Lightning Review

The Girl With Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson


The Girl with Ghost Eyes

by M.H. Boroson

The Girl With Ghost Eyes starts just before a fight begins, and it just keeps going. In this action packed story, Li-lin is a young Chinese widow who has the ability to see the spirit world and who has been trained in kung fu as well as magic. She is drawn into magical intrigue when she must protect her father and the people of San Francisco’s Chinatown from an attack that combines magical and mundane threats.

Li-lin is the first-person narrator and I just adored her. I thought that her struggles to be a “good” daughter were realistic and her ability to bend rules without breaking them was endlessly entertaining. However, it’s the supporting characters who steal the show – a floating eyeball, a warrior cat, a Buddhist man with the shadow of a tiger, and Li-Lin’s infuriating yet layered father, among others.

I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable about Chinese culture to speak to how authentic the book is in that regard, but I was impressed by the afterword, in which the author stresses that Chinese culture was not and is not monolithic. He also explains some authorial shortcuts (as when on one occasion he uses a Japanese word) and emphasizes that Asian cultures and languages are not interchangeable. As a resident of Gold Rush country, I can say that the sense of place is nicely handled, as is the role of the Chinese in Californian history. I’d be interested in the thoughts of anyone of Chinese descent who has read the book.

There’s only the teeniest hint of romance in this story. However, it’s a great paranormal/fantasy in a historical urban setting that focuses on a group of people too often ignored in history and in non-fiction. And Li-lin is a wonderful heroine: smart, determined, and struggling against all kinds of barriers including her own sense of self. I’m very much hoping that Li-lin and her floating eyeball friend will return in a sequel.

Carrie S

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.

Historical: Other, Science Fiction/Fantasy
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