because the narrator’s voice lulled me. Granted, there was a moment – the third wife, if you know, you know – when I felt a tiny bit confused about who was who BUT 1) it lasted a hot minute and 2) I was flowing. How could I mind, really?
HOWEVER. As I said, I’ve never felt bored and genuinely enjoyed the middle part as well but wow, the last part was something else entirely, I understand why readers have been raving about it. It!! Was!! Awesome!!! I couldn’t listen fast enough, feeling so much – As Li Lan, I was SO angry, I was SEETHING *shivers* I was SO INVESTED, and the ending made me so happy, OKAY?
… And the romance ?
Before I finish, I wanted to add a few words about the romance aspect of the novel and Li Lan’s love interest(s) in particular – yes, there’s a plural there. If I can understand the sentiment – truly, I do – for once I didn’t share this particular complaint. First, Tian Bai and Li Lan. Their “romance” plays such a tiny place in the book, all things considered. Sure, Li Lan thinks about him, but their scenes are very rare, and you know, what I loved the most about her is the way she evolves throughout the story. When the situation demands it, she grows, and I was 100% here for that – there’s something so satisfying in a coming of age story, don’t you think? There’s a love-triangle of sorts, but for once I genuinely enjoyed it, especially because *cough* I very much enjoyed Er Lang’s character and all of their scenes together *cough*…. and that’s all I’ll say about it.
– Bottom line –
The Ghost Bride is not a perfect book, maybe, but it was perfect for me. I’ve talked about my “professional” rating system in my review for Sorcery of Thorns *cough* don’t mention it *cough* and it was again a great help here, but there’s something else I took into account when I decided on my rating : will I reread this book? Absolutely. I will, oh so gladly. Had I not listen to it, perhaps I wouldn’t have rounded-up my rating, but the stellar performance of the author in the audiobook made it impossible for me not to. In the end, I’ve created this blog to shout into the wind the names of the books that touch me, enchant me, in the hope that someone will listen. Can you hear me now?
CW – fatphobia, sexual harassment, death
About The Ghost Bride (audiobook)
Author : Yangsze Choo | Publisher : HarperAudio | Genre : Historical Fantasy | Duration : 12 h 8 min
‘One evening, my father asked me whether 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, traditional ghost marriages are used to placate restless spirits. 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 Lims’ 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.