Kelly's Reviews > The Girl with Ghost Eyes

The Girl with Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson
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bookshelves: read-in-2015, dnf, reviewed

DNF at 30%.

Between the gorgeous cover, the captivating summary, and all the wonderful blurbs, The Girl with Ghost Eyes sounds like a book I should love: Buffy and Kill Bill are my jam; I generally enjoy historical fiction; and BAMF women protagonists will forever have a special place in my heart.

And some of the elements did indeed resonate with me. Li-lin's reluctance to exorcise Mr. Yanqiu - the genial yet sarcastic spirit of her father's eyeball - at her father's insistence questions what it means to be human vs. monstrous, calling to mind the ongoing arguments between Sam and Dean Winchester: Are all monsters inherently "bad"? Can monsters overcome their "monstrous" natures? Are you born a monster, or do you become one? Are we more like that "other" than we care to believe? And, if so, what does this mean for the fate of humanity?

Li-lin's narrative also alludes to the racism, xenophobia, and misogyny she encounters as a widowed Chinese immigrant in turn-of-the-century San Francisco. For example, Li-lin worries that her father, a Seventh Ordination Daoshi exorcist, cannot destroy a certain Yao without incurring the wrath of a racist lynch mob: "it would look to the rest of the world as though a Chinese immigrant had murdered a young white woman and cut out her guts." The Chinese Exclusion Act is mentioned multiple times; Li-lin was only allowed into the U.S. because the Ansheng tong - a gang to the outside world, a benevolent organization to those it provides assistance - bribed those officials in charge.

To say that Li-lin's father is an unpleasant man is a understatement; when she becomes trapped in the spirit world, he only sends his eyeball in search of her to save his own face. ("The irony of maiming his face to save face probably hadn't occurred to him.") His daughter's life? Not so much. He's only trained Li-lin to the Second Ordination, and openly derides those of the Fifth as weak fools. But hey, why would he care about Li-lin's self-esteem when her very soul is forfeit?

Yet, try as I might, I just couldn't get lost in the story. Every time I picked it up, I found myself nodding off after a chapter or two. Despite the more bizarre flairs and imaginative world-building, I found the writing surprisingly dull. The narrator takes a very matter-of-fact, even detached tone - even when she's raging - which made me feel removed from the story. Additionally, Boroson describes the fight scenes in a fair amount of technical detail; this sapped away at any sense of suspense or action I might have felt.

Yet I don't want to discourage you from giving it a try! Judging from the blurbs and positive early reviews, I seem to be in the minority here. I didn't like it, but maybe you will? To quote Amy Poehler: "Good for her, not for me."

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Reading Progress

September 3, 2015 – Started Reading
September 4, 2015 – Shelved
September 4, 2015 – Shelved as: read-in-2015
September 7, 2015 – Shelved as: dnf
September 7, 2015 – Shelved as: reviewed
September 7, 2015 – Finished Reading

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