Monday, May 15, 2023

Shanghai Immortal by A.Y. Chao: review

3/5 stars on Goodreads

Shanghai Immortal by A.Y. Chao

Shanghai Immortal is Asian fantasy set in 1930s Shanghai and its counterpart, Immortal Shanghai, where the demon king Big Wang rules over ghosts and demons. Lady Jing is his ward, a half-vampire, half-fox spirit with anger management issues. Her hundredth birthday is coming up and with that she’ll finally take her place in the council governing the otherworld. Only, she doesn’t want to.

Neither does her maternal grandmother, the queen of fox spirits. She failed to kill Jing when she was a child and she’ll do everything to stop Jing now. But Jing is onto her plot. If only she could make Big Wang believe her instead of being sent to the human Shanghai like a rebellious child, with a human man who owes Big Wang a favour.

This debut novel was a good try. A good try at fantasy, a good try at historical novel, and a good try at romance. None of it really worked though, and the result was a mishmash with a hasty feel and no proper plot.

The Asian elements didn’t feel entirely Asian, as Jing was such an independent spirit who didn’t respect anything or anyone, and because the beings of Chinese folklore were made to behave like ordinary humans with no clues to what they were, Jings blood drinking aside. The historical elements of mortal Shanghai consisted of trivial facts with a lot of American things in the mix that made them feel inauthentic even if they had been genuine. And the romance was very unromantic. Partly it was because Mr Lee was a boring character, but mostly it was because of Jing.

This is marketed as an adult fantasy and Jing is turning a hundred. But she behavesand is being treatedlike a sixteen-year-old who’s never seen a man or heard of sex. It wasn’t cute; it was just aggravating. No matter how sheltered a person has lived, they’ve learned everything there is to know about human relations and everything else besides in a century. But Jing showed no signs of a life lived.

Making her behave like a clueless twit ruined the romance and didn’t do any favours for the book either. If you want an adult heroine, make her behave like one. Basically, this reads like a young adult fantasy with all the tropes that go with it, so treat it as such.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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