It’s the end of the Nineteenth Century. San Francisco’s cobblestone streets are haunted, but Chinatown has an unlikely protector in a young Daoist priestess named Li-lin. Using only her martial arts training, spiritual magic, a sword made from peachwood, and the walking, talking spirit of a human eye, Li-lin stands alone to defend her immigrant community from supernatural threats.
But when the body of a young girl is brought to the deadhouse Li-lin oversees for a local group of gangsters, she faces her most bewildering—and potentially dangerous—assignment yet. The nine-year-old has died from suffocation . . . specifically by flowers growing out of her nose and mouth. Li-lin suspects Gong Tau, a dirty and primitive form of dark magic. But who is behind the spell, and why, will take her on a perilous journey deep into a dangerous world of ghosts and spirits.
Let me preface this review by first talking about how much I loved the first in the series, The Girl with Ghost Eyes. I picked up that book the day it came out and fell in love with Li-lin and the slightly fantastical version of San Francisco’s historical China Town that Boroson created. I’ve been eagerly awaiting a sequel ever since. It was so worth the wait–the follow up in amazing.
Over and above everything, Li-lin is such a wonderful character. She’s strong–not just in body but in spirit as well. She’s a fighter in every respect–if she has self-doubts once in a while she always rolls up her sleeves and does what needs doing, even if that may not be in her own self-interests. She can be stubborn, and relentless in the pursuit of truth and what she feels is right. Sometimes (frequently) that gets her into trouble. But it’s just one of the many reasons that her character is so easy to like.
One of the things I loved most about this sequel is getting to spend time with Li-lin and her father and seeing their relationship change throughout the story. They have such a fascinating dynamic and while I side with Li-lin when it comes to her father (I love Li-lin too much not to), Boroson does a great job of bringing some understanding to her father’s perspective. Their relationship is fraught with arguing, in part, because they’re so very much alike. (This hit very close to home for me! Fathers and their daughters are always going to be an interesting topic for me.)
There are many other interesting things that Boroson touches on here, even if it’s only briefly. Such as how Chinese culture is not a monolith, cultural erasure, class-ism, racism, etc. These are topics that are brought up within the context of the story and it never feels like the author is trying to hit you over the head with a message, but they’re definitely messages there if you choose to see them.
So much I could say about this book–the pacing is great, the plot is a nice little mystery that expands into more, the action is amazing (that one fight scene! and that other one!), I love that ‘the gang’ is back together here (tiger monk, oh how I love thee), the journey to the spirit realm was SUPER fun–but mainly I just want to scream about how much I loved this book, and the first one as well. If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly encourage you to check it out. 5/5 stars.