White Tiger - Kylie Chan

Because I am such an avid reader, I tend to buy a lot of books and then run out of places to put them. Since I don’t like to waste space, I occasionally do a bit of a stocktake and put some of my older (or least favourite) books aside to be sold or given to friends. I was doing this the other day and came across White Tiger by Kylie Chan. I was a bit confused as to what it was doing in my bookshelf because I vaguely remember disliking it and I generally get rid of novels that I dislike as soon as possible. So I decided to re-read it and see what I could find.
White Tiger is a book about an Australian woman named Emma who works in a kindergarten in Hong Kong. She the sort of person who takes the time to make sure the children enjoy their studies, but unfortunately her boss thinks differently. Disillusioned by her boss’s attempts to treat the students like robots, Emma decides to quit and concentrate on private tutoring. As luck would have it, one of the children that she is already tutoring (Simone Chen) needs a live-in nanny and her father is offering an insane amount of money for the job.
Things get interesting when she, Simone and Simone’s bodyguard Leo are attacked by some Chinese youths who explode into strings of black goo when hit. It turns out that Mr Chen is the Chinese turtle god and that the attackers are demons who wanted to kidnap Simone. Emma decides that protecting Simone is more important than anything, and so she is drawn into a world that contains ancient Chinese Gods, demons and martial arts.
I am very glad that I kept White Tiger on my bookshelf. Although it starts off relatively slowly, things pick in chapter nine and this momentum is carried through the rest of the book. Chan provides some nice details about Chinese gods that I didn’t know about (I checked the accuracy online) and gives each god a personality that fits with the stories about them. Her main characters are also very three-dimensional and Chan takes the time to show elements of their personalities through minor interactions. For example, Emma and Leo show their creative (and sometimes immature) natures by playing pranks on each other. These include Emma dying Leo’s underwear pink, and Leo retaliating by putting fake rats in Emma’s suitcases.

I had a bit of a problem Emma’s reaction to the weird things happening at Mr Chen’s house. If I were her, I’d be rather suspicious of working for someone without knowing what their job is, and why he would be offering so much money to a live-in nanny. Then there’s the fact that no-one will tell her anything when she asks them questions. Simone keeps telling her that the information she wants is a secret, and Leo is just as closed-mouthed. This however doesn’t seem to really bother Emma – in fact she shows a remarkable amount of disinterest in the world around her.

The other problem involves the ending of White Tiger (and this was what put me off the first time I read it). I believe that the first novel in a series should be able to stand on its own and this one doesn’t. The story ends very abruptly as if the author is saying that you have to buy the next book or else. I tend to respond to these sorts of novels by boycotting the series, but in the case of White Tiger I thought that it might be worth reading the second book, Red Phoenix. To my disappointment this also ended in a bit of a cliffhanger but I was so caught up in the story that I kept reading. Before I knew it, I’d read the next trilogy and was enjoying myself very much.

So if you want something easy and interesting to read, I recommend White Tiger, but be aware that the story still hasn’t finished by the end of the second trilogy!

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