The Way of the Word

6. March 2010

Review: Kylie Chan – White Tiger

Filed under: books,review — jensaltmann @ 10:54
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Originally published in April 2010.

White Tiger is the first volume of the Dark Heavens trilogy.

Emma Donahoe takes a job as a nanny for John Chen’s daugter Simone. Emma quickly realizes that there is something different about Chen, Simone and their bodyguard Leo. But it’s not what she thinks: it turns out that John is one of the Four Winds, an ancient Chinese god, bound to Earth by his duty to his daughter. But his time on Earth is limited, because his energy is running out. And all the demons are after his head.

In love with John and fiercely protective of Simone, Emma willingly enters their world even deeper, making herself a target in order to protect these people whom she consideres family. In the process, they and she discover that she too is much more than she seems to be.

The bad news first: Emma is a textbook case of a Mary Sue character. She is Specialer and Wonderfuler than anyone else, she is totally fearless and everyone falls in love with her the moment they see her. As I said, however, Emma seems to be much more than that, and if the other two volumes in this trilogy pay off on what Chan telegraphs about Emma in White Tiger, I’ll take back my Mary Sue accusation.

The novel’s other problem is that it lacks a narrative thread. Basically, the story is that Emma joins the Chen household as a nanny, lives with them, has some adventures with them and she and John fall in love. Except for the occasional demon attack, it’s all basic “day in the lives” stuff. A partial reason for this is that as the only normal human in this story, Emma (as the first person narrator) is kept out of most of the action. This is probably supposed to make this world in which she finds herself appear mysterious. Instead, it contributes a lot to the lacking narrative thread.

That does, however, not mean that the novel isn’t fun. I actually enjoyed it very much, and I’m not usually a romance reader. (I had asked for this ARC because I had thought it would be a martial arts urban fantasy adventure novel.) But Kylie Chen has a very fluid writing style and an entertaining voice. You don’t really notice how you turn the pages. Also, the “day in the lives”-approach works very well here. We, along with Emma, see just how bizarre the lives of these character are. Emma, however, is so unflappable that she takes the entire thing in stride. So we, the readers, are shown the bizarre as commonplace, a dichotomy that makes for a fun read.

Chen also excels at the character interactions. One of the reasons why this novel is almost unputdownable is that these characters are such fun, you actively want to spend time with them. You want to know what they will do next, what happens next to them.

Basically, you need to approach this novel with caution: when you open it, there is no telling if you will be able to close it before it’s done.

Verdict: Recommended.


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