The Night Tiger

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

Many thanks to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for en eARC in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. 

The Night Tiger is a murder mystery, wrapped in a fine coat of supernatural, and sprinkled with just a touch of fate. By the end, you’ll find yourself wondering what was real and what was just superstition.

This one was hard to rate, because it didn’t feel quite five stars to me. But I did immediately rush off to check out the author’s other work, so I rounded up. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

My Thoughts:

- This book is just rife with the supernatural and superstitions, which lends it a really spooky atmosphere that’ll lead you to question what’s real and what’s not. There’s numerology, which is really fascinating in particular, because in Chinese, numbers sound similar to other words, and that can determine whether the number is seen positively or negatively, based on this association. There’s a hint of fate or destiny in this in that souls can be somehow bonded or fated to be together (not necessarily romantically, but just part of each other’s lives). There’s even the idea of weretigers, and the debate of whether or not a human can transform into a tiger. All of this blends quite beautifully into the historical setting to create a magical realism that seems quite plausible in the real world, for the most part.

- Being that this is historical fiction, true to the time period, the British come in and just British everything up, like they do. Colonialism has always been an ugly thing, and this book does a good job of highlighting just what that means for the local people. There’s a very thinly veiled (and sometimes blatant) line of prejudice running through this book, which is realistic but also sometimes hard to read.

- Oh, my aching misogyny. 1930s in Malaysia? Not a great time for women. This is one of those things that’s true to the time period, but also super frustrating to read because you want justice for the characters and there’s obviously just not going to be any. 

- There’s a really neat thread running through this story where all the main characters are named after Confucius’ Five Virtues. I can’t really say too much about this, because while the connection is stated early on, part of the fun is discovering just what this means for the novel.

- Move over werewolves, there’s a new beast in town, and it’s called a weretiger. Well, allegedly. My favorite thing about this is that it’s never concretely stated whether this is a thing or not. You get to decide for yourself. Like a lot of the supernatural elements in this book, it’s easy to make a case both for and against the weretiger actually existing.

Sticking Points:

- The romance was … problematic. And also a little rapey and stalkerish. I can’t really say much about it for fear of spoilers, but I didn’t have a problem with it for the same reason other people did. I was just a little creeped out by how possessive the guy was.

- The end was a little too open, where it felt like it didn’t fully conclude, and some of the plot points felt like they were left dangling a bit. I think this is a symptom of the book trying to do so dang much all at the same time, to the point where not everything felt completely finished. It almost feels like there could be a sequel, and I wouldn’t be opposed to that, but as far as I know, this was meant to be a standalone.
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The cover of this book got me before any kind of plot summary - it's beautiful! The setting here was fascinating and not one that I had read about before, which had me interested immediately. The combination of folklore and the supernatural almost always leads to a great story, and this one didn't disappoint. It was easy to cling to the characters from the very start and not put the book down until you knew what happened to them. Recommended to anyone who loves history, culture, and the supernatural.
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Ji Lin accidentally makes the find of a lifetime which puts events into place that become dangerous for some and deadly for others. Ren, a young boy, is on the hunt for what Ji Lin has found. It was his master’s dying wish to find it. After her accidental find, Ji Lin then desperately tries to set things right with the help of magical dreamscapes as well as friends and family she’s known for years and others that are revealed to her within a magical dreamscape.

The book has a beautifully written opening (below) that paints the setting so perfectly and is very well-written.
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Set in 1930’s Malaysia, The Night Tiger is about a boy on a mission to find a lost finger for his former employer, and the young woman moonlighting as a dancehall girl to pay off her mother’s debts who pickpockets one off a customer. What comes next is a beautiful and at times heartbreaking story as the reader follows the characters over the next 49 days. Steeped in Chinese folklore and history, The Night Tiger is a mystery with a dash of romance and a hint of the supernatural. I adored Ji Lin and Ren, two of the main characters, who stole my heart from the first. There is so much to love about The Night Tiger, from its depth of character, it’s natural tie-in of the historical and political climate of the times as well as cultural superstitions and traditions, and the twists and turns the author took the various threads of the story. Yangsze Choo has proven again what an amazing author she is.
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This was an enjoyable read. The peek into 1930s Malay culture was fascinating. I don't really feel that I can say a lot without giving too much away, but I enjoyed the connections the characters had with each other. This is one I'd like to reread.

Thanks to the author, publisher, and Netgalley for a copy of the ARC.
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As with her previous novel, Yangsze Choo gets an A for Atmosphere. Her depiction of 1930s Malaya is so rich and evocative, it makes me want to be there. The characters, especially Ji Lin, a smart and resourceful girl with thwarted ambitions, are also excellent. The way that Choo weaves seemingly disparate plot elements together is deft and delightful. The magic is kept to a minimum, too good effect. And a particular romance trope used here is right up my alley too. This is a book that I won't soon forget!

My only issue is that the whole thing can come off a little bit twee, not only in a way that's common to magical realism, but also in a way that doesn't always match the darker and dare I say grislier plot points such as murder and dismemberment-by-tiger. It's difficult to balance tone and content in a tale like this, and the balance is not always achieved.
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I really enjoyed this book - a clever narrative, a plot full of twists with characters whose very names invoked wonderful and meaningful imagery... this was a real joy to read. The layering of the five virtues and weretiger narratives alongside the alternating perspectives of Ren and Ji Lin was really effective and well done. I also enjoyed the perspective this shared on the experience of colonialism in Malaya, and some of the social context to this point in time in that society (the dance halls and marital expectations, for example).
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This is one of the most devastatingly beautiful books I have read in a while.  I was absolutely entranced by it; I couldn't put it down but I desperately didn't want it to end. I had to force myself to slow down several times, but I still flew right through it.  Not only was the writing beautifully descriptive, but the mystery was so intriguing.  I loved the way the author wove in folklore and a slight mystical element.  The result was spooky and haunting in the most beautiful way. I cannot wait to read more of her work.

A few other things I needed to come back and add to my review:

I have a severe book hangover right now, which I think is the mark of a truly great story.  I really felt like I was there, in a time and place I have never been.  I absolutely loved Ren, he was one of my favorite parts of this story.  The characters' personalities shone through the words so well, and my heart aches for each of them.  I have a feeling I will think of them often, and I wonder what happens next to them in their lives.  Do yourself a favor and stop reading the reviews and just go buy this beautiful book.
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Ji Lin is an apprentice dressmaker, who also, works as a dancehall girl. Someone has to pay off her mother's debts. When one of her dance partners leaves behind a gruesome souvenir, she might get an adventure that she won't comeback from. This is one of the most descriptive beautiful books that I have ever read. To find out about the Night Tiger and it's history, you should definitely read this book. I loved it and will recommend it to all my friends. I received this amazing book from Net Galley and Flat iron Books for a honest review.
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I was a huge fan of Choo’s 2013 novel [book:The Ghost Bride|16248223], so I was eagerly looking forward to her latest novel, [book:The Night Tiger|39863482]. This book has much in common with Ghost Bride - a lush Malaysian setting and a plot with an intriguing mix of Asian fantasy and historical fiction.

There are two main storylines here, which take place in Malaysia in 1931. The first belongs to Ji Lin and is told in the first person. Ji Lin is a young woman working as an apprentice in a dressmaker’s shop. She is also secretly working part-time at the May Flower Dance hall as a dance girl, which is not considered an appropriate job for respectable young women. Ji Lin needs the extra income to help pay off her mother’s mahjong gambling debts before her stern stepfather finds out. The second storyline is told in the third person and belongs to Ren, an eleven year servant assigned a task by his dying master. Ren  must find and recover his master’s severed finger in the 49 days it will take his master’s consciousness to travel from one life to the next and bury it with his body so he can be whole in the afterlife. 

Ji Lin and Ren’s journies unfold and eventually come together, but it’s very complicated. Lots and lots of extraneous characters, story threads, mysterious events and dreams to keep track of. There is also a very “young adult” feeling romance at the heart of this novel that was distracting. For some reason, I kept harking back to “Sailor Moon” or “Howl’s Moving Castle” – the romance felt very anime-ish, with the intrepid and innocent young woman swooning over the shaggy, dark-haired doomed but valiant hero.

I also thought there were too many moving parts, and the threads of all the backstories and characters didn’t get wrapped up as neatly as I would have liked. In short, just too much of everything. A little story-pruning by an editor would have gone a long way here.

A 3.5 for me, but rounding down for a missed opportunity. There is much to like here – very atmospheric with some memorable characters and moments, but a less than cohesive whole.

Thanks to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for an ARC of this novel. My review, however, is based on the hardcover version.
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Rin is an eleven-year-old houseboy to a doctor. Ji Lin is an apprentice dressmaker working at a dancehall to pay off her mother's debts. Neither of them realize that their fates are intertwined, until they are brought together by mysterious man's missing finger. Set in 1930s Malaysia, this historical mystery is full of intrigue, superstition, fantastical rumors, and more.

There is much to love about the book. The fantastical and historical elements are wonderful, and the unwinding of the story kept me engaged throughout. I could have done without the rather bizarre romance element, but otherwise thoroughly enjoyed it. The Night Tiger will transport you to a magical world in a different time - great for escapist reading!
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We first meet 11-year-old Ren, a servant to a doctor. Before the doctor dies, he charges Ren with one request:  to find his severed finger, missing from years ago, and place it with his deceased body. The doctor says there are only 49 days in which to accomplish this task, or else because his body is incomplete, and his soul will roam the earth forever. 

Ji Lin is an apprentice dressmaker in 1930s Malaysia, who wants nothing more than to be a doctor, but she is forced to work secretly in a dance hall to pay her mother’s debts from Mahjong. When a dance hall partner leaves her a severed finger, Ji Lin is convinced it will bring bad luck on her family. She asks her stepbrother to help her find the owner of the finger. 

The days are flying by, and a tiger is endangering the town. Around this time, Ji Lin and Ren’s paths cross, and I can say nothing more about that. 

Overall, The Night Tiger is a divinely told story that reads like a realistic fairy tale. The suspense makes it a page-turner, and the history makes it so absorbing. I knew little of Maylasia’s colonial history, and I found it all fascinating. Also consuming was the Chinese folklore included and that suspenseful mystery again. The atmosphere in this book is most impactful, and I was completely lost in this story and its characters. I’ll definitely be reading The Ghost Bride by this author soon! 

I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
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It took me quite a few pages to get into this book. Once I did I very much enjoyed the characters Ren and JiLin.
The blend of historical fiction, love story and ancient Chinese superstitions  held my interest.
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The integration of Chinese and Malayan folklore and tradition into this story are what make it truly special. A literary page-turner!
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The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo is a beautifully written work of historical fiction that I enjoyed reading it very much. 

Ji Lin accidentally makes the find of a lifetime which puts events into place that become dangerous for some and deadly for others. Ren, a young boy, is on the hunt for what Ji Lin has found.  It was his master’s dying wish to find it.  After her accidental find, Ji Lin then desperately tries to set things right with the help of magical dreamscapes as well as friends and family she’s known for years and others that are revealed to her within a magical dreamscape.  

The book has a beautifully written opening (below) that paints the setting so perfectly and is very well-written.

               Kamunting, Malaya, May 1931
               The old man is dying.  Ren can see it in the shallow breaths, the sunken face, and the skin stretched 
               thinly over his cheekbones.  Yet he wants the shutters open.  Irritable, he beckons the boy over, and 
               Ren, his throat tight as though he’s swallowed a stone, throws open the second-story window.

               Outside is a brilliant sea of green: the waving tops of jungle trees and a blue sky like a fever dream.  
               The tropical glare makes Ren flinch.  He moves to shield his master with his shadow, but the old man 
               stops him with a gesture.  Sunlight emphasizes the tremor of his hand with its ugly stump of a missing 
               finger.  Ren remembers how just a few months ago that hand could still calm babies and suture 
               wounds.

This well-written work of historical fiction has a splash of romance and forbidden love, a soupcon of magic and folklore, a drizzle of death, murder and betrayal, and a ton of interesting and well-developed characters that you’ll wish the best for.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for my honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
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Not sure exactly what to think about this book... It gives me The Monkey's Paw meets Rainbirds vibes. I kind of enjoyed both of those books but they left me unsatisfied. This book I started out liking then its got predictable and I absolutely hate the ending. Even though I saw it coming it doesn't seem like a good idea (very toxic).
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Once I got my bearings with this book I got sucked in pretty quickly. It was a little slow for me to get into since there are a few characters to get to know, but once you know them you feel invested in them. The idea of the finger grossed me out a first, but it, and the meaning of it, is an important part of the plot and of the culture the author was introducing us to, so I see why it was included. Several days after finishing this book I’m still thinking of the characters, about their futures, about the magical realism portion of the novel that I tend not to believe but nevertheless find myself wondering about. 4.5 stars for this one and highly recommended.
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What’s more terrifying than a werewolf? Perhaps a man-eating weretiger! Yangzse Choo’s second novel, The Night Tiger, which came out last month, explores the Malaysian folklore surrounding harimau jadian—tigers who can take on the form of a man in order to get closer to their prey, almost the reverse of the werewolf myth. As in her first book, The Ghost Bride, Choo cleverly weaves together vivid depictions of Malaysia under British rule with a sense of magical realism that brings the region’s unique blend of cultures and beliefs to life.

The Night Tiger is a dual narrative, following the perspectives of two seemingly unconnected characters. Ren is a young Chinese houseboy charged with finding his former master’s severed finger and reuniting it with his body before his master becomes a restless ghost. Ji Lin is a young dressmaker moonlighting as a dancehall girl to pay her mother’s mahjong debts. When Ji Lin unexpectedly comes across a severed finger, she finds herself drawn into a tangled web of mysterious deaths, meddling ghosts, and black-market body parts.

One theme that runs through both The Night Tiger and The Ghost Bride is the relationship between dreams and death. In both books, the dead can communicate with the living through their dreams. In The Ghost Bride, the dead could control the setting of the dreams, constructing their surroundings to suit their wishes. In The Night Tiger, however, all of the dream conversations with the dead take place in a setting that resembles one of the local train stations. This choice reminded me of the King’s Cross Station scene in the seventh Harry Potter book, and the symbolic significance is much the same. The train station represents a sort of limbo between life and death, with one-way trains that will carry the soul toward a realm of more permanent death. Each of the characters face serious choices about whether to board a train or return to the land of the living, or in other cases, whether or not to stay at the station, waiting for their loved ones to join them in death.

An element that surprised me about the book was the way that a rather complex murder mystery is woven into the background of the plot. You’d think with bodies dropping left and right, that finding the culprit would be the central focus, but instead it serves as merely a high-tension backdrop to the main narratives about Ji Lin’s concerns for her future and Ren’s quest to find his master’s finger. Apart from moving the plot along, the murders also serve to reveal some deeply troubling flaws in the society in which Ren and Ji Lin live. One reason that the murders are never properly investigated is that the casual racism of the imperial authorities brush off the deaths of Malaysians as unimportant, while locals and foreigners alike give in to superstition and chalk the deaths up to mere unluckiness or supernatural intervention. In fact, Ji Lin and Ren uncover clues quite by accident most of the time, and at the end of the story, only the reader has all the answers about what really happened.

Whether you love mysteries, mythology, or deep social commentary, The Night Tiger has a little something for everyone. You can find it on sale now at your favorite retailer, or buy it online and support The Gothic Library in the process by clicking on the IndieBound affiliate link below. Once you’ve read it, be sure to some back and share your thoughts in the comments!
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A lush, propulsive story that combines elements of historical fiction, magical realism, and a murder mystery. Malay and Chinese folklore, Confucian philosophy, weretigers, and colonialism all combine in steamy, humid 1930s Malaya for a read that I found hard to put down. I thought the characters were intriguing, but the plot relied too much on coincidence and dream communication. I was willing to suspend disbelief and go along for the ride, but this element of the plot does seem to be occasionally lazy, which is why I went with the three stars. 

On the whole, it was nice to read historical fiction set in colonial-era Malaya that didn't try to over-exoticise the place or its people.

It's possible that because I read way too much Virginia Andrews growing up, I wasn't too disturbed by the forbidden love element that some others have found issue with. But I was put off by the male character's sexual aggressiveness.  Despite that, I thought it was interesting how Choo depicted the struggle of a woman in love and in sexual thrall who still wanted to maintain her independence, and this love story aspect feels unresolved because of the relative youth of the characters. I do think that both would have some growing up to do, and I would like to see the handsome, sexually-confident straight man learn about how to love a woman without wanting to own her. I would enjoy reading a sequel featuring these characters, mainly because I'm rooting for the woman being able to put this man in his place but also because I found them unique and interesting enough to want to know where life takes them.
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The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo is a dazzling tale that is part murder mystery, forbidden love and age-old superstition. The setting of 1930s colonial Malaysia is so vivid — you’ll feel transported back in time! This one is magical in every sense of the word.

When I first read the synopsis where the story revolves around a severed finger—I did pause at first. I’m not typically the biggest fan of fantasy type stories and I wasn’t sure where this one would fall. But from the first page on, I was hooked. This one combines the natural and supernatural intrigue and moves these themes in such a compelling and brilliant way. Don’t let the severed finger deter you!

We meet Ji Lin— she’s stuck as an apprentice dressmaker, moonlighting as a dancehall girl to help pay off her mother’s Mahjong debts. But when one of her dance partners accidentally leaves behind a gruesome souvenir, Ji Lin plunges into an adventure full of secrets and superstitions. Eleven-year-old houseboy Ren is also on a mission, racing to fulfill his former master’s dying wish: that Ren find the man’s finger, lost years ago in an accident and bury it with his body. Ren has 49 days to do so, or his master’s soul will wander the earth forever.

As the days tick relentlessly by, a series of unexplained deaths racks the district, along with whispers of men who turn into tigers. Ji Lin and Ren’s increasingly dangerous paths crisscross through lush plantations, hospital storage rooms and ghostly dreamscapes.

On one hand there is plenty of fascinating superstitions: mythical creatures, conversations with the dead and lucky numbers. But this balances with a push toward modernization with a focus on gender and class and the impact of colonialism. The ability to weave all theses ideas together in one story is so impressive and you won’t want to put this one down.

A beautifully-written story full of mystery and intrigue, this a must-read.
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