This book reminded me in some ways of The Ghost Bride, but it’s also the total opposite in other ways. Both novels have a feisty heroine, but The Girl with Ghost Eye’s Li-lin is a lot more self-sufficient and less maiden in distress than Li Lan. Li-lin is a martial artist who has the ability to see supernatural creatures, and she’s also the daughter of the head of a priesthood specializing in protecting people from evil spirits in late 19th century San Francisco’s Chinatown. She was also married to her father’s best student but he died a while before the novel starts, so in addition to being a female in a man’s world, she’s also a widow (also socially troublesome).
The kick-butt-ness and grit here is the total opposite from the more traditional fairytale-esque atmosphere of the other novel. Li-lin gets into a lot of fights, and she’s still struggling with the loss of her husband and with trying to prove herself as a female child to her father, who oddly spends a good bit of the novel in the hospital after getting attacked a couple of times. I say oddly because he’s supposed to be really powerful. And actually kind of is the one time we actually get to see him in action towards the end. Even so, it’s still Li-lin who really has to save the day.
The main action of the novel revolves around Li-lin trying to keep her father safe and stopping an evil sorcerer-type from summoning a monster with which to destroy his enemies (who happen to include Li-lin’s father) and take out Chinatown in the process. Along the way she meets a handful of the more interesting characters in the story, some of who could really use more attention. There’s Mao-er the cat spirit, Mr. Yanqiu the eyeball spirit, Shau Hu the tiger spirit-turned-Buddhist-monk, and Bok Choi the gangster leader who’s probably a lot smarter than he lets on.
With a lot of action and some promising characters, I feel like I should like this book a lot more than I did. It seems a little rushed, but I can’t quite decide if it’s plot and pacing, or maybe uneven character development, or something else I’m just not noticing.