Series: Xian Li-lin #1
on November 3rd 2015
Length: 9 hours 51 minutes
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.
The Girl with Ghost Eyes is a fun, fast paced story set in the late 1800s in San Francisco’s Chinatown. I found this to be a fresh and different setting and atmosphere. The protagonist, Li-lin, is a strong willed warrior who is fierce and devoted. She is a young widow with an over bearing father and struggles to find her place. Pride and shame are important emotions that drive her and others in this story. Li-lin is from an immigrant family who has established a rather interesting family business of exorcisms. Because, you know in a world inhabited with spirits, having people you can call to banish them is important. She also has the rare yin eyes that allow her to see the spirit world. All of these things make Li-lin different and interesting in so many ways. I sincerely enjoyed her character.
As this is based in a city, where the city’s culture and atmosphere play a critical role, this definitely had the feel of an urban fantasy. But it also featured some interesting tradition and folklore making it feel a nice blend of past and present. (Yes I know being placed in the late 1800s makes this entire story from historical, but there is still a blend of more ancient traditions and history with that of the late 1800s) Throw in plenty of martial arts action and the book has a whole lot going for it. The pace is quick and the story is easy to read and follow.
Now, for what I didn’t love about the book. Honestly, I do think the book is very well done. But I’ve said it a thousand times, I typically don’t do well with “weird”, and well, this book got a bit weird for me. Sometimes I feel silly with how I can find a line between made up magic, abilities, features I am willing to accept and those which ones cross the line, but I definitely seem to have a threshold and this one did surpass it a tad. The fantastical elements of this did cross that line at times, within the spirit world things would take different shapes/forms, which in general is fine, but extra legs and tails and such, for some reason I find harder to accept sometimes. Maybe that seems childish, its something I wish I didn’t have to admit, but its true. Also I guess spirit eyeballs go a little beyond it. And, while I point this out as something I personally struggled with a little, I did still enjoy the book! And I know many people do not have this problem. And keep in mind, this is still a 4 star review! So even with my hang ups of “weird”, this book is still well worth reading. For those without those hang ups, its probably a must read.
The only other weakness I could find in the book is probably more a nature of its length. There are areas that I felt could have been fleshed out a little more, but I also suspect there are more books to come, so it may be more a matter of waiting. Being curious about the characters and world in an ongoing series is always a good thing as it means there are plenty of reasons past the existing story keep reading.