Book Review: The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo


A sweeping historical novel about a dancehall girl and an orphan boy whose fates entangle over an old Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers.

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.

F2CB4836-9303-4EFD-86C8-C77243D7EBF5Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

The Night Tiger weaves a wonderful story between magical realism and real life, coupled with superstition in regards to the Chinese culture.

I was fortunate enough to have met the author at her recent book event in Singapore. She has such an amazing and incredible vision for The Night Tiger and I feel proud having a story written with East Asian/Chinese influences in it.

Having been born and raised in Singapore, I felt a sense of belonging and kinship with the setting due to its familiarity and culture that I could relate to. The descriptions in the novel were fascinating and I loved how Choo explained the tropical weather, fruits and delicious food I could taste.

The Night Tiger got me right from the start. With a strong opening scene, I could not wait to see how the story unravelled, drawing me in.

I loved the characters, and felt so much for Ren, the 11-year-old houseboy who represented so much of what  the book was about. I liked how his chapters were told in third person present tense, giving readers more of the glimpse into what the world was like to a young person back then.

Ji Lin is a wonderful young woman who was different from other girls her age. She spoke her mind and do what she could for her family – her mother in particular. Her story arc was something I greatly admired. As the story progressed, so did my interest as to her character depth and how it related to the finger she had found in the dancehall.

If Ji Lin were born in today’s day and age, we’d be friends. Shin, her stepbrother was another great addition to the story, and I really liked how Choo brought his character along together with the Ji Lin’s. Furthermore, the storyline in regards to the Five Confucian Virtues coupled with the mysterious part of novel in relation to the finger was something truly original.

There is romance in this story which might be conflicting for some people, myself included – however I eventually warmed up to it and could understand how it related to various themes in the novel.

The Night Tiger a deeply moving and intriguing with a story that will stay with me in the years to come!


Thank you to Pansing Books for sending me a copy of The Night Tiger in exchange for an honest review!

The Night Tiger is available at all bookstores!


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