I always like novels that takes form from some myths or particular traditions both for the magical settings, both for the interesting things I learn from them.
A recent example is The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo where everything begins from the ritual – not so common however – diffused in the China English colonies (Malaysia, Singapore etc..) to marry also ghosts. The marriage could unite in the afterlife two young lovers both dead or to bound a concubine to her dead lover. Yangsze Choo builds the novel on this premises but makes some changes to make it more engaging.
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
Li Lan is a young woman belonging to a family gone bankrupt: her father, survivor of the small pox, is scarred and lives his days smoking opium that help hin in forgetting her wife’s death.
Li Lan’s father one day tells the girl who the Lin rich family asked him for her as wife for their firstborn, Lim Tian Ching, death by a year. She refuses this proposal but accepts to know the Lin first wife; during the visit to the Lin household she meets Tian Bai, cousin of the death man, she fells instantly attracted to.
Unfortunately the situation gets worse: Lim Tian Ching begins hunting her dreams, so much that Li Lan asks for the help of a medium to get rid of the ghost; she then ends traveling in the land of the dead where she meets Er Lang, a mysterious being who has to maintain the balance among the living and the dead worlds and to reduce the corruption for the final judgment.
The main character during her travel will have to face past and present issues and will have to fight to come back to her body, something that will end up being quite complex.
I liked the novel, it is very peculiar, in particular for the dead land description, the dead world is well-built: the writer is able to link traditional mourning rites (for example the dead money burning and so on) with determined effects in the plain of the dead, the place where all the dead people live in houses similar to the one they lived in with familiar ghosts and where they can spend some time before reincarnation.
Yangsze Choo creates also an interesting bureaucratic structure of the dead world: single cases are analyzed by the various judges who determine the dead fate and the chance for a ghost to obtain justice on the living people (in case of murder for example); the system is not perfect, for this reason officers and controller exist to ensure and avoid corruptions from the richer family.
During the novel the POV is the one of Li Lan: she is an active and resourceful girl, she is able to solve her own problems despite the social context in which the women are mainly house activities (the novel is set in the 1893).
The only shortcomings of the novel is the narration that slows in the central part of the novel; the novel is however rich in turning point of events and overall it’s well-built, so it’s a novel I suggest ti read.
* The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo ★★★★☆
*I read this book in English