The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Li Lan is the only daughter of a genteel yet bankrupt family. With few marriage prospects available, she is surprised when her father comes to her with a strange proposal. The only son of the powerful and wealthy Lim family has recently died under questionable circumstances. The Lim family wants Li Lan to become a ghost bride; a rarely practiced but very real ceremony used to placate a restless spirit. Were Li Lan to agree to the union, she would have a secure place in the Lim household for the rest of her days.

After a single visit to the Lim mansion, Li Lan finds haunted by her ghostly suitor in her dreams and by thoughts of the new heir to the Lim family during her waking hours. After an unfortunate accident, she is drawn in to the strange parallel world of the Chinese afterlife. With its ghost cities, vengeful spirits, and ghostly bureaucracy, Li Lan struggles to find her way home before it is too late and she is trapped forever.

The Ghost Bride is a stunningly beautiful book. With its descriptions of this world and the next, Choo evokes so many emotions with her words. In one chapter we are riding beside Li Lan across the Plains of the Dead, the fear churning in our guts as well as in hers. In another chapter we watch and feel the same fear as Li Lan sees the man she believes she loves wooed by another.

In many ways The Ghost Bride reminds me of the animated movie Spirited Away. In both the supernatural and the mundane walk side by side, sometimes overlapping but almost always separated by a thin barrier. In both a young woman crosses from one to the other and must find her way back to the place she knows. And in both, the main heroine is helped by another character wearing a human face.

The Ghost Bride is a tale that can be enjoyed by many. As Li Lan is only 17 in the beginning of the book, it can hold an appeal to younger and older readers alike. Readers who enjoy fantasy and excitement on every page will likely enjoy this one as well. I highly recommend it to all.

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