27 Dec / The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo [in Booklist]
After making her author and narrator debut with The Ghost Bride (2014), Yangsze Choo reprises her double-duty with this equally intriguing sophomore title. With her crisp, British colonial inflections, Choo is her own ideal reader, knowing exactly how her characters should sound.
Set in 1930s British Malaya (now Malaysia), the work begins by presenting two seemingly disparate narratives: 11-year-old houseboy Ren promises to fulfill his dying British master’s final wish within 49 days to ensure his soul can make a peaceful departure; dressmaker apprentice Ji Lin must pay off her mother’s gambling debts with a secret side-gig as a dancehall girl. A dead man’s missing appendage initially brings Ren and Ji Lin together; a spiritual connection binds the pair.
Mythic beasts, a dead twin, jealous suitors, and surprising lovers all come alive with Choo’s addicting narration; the single quibble is a wish for slightly longer pauses between chapters. Return readers: get ready to grin at the delightful wink-wink-nod to The Ghost Bride, as well.