Reviewer: Alan Chin
Author: Edward Patterson
The story begins on Chi Lin’s wedding day – an exciting time for any bride, unless the groom has died and the ceremony, as per contract, must proceed. Chi Lin becomes a ghost bride—the Fourth Wife in the House of Wu, a respectable Ming Dynasty household. Chi Lin assumes her role under the stern command of her mother-in-law and the disdainful eye of the First Wife. Still, as Mistress Purple Sage, Chi Lin fights to uphold her honor and maintain her many secrets while breathing fresh life into this ancient household.
As with all the novels I’ve read by Edward Patterson, this story blends an imaginative touch with the author’s life long devotion to China and its history.
A unique voice and a fresh and vibrant set of characters gave this novel the ability to transport me into another world for an adventure far beyond my limited imagination. The book delighted me with a rather touching love story. Yet this is a love yarn of a different nature, the tale of a woman who falls in love with her dead husband’s household. It is a story of intrigue, loyalty, and honor.
The author takes the reader back into China during the Ming dynasty, when women played a subservient role, supporting their husbands, revering their fathers and elders, and assuring their children followed the same dauntless path. Still, within the narrow confines of a subservient life, there was always a place to leave a mark and alter the future.
As with the author’s Southern Swallow series, this story is a vivid, imaginative, and often humorous romp through a pivotal point in Chinese history. It blossoms into a tale of intrigue, household politics, love, and overcoming hardships in a repressive environment. The plot is a bit predictable, yet stays interesting. The author’s consummate skill at crafting prose and his well-researched details kept me fully engaged until the last page. I would recommend this read to anyone who enjoys multifaceted characters, humor, and a well-crafted story.