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The Ghost Bride - Yangsze Choo

  4 Totoros

(Review can be found here as well ==> Yangsze Choo – The Ghost Bride | AnjaIsReading)

I don’t like historical fiction and usually give this genre a wide berth. But from time to time I stumble over books which seem to put me under their spell, books to which I feel magically attracted – in this case The Ghost Bride.

At first I fell for the cover. Gosh, isn’t just beautiful? The colors, the design, the sleeping girl, the stars… so enchanting, so mesmerizing. It’s perfect.
Up next the synopsis. Reading it sealed the deal; the intriguing description was so teasing, catchwords like “Chinese”, “ancient customs”, or “vengeful spirits” sucked me right in, and I realized that I had to overcome my aversion for historical stuff, that I wanted, nah, needed to read this book.

Making decisions based on looks and cursory glances is often bound to end in disaster (happens all the time, unfortunately). Not with The Ghost Bride, though, for this book simply great.

First off there is the writing; beautiful, rich and strong, vivid, pictorial. With her captivating words, the author manged to create a world so vibrant and mesmerizing and brilliantly designed it downright sprung in my mind like a living thing.
Then there are setting and background. Malaysia alone might have been interesting enough. But with the Chinese funerary cult, funerary cult and folk belief the story is based on, this book brought tons of new impressions and input. And, as far as I can tell, Yangsze Choo did a heck of a job of capturing life and vibe of a historical Malacca.
Some time ago I was channel-surfing, when a documentary caught my attention. It was about Chinese funeral rites, and I was amazed at the huge efforts people make to honor their ancestors. Especially the funeral offerings made of papier-mâché or paper or cardboard meant to be burnt. And seeing these funeral goods and the ghost world coming alive in this book was simply stunning.
Last but not least The Ghost Bride comes up with well-elaborated protagonists. I have to admit that some of them were quite underdeveloped, but the MCs and most of the more important secondary characters were amazing with Li Lan leading the way. Despite her sheltered life, her upbringing in times of arranged marriages and no feminism when women had close to no rights, she is quite self-confident and knows what she wants… or rather what she not wants. I loved how she developed throughout the story. My favorite character, however, is Er Lang whom Li Lan meets on her, erm, journey. Right from the start I fell for his sarcasm, his straightforwardness, his humor. He is a, uh, guy with his heart in the right place, and he has a secret that made me fall for him even more :)

The plot revolves around Li Lan who is haunted by a ghostly suitor. In order to get rid of him she has to overcome obstacle after obstacle. It happens so much, there are so many things to discover, so many secrets to revealed. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, what should have been the book’s biggest advantage is occasionally detrimental to it. There is no golden thread running through the story. Sometimes I’ve got the feeling that the author got lost in ideas she wanted to implement. Some of the twists feel involuntary which is why the one or other interesting idea is left unexploited. Furthermore I had to endure quite a few lengths where I almost lost my humor, but the spellbinding world, the suspense, and the great writing style managed to keep me happy :)
The ending, well, it’s an ending I can live with. This sounds harsher than it is. It was a great ending for a great book (Li Lan had to make a decision and imo made the right one <3), but I had wished for more. Some epilogue or a last chapter to see what happened after (she made this decision).

All in all The Ghost Bride is an amazing book with some flaws. Initially I gave it a lower rating, but writing this review made me reconsider it. Despite the things I had to complain about this book deserves 4 Totoros, for it was an entertaining and thrilling read :)