The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson is an interesting historical fantasy focused on Chinese American life in San Francisco at the end of the nineteenth century. This book is unique in many ways, not least of which is the strong representation of Chinese myths and magic. I don’t think I’ve ever read a story with a widow as the main character before and I’ve never had such strong attachments to an eyeball. The audiobook is fairly good, though it has some issues, so this wouldn’t be the first audiobook I recommended to someone.
Note: I received an audio copy of The Girl with Ghost Eyes from the publisher.
The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson
Narrated by Emily Woo Zeller
(Xian Li-lin #1)
Published by Audible, Talos on Nov. 3rd, 2015
Genres: Adult, Historical Fantasy
Page Length: 288 pages
Audio Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog
It’s the end of the nineteenth century in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and ghost hunters from the Maoshan traditions of Daoism keep malevolent spiritual forces at bay. Li-lin, the daughter of a renowned Daoshi exorcist, is a young widow burdened with yin eyes—the unique ability to see the spirit world. Her spiritual visions and the death of her husband bring shame to Li-lin and her father—and shame is not something this immigrant family can afford.
When a sorcerer cripples her father, terrible plans are set in motion, and only Li-lin can stop them. To aid her are her martial arts and a peachwood sword, her burning paper talismans, and a wisecracking spirit in the form of a human eyeball tucked away in her pocket. Navigating the dangerous alleys and backrooms of a male-dominated Chinatown, Li-lin must confront evil spirits, gangsters, and soulstealers before the sorcerer’s ritual summons an ancient evil that could burn Chinatown to the ground.
With a rich and inventive historical setting, nonstop martial arts action, authentic Chinese magic, and bizarre monsters from Asian folklore, The Girl with Ghost Eyes is also the poignant story of a young immigrant searching to find her place beside the long shadow of a demanding father and the stigma of widowhood. In a Chinatown caught between tradition and modernity, one woman may be the key to holding everything together.
- Li-lin is a twenty-something widow learning to yield the magic of her family and exorcise the ghosts and spirits hiding around Chinatown. I think this is the first book I’ve ever read with a widow as the main character and it was refreshing. Li-lin was madly in love with her husband and has no interest in a new romantic relationship, so that lets her focus on what is important: ghosts!
- Chinese mythology is almost a character onto itself in The Girl with Ghost Eyes. Chinese terms are used and there isn’t a lot of hand-holding for those of us readers unfamiliar with the culture we are jumping into. Despite that, I found it easy to understand the magic and world and fully immersed right from the beginning.
- Get ready to fall in love with an eyeball. There are several spirits and monsters that Li-lin spends more time with than she should given her job is to kill and exorcise them. Secondary characters so often make the story and these secondary characters are wonderful.
- One of the benefits of listening to this story on audiobook was that I didn’t have to struggle over the correct pronunciation of the many Chinese names and terms. The narrator did a great job of clearly enunciating the Chinese terms so that I could recognize new words and remember where they were mentioned before.
- After all this wonderful portrayal of Chinese myths from a number of groups in the region, I got really annoyed that the author brought in a Japanese term for a central event of the book. In the author’s note, Boroson states that there were too many varied Chinese terms for the event and so it seemed easier to use the Japanese term. I call bull. It just seems cheap to mix those two very different cultures for convenience.
- The audiobook has some volume issues when characters whisper, to the point that I had to turn up my volume to be able to hear a whispering character and then back down when the character was done speaking and then back up when the character spoke again. Not fun.
- I’m kind of particular about the voice acting of narrators and I wasn’t completely in love with some of the voices used and they seemed to be done inconsistently so that I had a hard time telling which character was speaking here and there. Like I said, the audiobook was generally okay, but not perfect by any means.
The Girl with Ghost Eyes is a wonderful addition to the fantasy genre and I’m so happy to see Chinese mythology being represented strongly in a mainstream book. Li-lin is a wonderful heroine and I look forward to finding out more about her adventures, though I might not listen to the audio version next time.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boroson
© 2016, Anya. All rights reserved.