The Girl with Ghost Eyes
by M.H. Boroson
Review by S.D. Vassallo
I really enjoyed this novel! It’s a fun mix of martial arts action, Chinese folklore and mythology, fantasy, and a little bit of horror thrown in for good measure. M.H. Boroson grabs the reader’s attention and keeps it throughout the book. The action sequences were well done, the main plot is engaging, the various characters are interesting, and there is just enough mystery in the story to keep the reader wondering what’s going to happen next.
The main character is Li-Lin, the daughter of a Daoshi exorcist, living in San Francisco’s Chinatown around the end of the 19th Century. When she and her father are attacked by a renegade sorcerer, Li-Lin embarks on a quest to find the sorcerer and put a stop to his diabolical plans. Her path takes her through the Chinatown underworld, both criminal and mystical. She makes several interesting and colorful allies, including a demon eye named Mr. Yanqiu, who is bound by oath to protect her.
One of the things I really appreciated about this story is the fact the villains are not one-dimensional cardboard cut-out caricatures. They have depth, and though they definitely are villains, there’s a good bit of sadness and tragedy in their character arcs that make them compelling. The main villain’s backstory is tragic, and though he has become twisted and evil, one can’t help but feel pity for him.
Another facet that enrichens the story is the extensive research the author has done in Chinese religion, language and folklore. By his words, some of the traditions and history in the novel are completely fictional, invented for the background of the story, but much is based on real-life Chinese traditions and beliefs. The book sparked my interest in wanting to read and learn more about Chinese folklore.
The Girl with Ghost Eyes features a strong positive female protagonist. Li-Lin is smart, brave, capable, and highly skilled, both in her magical talents and in her physical fighting skills. The story has great action scenes while avoiding a common cliché seen in both books and movies nowadays, where a 100-pound woman tosses around men two to three times her weight as if they weighed nothing at all. The fight sequences in the story realistically reflect the challenge of fighting an opponent who’s heavier and stronger than oneself. Li-Lin has to use smart tactics in her battles, making the story more enjoyable, in my opinion.
I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this book. Boroson is a gifted storyteller and I enjoyed his prose. Here’s an example of his writing:
A man takes a wrong turn down a street he has traveled every day and finds himself somewhere unfamiliar. Shadows lean oddly, buildings look different, and something is moving at the edge of what you can see…Maybe for a moment you see human features in the window, watching you. And why is the dog barking at a dark corner? Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. At the edge of perception, weird things dance and howl.
As with all good stories I’ve read in my life, I was sad when this one ended; I wanted more.
Bottom line: The Girl with Ghost Eyes is a rousing action/adventure tale filled with magic, monsters, mystery, and martial arts mayhem. In some ways, I found it similar to Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International. Both tales have colorful, interesting characters, lots of weird and often grotesque monsters, and the action sequences are exciting and well-written. If you’re a fan of Correia’s work, you’ll love Boroson’s novel.
NOTE: After reading the book, I learned that a sequel, titled The Girl with No Face, is set to be released later this year. Personally, I can’t wait. I will be in line to get a copy when it hits the bookstores.