Historical Fiction · Modern Fantasy · Review

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze ChooPublisher: William Morrow

Pub. Date: 2013

Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance

Pages: 373

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Li Lan is a young girl from a good, bankrupt family. She soon learns that she her reclusive father left her with few marriage prospects. Then one of the Lim family’s women contacts her with a proposal. Marry her dead son in exchange for security. Li Lan and her grandmother are horrified by this offer. Her ghostly stalker haunts her, dragging her into the affairs of the afterlife. As she discovers dark secrets, she has to escape cold, ghostly clutches.

OverDrive recommended Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride to me in August 2015. It looked interesting, so I borrowed and read it. It’s a fine novel. I loved how Choo incorporated Malaysian mythology. The heroine is in her teen years, but I like that Choo did not force it into being a YA novel. Not every teen protagonist has to appear in YA.

The cover was not exciting to me. It shows the story is set somewhere in China’s history, but it does not indicate fantasy to me. Because I am used to YA covers, it was disappointing that the cover did neither showed the content in some way nor played off the title. Its redeeming factor is showing Li Lan’s delicate nature.

I was sucked into the plot immediately. Sure, the story begins with the need to find a suitable husband, but it thickens with the revelation of family secrets and the ever-present spirit world. Partially, I liked that the main characters were not involved in a prophecy nor trained warriors. This dose of reality filled the whole that some fantasy YA misses: not every protagonist is born or raised to be great.

One of the novel’s negatives is that Li Lan is the only one character that develops. The other characters never grow. They either antagonize her or try to help her.

Romance supposedly plays a role in this book. Tian Bai comes the closest with trying to woo Li Lan, but he is not in love with her. The other love interest is not apparent until the end. Her second love interest came as a surprise. Choo constructs the romance poorly.

Two themes are honoring the dead and remember nothing lasts forever. The dead of this mythology require their families to give them things to make the afterlife comfortable. Death on its own shows that life is finite. The hungry ghosts mentioned also represent sustenance is not long-lasting, even in the afterlife.

The Ghost Bride is a good choice for fantasy fans. This book is also for those who need a break from YA.

Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars


7 thoughts on “The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

  1. I kinda like the cover, but it doesn’t give off a fantasy vibe at all. I like the idea of a fantasy that isn’t about a rebel alliance or finding out the protagonist is a special snowflake, like most YA fantasy set ups. I probably wouldn’t have even considered reading this book without your review. Thanks for the recommendation. 4/5 is a pretty strong rating. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This rating is from when I read it in 2015, but I think it was very good. The world-building is interesting with its descriptions. I also agree about the cover. I think it was trying to sell itself on the historical fiction end, but it is fantasy. I think the less special snowflake setup has pushed me more toward magical realism now.


  2. You’re right – just because it features a teenager it does not necessarily mean it has to be a YA book. I also really like the sound of this one incorporating Malaysian history. I have never read anything featuring that before so it would be something new to me!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I read this one a while ago… maybe back in 2015 🙂 I expected the book to be a lot more serious though. It was marketed as something else at the time, but ended up feeling like just a YA to me. But I do agree that there were very many interesting elements in this book, and all of the traditions and customs stuff was incredibly cool!

    Liked by 1 person

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