Today’s review is for Shanghai Immortal by A. Y. Chao, a story centred around a main character who is a half-vampire, half-hulijing fox-spirit and sets off in search of exposing those she knows are horrid.
I’ve been so excited for this book since I first heard about it and happy to say that the story exceeded my expectations for definite! It’s a gorgeous story with a stunning cover that I wholeheartedly recommend preordering ASAP (there’s a preorder campaign that’s also full of beautiful items).
Read on for my full review!
About the Book
Title: Shanghai Immortal
Author: A. Y. Chao
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: June 1st 2023
Source: eARC provided by the publisher (this in no way affects my review which is honest and unbiased)
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.
Shanghai Immortal starts off with our main character, Lady Jing explaining what’s she’s doing waiting for a delivery at 3am in the morning. The story is told in first person so we find out straight away just how much of a sasshole she can be, but she does this mostly by describing who she is and how she came to live with the King of Hell, ‘Big Wang’ as she calls him.
The title ‘Shanghai Immortal‘ still fits, but it’s the hell version of Shanghai we’re first introduced to. Chao takes us on a little trip to ‘mortal Shanghai’ as well, which is basically 1930s Shanghai as it would have known historically. This worked really well in terms of helping to get engrossed in the story, as it was Jing’s first trip too, and Chao did a great job at describing the world; it’s clear a lot of research went into the story.
So, hell, the mortal world… and we also get to know the celestial lands! Home to the likes of Chang-e and dragon lords. This is just a little part of the large amount of world-building Chao has put into Shanghai Immortal, and everything fits together just so perfectly. I won’t delve into this element, but I absolutely loved how roosters were used in the overall world.
In terms of the characters, I love sassy characters. I love them because normally it’s an absolute front and there’s so much more to them, and Lady Jing was no exception to that! She spends her days as, what she thinks, is kind of more of a slave to Big Wang (he says differently to her, time and time again, but hey everyone has at least a little bit of self-doubt). He wants her to live up to her title, to wear nice dresses and excel in her lessons so she can take her place in court. Lady Jing has other plans though, she wants to wear trousers and be comfortable whilst avoiding the court for as long as possible!
Where Jing is a rule breaker who doesn’t really care for traditions, she’s tasked with taking care of a human in Hell, Tony Lee, who is pretty much the antithesis of Jing, at least for the most part. He’s a super sweet yet absolutely terrified person, but the blooming friendship between him and Jing is so endearing; especially during the times when he ends up chuckling at her.
Relationships, whether romantic, friendly or familial, play an important part in the story throughout and yet Jing can’t seem to shake those self-doubts. There’s a wonderful found family aspect to Shanghai Immortal and if you’re a fan of those kinds of stories then this will definitely be a book for you! Every one of the “good” characters has something incredibly endearing about them.
The story isn’t all sunsets and cocktails though, and with the time period of 1930s Shanghai Jing does come across some unsettling situations in mortal Shanghai. Added to that, the story revolves around her trying to stop the hulijing (fox-spirit) clan she’s part of from stealing something from Big Wang. It isn’t something Big Wang wants her to have any part of (hence having her whisked away to mortal Shanghai), but she wants to try and show her past abusers’ true nature to all.
In essence, I loved this. And I’ll be snapping up any further stories from A. Y. Chao as soon as I can! If you’re thinking of preordering also, please check out A. Y. Chao’s Instagram account here because the preorder incentives are absolutely awesome!
‘No matter how small or insignificant you think you might be,
the Cosmos makes no distinction.’
Will you be preordering this?
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