Wednesday, 27 April 2016

The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho

The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho is a novella set in the afterlife. Or a novelette, actually, now that I've checked the author's website. Or perhaps, looking at the word count, a short novella. Either way, a not-especially-long ebook.

A tale of first love, bad theology and robot reincarnation in the Chinese afterlife.

In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.

It's a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn't choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she's reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.

Yonghua is an artificial woman crafted from terracotta. What she is may change hell for good. Who she is will transform Siew Tsin. And as they grow closer, the mystery of Yonghua's creation will draw Siew Tsin into a conspiracy where the stakes are eternal life – or a very final death. 

I actually started reading The Terracotta Bride on a whim. Of course I had been meaning to read it since I bought it, but when I found myself at a bit of a loose end as to what to read, I opened it up because it happened to appear on my bookshelf screen in iBooks. This was not a turn of events that I in any way regret. The Terracotta Bride is a delightful story that hooked me quickly. Even though it's not exactly a cheerful story, it has made me quite keen to read more of Cho's work, possibly starting with Sorcerer to the Crown, which is waiting in my audio TBR.

Siew Tsin died when she was young and did not have many skills for navigating the afterlife successfully. After her great-uncle sold her as a bride, she was more or less stuck in her husband's household. But things started to change when her husband brought home the titular terracotta bride as his third wife. I'm not sure that I can say much more without spoilers, but suffice to note that the story does not progress with any tired clichés of female rivalry.

I really enjoyed The Terracotta Bride and I am definitely interested in reading more of Cho's work because of it. I highly recommend it to anyone with a passing interest in Chinese mythology (though I should note that the main character is Malay) and afterlife fantasy generally. I will definitely be reading more of Cho's work.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: March 2016, self-published
Series: No? Not really sure.
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased (on SmashWords, I think) close to launch (partly motivated by the introductory discount...)

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