By Yangsze Choo, published by Hot Key Books.
“One day, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride…”
Li Lan lives with her father and Amah, in 1890’s Malaya. One day her father arrives home with the craziest, most unexpected marriage proposal. The rich Lim family would like Li Lan to marry their dead, teenage heir as a ghost bride-a rarely come by, ancient Chinese tradition- in order to preserve the Lim family name. After a strange visit to the Lim family mansion, Li Lan finds herself falling for her dead fiancee’s cousin, the handsome, attractive Tian Bai, and also thrown into the world of the dead- full of ghosts, secrets and betrayal. Li Lan must uncover the reason behind her fiancee’s murder, and try to control her feelings for Tian Bai. Can she do both with the help of Er Lang, the dragon?
I really didn’t know what I’d think of this book when I picked it up. I don’t really read historical fiction that much (although now I’m starting to really get into it thanks to Hot Key Books’ historical titles!). However, I really loved this debut! The British-ruled 1800’s Malaya was a place that I knew nothing about, but The Ghost Bride gave me a really clear introduction to the setting. The descriptions, and the writing overall, was absolutely beautiful- some of the best writing I have seen this year, and from a new author! The plot was really gripping and with lots of unexpected twists- a complex, unpredictable love story. I was so not expecting for Li Lan to fall in love with the mysterious man she had never seen the face of! I also really loved the fantastical underworld, which took up about a third of the book. It was so imaginative, and realistic, and overall just so fun to read.
Li Lan was a great protagonist. She was determined, fearless, and really loveable. I really felt her emotions through Yangsze’s writing, and understood why she was so torn between Tian Bai and a certain-mysterious-person-I-will-not-mention-the-name-of-because-I-don’t-want-to-spoil-it. Tian Bai was such a great love interest, although it broke my heart that Li Lan changed her wedding plans with him, despite the fact that I knew she had feeling towards another man. Also, the character of Tian Ching; the dead son of the Lim family, had a really shocking personality. I had thought that Li Lan may have fallen in love with him, in the underworld, but it turned out her was the opposite of what I’d expected. However, he was a really great character, and he was like a puppet to the Ancestors of the Lim family who played him, and that made a really great plot twist.
Overall, The Ghost Bride really exceeded my expectations and I loved it so much. The characters were three dimensional and understandable; and the plot was totally unpredictable and kept me reading. It was so enjoyable and now I want a sequel!!