The ghost bride by Yangsze Choo
Hot Key Books, 2013. ISBN 9781471401411.
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Ghosts. Goodreads Choice Nominee for Fantasy 2013. It is Malacca, Malay in 1893 and some of the Chinese still cling to ancient superstitions. When Li Lan is asked by her father to be the ghost bride of the newly diseased only son of the very rich Lim family, it would be to soothe his restless spirit. Her father has lost his money and believes that it would help him and give her a comfortable home for the rest of her life. But it also means giving up any prospect of marrying a real live man and after a visit to the Lim mansion she meets Tian Bai to whom she is very attracted. However the ghost of her would be groom begins to haunt her and she is drawn into the world of ghosts and the strange Er Lang.
This is a unique story, quite different to anything that I have read before. In the notes at the back of the book the author explains the notion of ghost brides and the after world in Chinese beliefs and it is this authentic setting that makes this story so fascinating and superior to the many books about the afterlife that seem to be available. The daily world that Li Lan inhabits is beautifully described as are the Plains of the Dead that she treads trying to find out the secrets of the Lim family and their hold on her.
Li Lan is a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, almost betrayed by her opium addicted father, but she is resilient and curious and determined not to let the ghosts that she can see dominate her life. Told in the first person, her voice and character come across vividly and the reader can't help but want her to find someone to love.
Written in well-crafted language, it contains the language, manners and customs of its Malaysian period and combined with ghosts, fully fleshed out characters and suspenseful action, it is a memorable and very worthwhile read.