I was excited about reading this book, it's a Chinese mythology based urban fantasy set in Hong Kong about the Dark Lord and his child. The premise is Emma Donahue is an Australian who came to Hong Kong and became a kindergarten teacher who ends up being the nanny to the dark, mysterious and ultra-rich Mr. Chen's daughter. When she comes on full time as his daughter's nanny, she finds a difficult to fight attraction with a love that was not meant to be.
First off, let me say that I'm Filipino so maybe I might show a little bias through. That said, on to the review.
I really liked this premise, I've wanted to see an Urban Fantasy with Asian gods for so long, so I was interested in the book right off. I thought the introduction to the characters interesting, and usually, introducing an entire new world could feel like spoon-feeding when it comes to fantasy authors, so Ms. Chan was able to pull it off nicely. The way that she incorporated the Shen into the book was also very seamless, the way their characters and their habits and their nature came out. Mr. Chen's daughter, Simone was the glue that held the book together, the book is supposedly not romance, but mostly the first book comes out as one with a lot of doomed love mixed in the lot. I love that the book is set in Hong Kong rather than a Chinese migrant to the US living in the US, which is sometimes what people do. Ms. Chan also knows her setting very well.
What I disliked about the book was it's repetitiveness, the ability of Emma to stay really dense for someone of her supposed intelligence (all urban fantasy females must be intelligent you know), we all knew who Mr. Chen was by just a few pages, it took her more than one hundred to get it through her thick head. Although I read this book, I thought the language was very dry and repetitive too. Ms. Chan manages to 'say' the feelings and not express it, therefore I don't feel a connection with the book. I am not angry when Emma is angry nor am I sad, lonely nor in love when she is. I am a complete third person even though the book is told in the first person. That being said, after Emma figures out her love for Mr. Chen, I cannot believe how much she goes after him even after she is repeatedly told no. She throws herself at him every single time. While I do believe she was trying to be persistent, and show her love, I also believe that there are other ways of showing it than opting for a physical relationship always, and love is all the more powerful despite it's lack. (Come on, some of the best told romance stories I have ever read never involve a physical relationship off the bat, especially if both characters decide that it's not for them case in point: A Discovery of Witches)
Next and this is a completely Asian thing, I thought that the gods would first, lambast him: first for being with a human then next being with someone non-Chinese. It's a usual prejudice when dealing when the Chinese marry outside their culture. And while I believe Mr. Chen would have fought for her, it was one of those things that I found unusual, that wasn't shown... but then I guess, it's not a romance. (BUT it has romantic elements, and the first book is rife with it, so it READS almost as a paranormal romance)
The book is too long (I was really skipping pages 81% through the book), the mythology is engaging, Hong Kong comes alive, but Emma is not a character I could completely set my heart to. I loved Simone, and I think Ms. Chan got four year olds down pat.
And finally on a totally off tangent thought on the book, which I really wanted to say: Ms. Chan captures some of the prejudices well in the book especially one on Filipinos. She says that it's only an insult if you think that Filipinas can only be a domestic helper. *Sigh* and she does have a Filipino kindergarten teacher there mentioned briefly (and yes, Monica's family was extremely Filipino)..... but really, when they had to conjure up a helper for New Year to cook, they still conjured up a FILIPINO woman. Seriously? It can't just be some person from mainland who probably cooks better Chinese food than a Filipino woman? Seriously? I understood the hired help already set in place, but for someone who was chosen out of a hundred servants it really had to be Filipino.
I may try for the next book, but the thought that kept passing through my head was: this is an Australian woman in Hong Kong with Chinese gods, it's just really completely weird for me that it distracts me from the book itself. I keep imagining Jackie Chan with Jennifer Love Hewitt and not Jet Li with Bridget Fonda! White Tiger in Amazon