The Night Tiger

- Yangsze Choo

Goodreads Book Blurb:

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.

Genres:

My Review:

enjoyable/easy to read:
3.5/5

Chinese are particularly fond of matched sets and the Five Virtues were the sum of qualities that made up a perfect man. So it was a bit odd that a girl like me should be named for knowledge. If I'd been named something feminine and delicate like 'Precious Jade' or 'Fragrant Lily,' things might have turned out differently.

The Night Tiger is one of those slow-burn books that grows on you as you keep reading. I was pretty undecided for the entire first half of the book, not sure what was going on or if I was even enjoying myself until suddenly I was on the last page, thinking this was the best book I’ve ever read. While I wish it had kicked into gear a bit earlier, I absolutely ended up loving it.

I’m not going to pretend that the central romance isn’t a little incest-y and strange; it walks a very fine line between okay (although a bit cringe) and very not okay. Luckily, there are a lot of other things going on to distract from this.

I think it’s better to go in knowing as little as possible. The Night Tiger is mysterious and magical while remaining incredibly human. It might start a little slow, but it is definitely a worthwhile read.

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