This is a reposting from my non-book blog of White Tigress by Jade Lee, the first book in her Tigress series and a book I read in December 2008. I'm reposting now because tomorrow I plan to post an all-new review of the rest of the Tigress series. Until then, enjoy this retroreview!
White Tigress by Jade Lee
Remember the book I reviewed a few weeks ago, The Dragon Earl, that was about the English earl who was raised in a Tibetan monastery and kicked people in the face like Chuck Norris? Well, I enjoyed that book soooo much I decided to order the author's entire backlist from paperbackswap.com! I decided to start with White Tigress, one of Lee's first books to feature China as a major setting of the story.
Although the hero of White Tigress, Ru Shan, is also a Taoist, just like the hero of The Dragon Earl, he's not a monk. No. In fact, he's a member a strange, secretive sect of Chinese Taoism that uses sex to achieve immortality. But lately Ru Shan has found it impossible to achieve immortality, or even to remain on the middle path, due to several personal problems which are revealed during the course of book. Fortunately for him, his "tigress" (this is how they refer to the female members of the secret sect) has a vision that, in order to achieve immortality, Ru Shan has to find a "ghost" (re: white) woman and teach her the ways of the tigress. So he winds up buying an English woman named Lydia who has been kidnapped from the streets of Shanghai and sold to a brothel. And in case you were wondering, yes, that does make her his sex slave.
There are three things which are fairly obvious early on in this book: one, Lydia and Ru Shan are going to achieve immortality together. But when they do, it will be because they're in luuurv. Second, the book is going to somehow follow the trope of Victorian pornography. For those of you unfamiliar, here is how the typical Victorian pornographic book progresses:
- A proper Enlish miss is kidnapped by an uncouth barbarian, usually of the Ottoman Turk variety, and put into his harem.
- The barbarian tries to convince the English miss to have sex with him, but she won't, because she's a good Christian gel, she is.
- The uncivilized ruler person gets tired of convincing her to have sex with him and just decides to rape her, instead.
- At some point during the course of the rape, the English miss realizes sex is the greatest thing eva.
- She turns into a sex fiend and they live happily ever after. The end.
And third, even though Lydia starts the book off as Ru Shan's sex slave, by the end of the book, he's totally going to be her bitch, because that's what happens in these types of books. Justice is sweeeeet.
The book doesn't disappoint on two of those expectations (sorry if I spoiled it for y'all), and happily flaunts the tropes of the second (actually, this book is nothing like Victorian pornography, but I was afraid that it was going to be, so I felt the need to mention it). But how to describe the journey from the establishment of said expectations to the fulfillment of them? It's quite difficult. Above all, the book was entertaining, so that was good. Parts of it, though were really odd and awkward; other parts, on the opposite hand, were kind of epic... ish.
First of all, the awkwardness. Lydia is Ru Shan's sex slave, so you know their first encounters are going to be all about the sex. But the "sex," if one can even call it that, is really strange. It's no wonder this Taoist sect is secret, because wow. The exercises alone would probably be enough to get Ru Shan stoned in the streets. That being said, the sex scenes really aren't pornographic, because it is totally spiritual, at least on the part of Ru Shan. So they're just... odd. Then there are the LOLphrases (e.g., "open your plum flower," "jade dragon"; and let me just say, "he entered her cinnabar cave" appeared WAY TOO MANY TIMES!!!).
Now you're probably thinking this sounds like the worst book ever and you're going to stay far, far away from it (or you're thinking you should run out and buy it immediately, in which case I really wonder about you). But! Allow me to assure you this book has many redeeming factors, and putting up with the LOLphrases and awkwardness is totally worth it. First of all, Lydia does not spend a lot of the book as Ru Shan's sex slave--she manages to escape fairly early on, and even before she escapes, Ru Shan starts coming to the disheartening realization that he might have been a dumbass when he decided keeping a slave girl was a good idea. After Lydia's escape, she finds her fiance and tries to establish herself in the Shanghai English community; but her experience has changed her and she doesn't fit in with "normal" English people anymore. Also, she misses Ru Shan.
And who wouldn't miss Ru Shan? He is an awesome character. As the book progresses, we get to see more and more of Ru Shan's life and learn why he's having so much trouble finding the middle path. This is when the book starts to get epic-ish. In fact, it reminded me a litte bit of The Good Earth, with Ru Shan's struggle being similar to Wang Lung's. Of course, Ru Shan is a Shanghai merchant and Wang Lung is a farmer, but they both face the destruction of their livelihoods and family. Ru Shan is supposed to be the rock on which the Cheng family stands, but he openly hates his father and finds his business in serious peril of being taken over by Kui Yu, his major competitor.
Fortunately for Ru Shan, he has Lydia, who according to the head tigress' vision is supposed to return Ru Shan to the middle path and bring gold and prosperity back to the Cheng house. But in order to hold on to Lydia and make the vision a reality, Ru Shan has to defy the mandates of his own culture and the wishes of his family.
The ending of the book had a twist that I didn't see coming at all, even though upon reflection I probably should have (everyone loves a twist!); and although the HEA was a little hard to believe, it was really the only way the book could have ended with the two characters remaining together.
So, despite some flaws, I really enjoyed this book. The character of Ru Shan is really the winning element in the story. Annnnnnnd, guess what? White Tigress is the first in a seven-part series about the tigress/dragon sect! So look forward to more reviews of Tigress books, because I've got them all, baby.
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