The Ghost Bride: A Novel - Yangsze Choo

I'm always on the lookout for stories which are a bit different to the usual run-of-the-mill fantasy and The Ghost Bride was recommended by a couple of people as a result of its unusual (or not often written about, we should probably say) setting and underlying mythology.

 

Li Lan is growing up in Malacca, then under British rule still as it's the turn of the 20th century, a teenager whose mother died when she was very young and whose father had pretty much hidden himself away since then. When we first meet Li Lan and her family, it's to discover that her impecunious father has promised her hand in marriage to the son of a wealthy family - so far, so good and nothing unusual in terms of plot, except that said son has died and Li Lan is to be his ghost bride.

 

As she gets to know the family she is due to marry into, she discovers that there is more to the recent death than first appears and, after a minor mistake in dealing with the dead man's mother, the ghost of the dead son begins to haunt her. He, it seems, has done some kind of deal with those who manage the underworld and he is determined to both ruin his handsome cousin (who Li Lan has also met and fallen for) and get the girl, whether she likes it or not.

 

The overall storyline is set against a backdrop of Chinese beliefs about the after life and how it is managed, as Li Lan has to journey there in order to try and free herself from the arrangement she no longer wants. Knowing a little about the underlying ethos helps, for example when I guessed a significant number of pages ahead just what it was the character of Er Lang was hiding from everyone, but it's an enjoyable read even if that isn't the case.