The Ghost Bride, by Yangsze Choo

The Ghost Bride

  • Genre
    • Horror, Ghost Story, Historical Fiction
  • Plot Summary
    • Li Lan, a beautiful young woman from a family fallen on hard times, is asked if she wants to become a ghost bride; an unusual custom used to placate the restless dead. When she declines, she finds that her undead suitor is persistent, and tied to deeper secrets than she could have imagined. 
  • Characters
    • I really liked Li Lan, as well as the side characters. Their quirks, histories and foibles were well developed. The bad guys had enough tragic pasts and difficult situations to make you feel sorry for them, but were still despicable enough to make you root for their downfall. The good guys had enough flaws to be relatable, but were heroic enough to make you hope for their success. Special shoutout to Amah, who was a delightful mother figure and mentor. 
  • Tone: What’s it Like to Read This Book?
    • Gothic and creepy, with a good bit of fantasy adventure thrown in. I think this would be a good one for anyone who likes scary material, but wants to spend more time excited or in suspense than disturbed and horrified. 
  • Other Shiny Stuff
    • The setting is actually Victorian Malaysia, but focused on the Chinese community within it. The author is Malaysian of Chinese descent, so it’s not some exoticized stereotype, but a breathing world portrayed with the warmth of familiarity. It was a setting that was completely unfamiliar to me, and it was delightful to get to see a bit of it through the eyes of an insider.
    • She adds end notes on the history, culture and folklore that inspired it.  
    • The afterlife and magic system is well developed, unique and fun. It is heavily based on Chinese and Malaysian beliefs and mythology, but there are also elements she invented for herself, and they all blend together beautifully.
    • Lots of great female characters, both heroic and villainous. Bechdel’s Test is easily passed.
  • Content Warnings
    • Possessions and stalking; probably the creepiest thing about Lim Tian Ching, the ghost who haunts Li Lan, is how much of a realistically entitled pervert he is. 
  • Quotes
    • “It seemed to me that in this confluence of cultures we had acquired one another’s superstitions without necessarily any of their comforts.”
    • “I liked the moon, with its soft silver beams. It was at once elusive and filled with trickery, so that lost objects that had rolled into the crevices of a room were rarely found, and books read in its light seemed to contain all sorts of fanciful stories that were never there the next morning.”
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