They say a tiger that devours too many humans can take the form of a man and walk among us…
In 1930s colonial Malaya, a dissolute British doctor receives a surprise gift of an eleven-year-old Chinese houseboy. Sent as a bequest from an old friend, young Ren has a mission: to find his dead master’s severed finger and reunite it with his body. Ren has forty-nine days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth forever.
Ji Lin, an apprentice dressmaker, moonlights as a dancehall girl to pay her mother’s debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir that leads her on a crooked, dark trail.
As time runs out for Ren’s mission, a series of unexplained deaths occur amid rumours of tigers who turn into men. In their journey to keep a promise and discover the truth, Ren and Ji Lin’s paths will cross in ways they will never forget.
I thoroughly loved this story! It satisfies a broad spectrum of genres: mystery, fantasy, historical fiction and romance, to name a few. The two main characters – Ji Lin and Ren – find their paths connected, over a severed, preserved finger, that will take both characters (and the reader) on a journey, they won’t forget.
The Night Tiger is exquisitely written as Choo’s writing effortlessly immersed me in a world that felt like it was beyond the realm of reality, and I found I didn’t want the story to end. She achieved this by the story’s setting in 1930s Malaya, and using paranormal connections and Chinese folklore, which included Confucian virtues and were-tigers! I really enjoyed the mystical mysteries that drove the story on: from the burden of the finger, questions surrounding the afterlife and what part fate plays in everything.
The pace of the story was consistent, and I personally never found any of her writing to be overly descriptive (which I can be a real stickler about!). Also, fans of Choo’s debut, The Ghost Bride, will have a little flash from the past with a little 5 second mention thrown in! I thought that was quite sweet and clever.
The characters in this story – WOW! Choo created and developed a handful of characters really well, and I cared about the majority of them; panicking in case something would happen to them, tension when they were feeling anxious, excitement when something went right. I really liked the two main characters, Ji Lin and Ren, because they thoroughly engaged me as a reader, pretty much from the get-go. They had their own personal stories alongside the overarching story, which were as interesting as the main story. Also, I admired how Choo captured social issues such as gender roles and social class through her characters, especially as the story is set against the backdrop of a growing melting pot of colonisation in what is modern day Malaysia.
As well, something I really liked about The Night Tiger, was that Choo alternated her writing narrative per character. Ji Lin was told in a first person narrative, whereas Ren and another character were told from a third person narrative. I didn’t even realise this was the case until a couple of chapters in, but it worked well. It somehow made Ji Lin and Ren’s perspectives more personal.
Although, there is one point in this story that concerns me for other readers, as I’m aware from other books that contain a kind of similar relationship, are frowned upon. I really hope any perspective readers who frown upon the relationship that develops, won’t let it detract from the amazing story and world Choo has illustrated. Personally, I really liked the relationship that developed, it seemed right, like it was meant to be.
I really enjoyed Choo’s inclusion of further information about Chinese folklore, superstitions, the history of modern day Malaysia and so on, at the end of the book. It was like the cherry on top of a cake, providing me with all the information I may have wanted to research afterwards, about such folklore etc.
Overall, The Night Tiger is an amazing story which is now a personal favourite of mine. I am certain it will be in my top favourite reads of 2019. It is a mystical and interesting story, with characters that are easy to like (and love) and is weaved together through a captivating prose that is full of imagery. If you want to read a fantasy book that gives the reader a little bit more, then it MUST be this one. You won’t regret it! I rated The Night Tiger 5 stars on goodreads. A massive, massive congratulations and thanks to Choo, for creating a story that I will inevitably and eagerly return to. I’ve already pre-ordered my hardback copy!
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
Published 12th February 2019
Genre: fantasy, historical fiction, mystery, romance
*Thank you kindly to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with an e-copy, in exchange for this honest review.