Li Lan is a young Chinese girl living in Malaysia in 1893. Her father’s house is in decline and they are slowly slipping into poverty when her father receives a startling offer — Li Lan could become a ghost bride for the wealthy Lim family. She would be married to the recently deceased heir of the family and would live out her days in comfort and wealth in their house. The Lim family invites Li Lan to their mansion, where she meets another young man — the handsome and charming Tian Bai. Li Lan begins to think that she wouldn’t mind marrying this nephew of the Lim family, but the Lim patriarch will not permit it. He wants her to become a ghost bride for his dead son. Li Lan rejects the offer and that is the end of the matter — until the dead son begins to court her in her dreams.
She consults a medium to find out how to get rid of the dreams and is given a powder to drink that will send her into a deep, dreamless sleep. Unfortunately, she overdoses on the potion and her spirit leaves her body, allowing her to roam through the spirit realms. She uses her newfound freedom to hunt for a way to release herself from the influence of her erstwhile suitor and discovers that he is deeply embroiled in corruption in the courts of Hell. She is recruited by a spirit investigator called Er Lang to obtain proof of her suitor’s wrongdoing and in return Er Lang will rid her of his influence.
Li Lan travels to the Plains of the Dead, seeking not only her errant young man, but also the spirit of her mother. She follows both to the spirit mansion of the Lim family, where she is captured as a spy, threatened with torture, obtains proof of corruption, and escapes, all in one night. With the help of Er Lang she returns to the land of the living only to discover that her body has been possessed by another spirit. She recruits the help of the household servants, who exorcise the other spirit, allowing her to repossess her own body. She finds that while she was gone she and Tian Bai became engaged and Li Lan must decide whether marrying Tian Bai is what she really wants.
I really liked this book. It had an unusual premise and lots of Chinese cultural references (which is something I enjoy) and it was a real page-turner. The author kept my attention and near the end I couldn’t put it down.
Rated: Mild. There are a couple of mild profanities and some slight sexual innuendos, but no descriptions of the act. There is no violence.