Set in 1930s in Malaya | Book Review: The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: February 12th, 2019
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Add to Goodreads
Buy Links: Kinokuniya Malaysia | MPH Online
Source: Huge thanks to Pansing Distribution for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.


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.


The Night Tiger is set in the 1930s in Malaya. To be precise, in Perak. The story revolves around 2 main characters - Ren & Ji Lin and other characters that eventually connected with each other. The Night Tiger is cover with mystery, secrets, mystical, superstitious and ancient Chinese folklore also romance plus a were-tiger. 

The story plot centered on a severed finger from Ren's previous Master that he needs to get them in the short period of times in 49 days and to be buried it together with his Master. However, to get that severed fingers, there's a lot of obstacles that not only Ren but Ji Lin need to face with the severed fingers that fall on different people along the journey.

The Night Tiger is set around Perak - Taiping, Ipoh, Falim, Kamunting with the mention of Changkat (my dad's born place) makes me SO excited and it set in the 1930s. I feel like I could see it with my naked eyes of those places during that year. I could really imagine the place vividly through the author words. There are 5 characters, 5 Confusion Virtues that their fates are intertwined together in this story, however, there's something wrong in one of them.

"The five of us should have made a kind of harmony. After all, weren't the Confusion Virtues supposed to describe the perfect man? A man who abandoned virtues lost his humanity and become no better than a beast. Dazed, I wondered whether that was happening to all of us." -  The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo


Ren, the young boy who worked with William Anton after the passing of his previous master. He is an obedient, intelligent young boy and he has a mission need to be fulfilled in 49 days. 

I adore Ji Lin's character. She is intelligent, brave and a bright woman. During the year in the 1930s, a woman is not really encouraged to further their studies to the higher level which what had happened to Ji Lin. Although she was sad, however, she decided to be a dressmaker and do a part-time job at May Flower Dance Wall in secret. You know why she did in secret when you read the book.

With additional romance between Ji Lin and Shin (her stepbrother, not related by blood at all) both of them have fallen in love, however, resisted by Ji Lin's mother because for her that doesn't look good at all and people will talk about it. Eyqa (The Hundred Pages) told me that it is okay for them to get married since they are no blood relation between them so, I was relieved to hear that since I so ship both of them really hard. 


This is my first time reading a book written by her and her writing really makes me feel like I was there following Ji Lin's journey and witnessing all those things together with her and other characters which are so amazing. In the same way, she puts me at the edge of the seat every single time like there's something awaiting and I have to prepare myself, my heart and my mind to know what happens next. 

“A keramat animal is a sacred beast, a creature with the ability to come and go like a phantom, trampling sugarcane or raiding livestock with impunity. It’s always distinguished by some peculiarity, such as a missing tusk or a rare albino color. But the most common indicator is a withered or maimed foot.” - The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo

Not only that, reading this book has given me those eerie feelings especially the moments both Ji Lin and Ren enter the other world met Yi over there through dreaming and that feels real. Also, the giddy, sweet moments between Ji Lin and Shin love blossoming that put a really wide smile on my face. 


In conclusion, The Night Tiger is truly a remarkable book which I am so enjoying it from the first page until the end of it and how it put me on the edge of my seat one after another obstacle they have to face to get the severed fingers back to the rightful owners and the twist and turn of the story with a shocking scenes from people whom I have a least suspicious. Plus with the were-tiger story, the ancient Chinese folklore and the superstitious and the pantang larang which is something I could never put it off my mind. Thank you, Yangsze Choo, for writing such an amazing story. With how the story put together, the descriptive prose - it was really fascinating and I love it.

1 comment

Eyqa Zaque said…
It was all because of the finger, lols. Weird how finger can unite so many people. Well, it happen, hehe.