This richly told adult fantasy debut teems with Chinese deities and demons cavorting in jazz age Shanghai.
Pawned by her mother to the King of Hell as a child, Lady Jing is half-vampire, half-hulijing fox-spirit and all sasshole. As the King’s ward, she has spent the past ninety years running errands, dodging the taunts of the spiteful hulijing courtiers, and trying to control her explosive temper – with varying levels of success.
So when Jing overhears the courtiers plotting to steal a priceless dragon pearl from the King, she seizes her chance to expose them, once and for all.
With the help of a gentle mortal tasked with setting up the Central Bank of Hell, Jing embarks on a wild chase for intel, first through Hell and then mortal Shanghai. But when her hijinks put the mortal in danger, she must decide which is more important: avenging her loss of face, or letting go of her half-empty approach to life for a chance to experience tenderness – and maybe even love.
Many thanks to Hodderscape for my gifted advanced reader copy through Netgalley! This has no influence on the honesty of this review.
Oh My God ! That was a fun one with a prickly and sassy heroine!
When the synopsis depicts Lady Jing or Jing as “half-vampire, half-hulijing fox-spirit and all sassh0le”it’s exactly our heroine!
So we have Lady Jing, an immortal of soon to be hundred years and considered as a child not so long ago (the aging and adulting of immortals are different I guess).
We learn early on that her mother “pawned” her to the king of Hell, Big Wang and she had the audacity to die soon after, leaving Jing in Hell.
And Hell is what Jing will raise. As I wrote in my notes early on: “Jing is prickly, abrasive insolent and has anger management issues”. But honestly, as many sees her as a “mongrel” and treat her as an outcast, I guess she wants to give them a run for their money! She was all alone and so often humiliated. My heart hurt for her.
It’s too bad I can’t quote some parts of the book, as this is an ARC because there are priceless quips from Jing that had me snickering!
Jing lives in Yin Shanghai, the Shanghai for deities and half demons, mirror of Yang Shanghai. The mortal Shanghai.
And the king of Hell wants to establish a bank, hence enrolling the aid of a mortal specialized in finance: Mr Lee.
From the moment Jing will be charged to retrieve Mr Lee in a mad dash around Yin Shanghai because of a faulty talisman, she’ll describe the human as having “doe eyes”. He even reminds her of an overgrown puppy. What a pair these two will form in that’s story! She certainly was the grumpy to his sunshine! She was a little minx and loved ruffling Mr Lee’s feathers, leaving him all flustered! That was so good to read!
Accustomed to being lied to, being humiliated especially by her grandmother’s handmaiden , Jing didn’t know what to do with Mr Lee and his kindness. His sweetness was disarming.
And we’ll see that slowly but surely, Jing will mellow thanks to Mr Lee and other acquaintances that will prove being her friends, to Jing’s utter astonishment.
Jing’s growth was very interesting to witness but I also loved how the author mixed Chinese folklore and deities with the “modern” Shanghai from the 1930ies. It was clever to have Jing keeping her calm thanks to too see rolls and caramels, discover saxophone in a nightclub but also realize all the foreigners who wanted to claim Shanghai.
Said deities were also very quirky characters, with a dragon loving to talk cryptically, bodyguards dead set on teaching Jing some decency since her childhood, the conniving Lady Soo… every character had his own personality and painted a very colorful and vivid story.
And of course, let’s not forget that I wanted to know if the plot against Big Wang would be stopped and the villains punished! Jinx was an irreverent character and her story certainly entertained me a lot!
Thanks for reading.