The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Book Review #257

Title: The Night Tiger

Author: Yangsze Choo

Publisher: Quercus

Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction

Format: e-ARC (Netgalley UK)

Publication Date: February 12, 2019

Pages: 480

A sweeping historical novel about a dancehall girl and an orphan boy whose fates entangle over an old Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers.

When 11-year-old Ren’s master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.

Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother’s Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.

As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

This book was set in 1930—Ipoh, Malaysia and it was so interesting to read a book set in this particular setting. It felt like something that I would have read in a history book with elements of fantasy and what we would have called it as ‘cerita dongeng’.

The story as its own was extremely intriguing which was the main reason I decided to pick up this book. The only downfall regarding this story was that in the first half, it was a bit slow but after that, I just couldn’t put this book down. 

The romance was like a slow burn romance where they never really confess that they have feelings for one another since they are step siblings (awkward!) and they start to unravel slowly but surely. Yeah, they have a pretty complicated and tangled relationship so if you want to grasp their situation, you’ll just have to read it for yourself. Though, I really love this kind of spark that has begun to alight since it sort of reminds me from the movie of the classic Clueless. 

They were also the five Confucian Virtues and how that ultimately connects with the story was somewhat very interesting to read. It was something that I wasn’t familiar with. They were all blended together and I wasn’t expecting that. I just didn’t realise that they were connected to the story but all in all it was a great surprise. 

I don’t really like the italicised Malay words and the constant need to explain what it means. For me, as a Malay, sure I found it unnecessary but for a more western audience, I’m sure they could have kept up with it. 

The story was all in all wrapped up really well and a very well written book giving you an idea of what it would be like to read in that era, the commons of their manners and more insightful than any that I would have read before. I really recommend you to read this story. 

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