I noticed this novel on a list of new authors on either Goodreads or on an email from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. There were a few others on the list that I decided I wanted as well (I love this cover for some reason) but this is the only one I've actually bought or read so far. I think it was because it sounded like a slightly different story. While the novel wasn't perfect (I wouldn't put it in the "love" category), it was such a fun and pleasant read that I really hope it is successful, and can't wait to see what else the author comes up with.
The novel is set in Malacca, in colonial Malaya (modern day Malaysia), and Choo makes use of folklore to expand upon her novel's world. In the afterword, she does admit that she has changed some of the myths and cultural traditions for the sake of the novel so don't take this as completely accurate of the culture's beliefs about the afterlife, but I thought her vision was quite magical. Li Lan is the only daughter in a family on the brink of bankruptcy. Her family was once important and prominent but after smallpox killed her mother and marked her father, he lost interest in the world and withdrew from society. Now that Li Lan is of marriageable age, she finds herself with few prospects and the first serious offer her family receives is to be the ghost bride of the Lim family's dead son and former heir. Though not interested, Li Lan quickly finds her dreams tormented by this ghost. She also develops feelings for the Lim family's new heir, and though he returns them, his family obligations will force him to make a better marriage than the daughter of a bankrupt business man.
Li Lan soon finds herself in a coma, trapped in the spirit world, and in this state, she agrees to help Er Lang, a mysterious spirit, find evidence of the Lim family's abuses of power in the afterlife. The interplay between Er Lang and Li Lan is incredibly entertaining, and the idea of setting a novel in this type of afterlife was very unique to my reading experience. I admit I haven't read that much Asian inspired fantasy, so that statement may very well say more about me as a reader than actually be a result of the author's creativity, but I really liked it. I think it was a really great way to mix the more familiar with the supernatural. It didn't quite make my list of favorites for the year, but I certainly have pleasant and fond memories of this novel.