Monday, March 02, 2020

Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Title: The Ghost Bride
Author: Yangsze Choo
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genres: Young adult, Fantasy, Historical fiction, Romance
Format: Paperback
Publication Date: August 1st 2013
Pages: 390

Synopsis (Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Li Lan lives in 1890s Malaya with her quietly-ruined father, who returns one evening with a proposition - the fabulously wealthy Lim family want Li Lan to marry their son. The only problem is, he's dead. After a fateful visit to the Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also her desire for the Lims' handsome new heir. At night she is drawn into the Chinese afterlife - a world of ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, monstrous bureaucracy and vengeful spirits. Enlisting the help of mysterious Er Lang (a dragon turned clerk) Li Lan must uncover the secrets of the ghost world - before she becomes trapped there forever.

Drawing on traditional Malayan folklore and superstition, THE GHOST BRIDE is a haunting, exotic and romantic read perfect for fans of EMPRESS ORCHID and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA.


My rating: 4 / 5 ★

I have to admit, nothing excites me more than being able to understand the reference of the local ghost names in The Ghost Bride. I mean, it's not every day that I get to see "pontianak" or "pelesit" being mentioned in an English book, much less a young adult one. Despite being happy with the rep of Malaysian ghosts, I did notice a mistake when "pontianak" is mentioned as a flying head of a woman who died during childbirth, with her inside organs trailing down—I can't recall the exact words the author used, but still, no. That's supposed to be "penanggal", which is definitely way more terrifying than a "pontianak". I suggest not to look it up though.

The Ghost Bride is about a young maiden from the 1890s Malaya, who got caught into marrying a man who has already died. The story mentions a lot of superstitions and folklore surrounding the Malayan people, especially the Chinese people, most definitely due to the fact that the main character, Li Lan is a Chinese herself. In escaping her fate of being courted by a spirit, she found a first love, lost her own body leading to her spirit wandering and encountering other spirits as well as a dragon.

I appreciate the way the author introduced several cultures and things about Malaya, but it's a shame that it was not a focal point in the story since most of the plot involved Li Lan's journey in the spirit world instead. It was interesting at first as Li Lan was slammed immediately regarding being a ghost bride from the first page, and then the ghost of Tian Ching started to haunt her dreams. I was expecting the plot to be fast paced and perhaps able to incite an adrenaline rush through me, but sadly to say, it was rather slow.

Once Li Lan was parted from her body and her spirit wandered away in search of "secrets" of the ghost world, it started to become draggy. I saw no point in most parts of her journey that contributes to her mission–but then again, I don't think she actually had a solid mission as well.

Although I applaud Li Lan's courage as she wandered around (I swear I would never step out of the room if I was her), I don't fancy her character that much, except during her moments with Er Lang. Apart from the side characters like Amah and Old Wong making the story a lot better, Li Lan's interactions with Er Lang are what made me decide to give the book a four stars instead of three. The qi transferring scene is just oh-so-scandalous, and I'm glad my reading buddy Jessica (check out her review as well!) agreed that it was possibly the best part of the book. I do however admit that there were not enough moments for their chemistry to build strongly, but it was understandable how it came to be.

This review is a mess and I probably didn't convince anyone (not even myself), but I'll just say that as a whole, The Ghost Bride is actually a good read. It would not be perfect if you're looking for a historical fiction based in Malaya (old Malaysia), but if you'd like to know a thing or two about our culture and enjoys fantasy and supernatural elements, this might be the right book for you.

A huge thank you to Pansing for giving me the chance to read The Ghost Bride in exchange for an honest review! This book is currently available in all good bookstores.


In the darkness of a thousand withered souls, it was Er Lang’s hand that I sought, and his voice that I longed to hear. Perhaps it is selfish of me, but an uncertain future with him, in all its laughter and quarrels, is better than being left behind.

Till next time ♡ Love, Aishah Humaira'


PSD Colouring (base) - psd #168 by wildfireresources


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