I received an A.R.C for this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This review is spoiler-free.
Status: Finished Reading (11 January 2019)
Edition: Kindle ARC
Yangsze Choo is one of my favourite authors, and The Night Tiger was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019. After being thoroughly impressed by The Ghost Bride, I was really looking forward to seeing what Choo had in store for us with this novel. Four days after finishing it, I am still in utter awe with just how good this book was.
The Night Tiger follows the stories of Ji Lin (an apprentice dressmaker trying to pay off her mother’s debts) and Ren (an eleven year old houseboy on a time-set mission). Set in 1930s colonial Malaya, the plot takes us through the rather lucky and unlucky ways in which these two characters’ lives unfold, and how they ultimately mingle with each other.
I have to say, right off the bat, that this book downright terrified me. The tiger is an animal of great importance to Asian folklore and mythologies – and, as such, has always been highly revered. But revered entities are also taught to be feared. I think in regions like South Asia and South-East Asia where tigers are a very commonly found animal (until they were endangered and under wildlife protection, of course), the stories of tigers are always intertwined with local oral tradition. It’s fairly normal to see them as fearsome beings to be respected because, well, they actually exist very close by.
I’m South-Asian, and have always felt a tremendous amount of respect for this animal. I also deeply fear it, as a result. So, Choo’s story spinning the myth of the weretiger and combining it with elements of suspense and horror actually had me sitting on the edge of my seat. In fact, there were scenes that gave me literal goosebumps, and one particular scene that had me trembling with fright. Obviously, I cannot disregard the author’s skill on delivering an adrenaline-fuelled moment so well – in this case, both the content and the craft worked amazingly well together.
If I’m being perfectly honest, the only reason I docked off a star from the final rating is because the romance didn’t do much for me. That is not to say that Ji Lin and Shin’s story was bland. If anything, I definitely could pick up on their very palpable chemistry. I feel like, perhaps, I could’ve enjoyed their story more if not for the glaring fact that their relationship was easily outdone by the relationship of the other main characters with each other (at least, in my eyes).
The thing that appealed to me greatly about the story was how entranced I was by the relationship between every single character with the other. If there had been no romance in the book, it still would’ve held incredibly strong – which is meant purely as a compliment to the author, for writing such powerful characters and executing such a brilliant plot. For me, the shining glory of The Night Tiger was definitely the way everything ultimately came together. This novel is a commentary on fate, human virtues, and what luck means for people. All this wrapped up in a fantasy book? That’s a winning recipe for me.
Overall, this is an excellently written mystery-fantasy set in a very lush historical setting. I have nothing but praise for Yangsze Choo’s work, and strongly urge you to check out this book when it releases on 12 February, 2019. This year is very promising for Asian own-voices fantasy stories, and you can’t miss out on this one. I can’t wait to get my hands on my copy and devour it (pun very much intended).
Trigger Warning: The book discusses domestic abuse (specifically spousal and parental abuse) towards non-POV characters.