The Ghost Bride
Author: YangSze Choo
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Characters: Li Lan, Tian Ching, Er Lang, Tian Bai, Amah, …
“One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride…”
Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.
Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.
After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.
Hi, hello. I hope that readers are not angered by the title of this post. Everybody has their own preferences and this happened to be mine. I usually like books compared to series or movies too but here’s one of the rarest moment. The book was not that bad but it does lacking in few aspects for me and somehow the Netflix series turned out to be better.
Reason 1: The plot line
I think this is one of the most prominent aspect to look into. The book started off so differently from the Netflix series, which is totally normal for adaptation to be different. But the middle part of the book whereby Li Lan was in her spirit form and roaming around was very unnecessary. That part in the book felt draggy and not so important. I was getting more impatient and bored when her spirit was being clueless and trying to find her way home or when she tried to get to The Plains of the Dead. Period. Whereas the Netflix provided us with more entertaining actions and plot where Tian Ching basically harassing Li Lan and prepared for their wedding. That was a whole lot better than the book.
Reason 2: Plot holes
The book was very unsatisfying in many ways because of the plot holes. One of the best example would be Tian Ching’s ending. It was frustrating that we don’t get a good scene when he got punished or when he found out he got the wrong spirit instead of Li Lan in the end, etc. His character was basically slowly disappearing towards the end. I thought he was supposed to be one of the important character? Compared to the Netflix series, I found his character has more dynamic and the way his character ended was perfectly captured.
Reason 3: Er Lang appearance
One thing that I genuinely enjoyed from the book is the chemistry between Er Lang and Li Lan. While some felt their chemistry was lacking in the book, I felt it was equally the same with the series. The only reason I think others might feel they lack of chemistry or their romance was not enough is because Er Lang APPEARED SO LATE in the book, like 160 pages later! There were hardly interactions between the two characters. But that transferring qi scenes though (it was a deal breaker indeed), and my buddy reading partner, Aishah from Mermaird agrees with me too! Go check out her review!
In short, I think that the Netflix series was a great enhancement for the book. It felt like it fixed a lot of shortcomings in the book. Nevertheless, I appreciate the book so much as it highlights and represents my local cultures, customs, superstitions and beliefs so well. I was also very honoured that it was set in my hometown, Melaka or Malacca in English. YangSze Choo had done such a great job in doing her research and trying to portray our home a.k.a Malaysia to readers worldwide.
Overall, this book has its ups and downs. Whether or not I recommend it, I guess the decision is in your hand, read few more reviews, especially from the ones you trust and then decide to pick it up or not.