I have had The Night Tiger on my TBR for a while now and I saw it as an audio book and jumped to pick it up! The Night Tiger is a book full of magic and that hint of something brewing under the surface. Full of Chinese and Malaysian folklore, The Night Tiger will take you on a journey about family, dreams, and promises.
When 11-year-old Ren’s master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.
Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother’s Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.
As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.
While there are a few different characters, the story is mostly told from the POV of Ren and Ji Lin. I find with dual POV novels, there can be a tendency to be drawn more to one narrator or the other. But here, I enjoyed reading both the naivety of Ren, paired with the ambitious dreams of Ji Lin. It’s also a story where, even after reading, I’m still not sure exactly what happened. I think the strength of The Night Tiger lies in the combination of characterization and mystery.
Throughout the whole story, there’s this current of not knowing where the next twist will come. By the time the book begins rolling, I wasn’t sure where the next surprise would come from next. It’s a heavily superstitious book which always challenges what you think is real. Choo is a master at creating this sense of suspense and mystery. Murder mystery meets folklore meets conversations about feminism and colonialism.
My largest reservation had to be the step sibling romance. While not biologically related, they were raised as siblings from age 10 and their family regards them as siblings. That, combined with some very intense sexual pressure, certainly took away my enjoyment from the book towards the end.