Rating: 3(-ish) Stars
Synopsis via Goodreads:
“One evening, my father asked me if 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, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. 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 Lim’s 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.
Sooo . . . this book. Thissss book.
Umm . . . Okay, so, I think that if you’ve read any of my reviews before, it’s pretty obvious that I either love love-triangles/the romance/or whatever it is that this book sells itself on, or I downright hate it. And, per YA standards, it typically revolves around some love issues, whether that be typical (annoying) teenage angst, amazing, sweltering admiration, or some fascinating new brand of hormonal induced fraternizing that can be such a joy to read about.
I’ve been kinda drooling after this book for a while now, ever since I first heard about it on Goodreads, and have been just waiting for summer to come around for me to get my hands on it. And from the synopsis, can you blame me for thinking this was – for the most part – a romance YA addition to already vast sea of YA romance out there? I hope not. But even so, just look at that title and cover. They’re both ammaazzzziiinnnggg.
Read below: Hannah’s predictions based solely on the synopsis.
Li Lan, the gorgeous but very naïve girl will initially meet Tian Bai in some ironically random matter, and he will be infuriating and underestimate her. But she will still be oh-so very much attracted to him because (duh) he’s amazing looking and the fact that he’s rich doesn’t hurt matters either, what with her looking for a prospective husband and all during that period of time. He might even be rude and make me (maybe Li Lan) want to slap him. But (oh, guess what?) he’s actually attracted to her to, because (also duh) Li Lan is more attractive than she thinks.
Next, Li Lan will be swept off to ghost/dream land where she will meet Tian Bai’s cousin, who is also not unattractive, and he will try to seduce her with his supernatural-ness and mysteriousness. (Of bloody course.) And poor, poor Li Lan will be stuck having to choose over them, but, as we all know, she will end up with Tian Bai, because he is who she met first, and most of the time the girl ends up with the hot guy she met first and who she was initially attracted to. Add in a dash of family drama and some cool Asian lifestyle facts and we’re good to go.
Read below: How Hannah was so utterly wrong.
Despite how that sounded, I actually wouldn’t mind reading a story like above. I may make fun of it, because anymore I feel that it’s typical YA standards, but (heck) I still read them. And they can be done very well.
Firstly, let me tell you that this book should not even be considered YA. It should be a mix between older readers and a historical record of the lifestyle of people in Malaya in 1893. It is like a history novel, in how many little things I have learned about Asian culture and the lifestyle. There are paragraphs and paragraphs about it, hiding the most tiniest of details about the world. It is fascinating, I will give it that, and the writing in nothing to blanche at either.
But here’s my problem: I got bored. About 50% into the novel, and I have to pick something else up and started reading because I don’t care anymore. I didn’t feel like I was reading about Li Lan and her quest to save herself, but a documentary about the culture. I just stopped caring in the same way I’d stop caring after reading 1.3% into a history textbook (because Lord knows I’m not getting any farther without falling asleep).
And my predictions? SO wrong. I thought most of the time Li Lan was going to be defending off unwanted advances from Lim Tian Ching, her ghostly suitor that pulls her into his realm when she sleeps. There’s a reason his name isn’t even in the synopsis, it’s because he is not a major character, at all. I think Li Lan gets pulled into maybe two dream sessions (that we get to read about) before she becomes a (somewhat) ghost. You forget about him halfway into the novel.
This isn’t just a love triangle. It’s a freakin’ love square. I thought I might like that, but, nope, I also don’t.
If you were like me, and you just skimmed the synopsis enough to get a vague sense of what it was about, you might have missed the little name near the bottom: Er Lang.
It’s kinda important. Because he completes the little love square. And, honestly, he was the only redeeming factor for me. When I was about 50% into the novel, I skimmed the last half, stopping only to read Li Lan and Er Lang’s parts. Those were the only interesting parts to me.
If, say, Er Lang had many more parts (because what this comes down to is that this is not, in fact, a romance novel in any, any way, and the vague romance included is so unimportant that I want to scream) I would have liked this novel much, much more. His parts were very well done, his character was great without being too cliché, and he brought something out in Li Lang that made her a more likable and more sympathizing character. Because before that, the girl kinda bored me. She is meek – although we get snippets that she is not as weak as maybe first thought – and is not too much of a likable character either, but that changed once Er Lang was brought into the picture.
The other thing that made me both irritated and happy about this novel was the ending. It was just kinda . . . uneventful. Only one part of the ending made me happy, and even that I felt was cut off too fast.
Soo . . . what I’m getting at is: I just don’t know. This is one of those read-at-your-own-risk type of books. You may love it to smithereens or just get bored with it like I did. But it will most likely be one or the other.