Immediate Re-Read: Ghost Bride

I just finished Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo, and I love it. I want to read it again right now (but I won't because I have so many other new books to read!). 

It takes place in 1890s China and follows Li Lan Pan, who has received a proposal to become the ghost bride of the recently deceased heir to the wealthy Lim family. It's Li Lan's first proposal, and as she's already eighteen she feels the pressure to ensure her future, but the prospect of marrying a dead man is somewhat less than appealing. She becomes even more resistant when Lim Tian Ching, the dead man, starts visiting her in her dreams in an attempt to woo her - but quickly shows his temper when Li Lan balks at his advances. At the same time, Li Lan is dealing with a whole other set of new emotions: on a visit to the Lim manor, she meets the handsome Tian Bai, cousin to the recently deceased. But during the next night's visit to Li Lan, Lim Tian Ching warns her that Tian Bai was the one who murdered him.

I didn't remember that there was a murder mystery aspect to this story until that moment; the richly-built worlds of the Chinese afterlife were plenty enough to keep me hooked. The book is divided into sections, with each devoted to a different plane of existence. 

Honestly, the story was driven plenty well enough by Li Lan's struggle, and the murder mystery aspect just kind of faded into the background. Unlike many YA novels set in today/now timeframe (where when the heroine gives up and bemoans her fate I want to shake her and tell her to get a grip on herself, get off her butt, and do something),  I actually understood Li Lan's mentality. She does rely on others for help much of the time, but during the course of her predicament (which I won't spoil for you, but it is really interesting) she does, over time, grow to rely on herself first. I think the reason this worked so well was because Li Lan behaved exactly as I would expect a young woman in 1890s China to behave - they weren't exactly encouraged to be independent. 

Closing thoughts: Go buy this book. Yangsze Choo did a wonderful job and at the same time made it very difficult to write up a spoiler-free review (so much so that my favorite character, Er Lang, can't get a proper mention). This is Choo's first novel and she has crafted a beautiful, complex world that I will definitely re-visit.

 

- Alexis

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