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Series: Xian Li-Lin
Author: M. H. Boroson
Publication Date: 11/03/2015
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
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The Girl With Ghost Eyes is amazing. Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1898, it follows Xian Li-lin – a Daoshi of the Second Ordination in the Maoshan tradition – on a journey to save Chinatown. But the story is so much more than that, because we get to see Li-lin go on a journey that takes her through hell and see her face the consequences of the choices she makes. As you will see, the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished rings true, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what I mean by that.
One of the best things about The Girl With Ghost Eyes is that the main character is not just another white girl. This girl is Chinese born, brought to America by her father, a Daoshi of the Seventh Ordination. This isn’t a typical book. Xian Li-lin is a 23 year old woman, a widow, and a daughter who is hell-bent on saving her father, and her people in Chinatown. We see her fear and her determination. We also get to see what she sees with her “yin eyes” or “ghost eyes.”
Even the “bad guys” in this book are more misunderstood than bad – one wants revenge for his friend’s killing because he believes the “old ways” are what got his friend killed. Another wants revenge for having been bullied while training to be a Daoshi. They aren’t necessarily bad or evil, but more misunderstood and misguided. It’s easy to empathize with the “bad guys” once you know their stories, although it is also clear that the paths they have chosen because of their tragedies is not the path they should have taken.
The plot is wonderful – a great mixture of backstory, action, and even some adventure. A definite must read. If you are looking for more diverse main characters, this book is definitely one of the tickets to that adventure. While the author does state that the Maoshan tradition found in this book is purely fictional, the Maoshan tradition of Daoism does exist. M. H. Boroson expertly wove fiction and fact together to create a truly wonderful novel.
I received a copy of this book free from Edelweiss+ in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.