Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Writer's View: White Tiger by Kylie Chan


From Goodreads: A young woman accepts a position as nanny to the young daughter of a handsome, wealthy, and mysterious Chinese businessman—only to discover her new employer is really a god …and every foul demon in creation is out to destroy him! With a premise like that, fantasy aficionados and die-hard action lovers alike will no doubt be expecting something exceptiona l—and Australian author Kylie Chan delivers big time! White Tiger is the first book in Chan’'s breathtaking trilogy that ingeniously blends magic, martial arts, and urban fantasy with a healthy dollop of paranormal romance thrown in to sweeten the pot. Fans of Hong Kong kung fu movies and the novels of Lilith Saintcrow, Liz Williams, Karen Chance, Devon Monk, and Ilona Andrews will flip over White Tiger, Kylie Chan’s remarkable non-stop martial arts supernatural adventure love story.

The Writer's View

What can I say? I was a shoo-in for this story. I absolutely adored the Asian influence in this book. It's packed with Asian gods and demons. It's set in Hong Kong. From reading Chan's bio, I learned that she is an Australian who lived in Hong Kong for a while. As I was reading, I felt like I was living in Hong Kong -- it was as almost as good as getting on a plane and going there! The culture, the food, the contrast between East and West -- it all comes through loud and clear for a fantastic urban fantasy. I felt totally engulfed in the magical world Chan created.

The main character, Emma, is a fiesty Australian who's not afraid to give her hot boss a piece of her mind when he deserves it. She is totally unfashionable and likes to wear what's comfortable, not what looks good. She's fiercely loyal to those she loves, even to the point of constantly putting her life on the line for them. There is no doubt in my mind why the love interest, her boss AND the God of Martial Arts, falls madly in love with her.

The God of Martial Arts -- John Chen -- only likes to wear ratty black clothing. The more ratty, the better. Their gay sidekick Leo is always beside himself trying to get to Emma and John to look decent when they step foot outside. The camraderie between Emma, John, and Leo is palpable throughout the story. They are family in every sense of the word. They tease each other, get mad at each other, and defend one another with their hearts and bodies when the demons attack.

My only nit is that the pace of the story is . . . patient. Not slow, because there's always something going on and the characters are wonderfully engaging, but it's not rip-roaring, non-stop action either. "Patient" is the best word I can come up with. This novel is about Emma's journey with John Chen, from her start as his nanny to her evolution as a kick-ass martial artist and John's love.

Tweaking authentic langauge for a Western audience

At the end of White Tiger is an explanation from the author on her use of Chinese words in the story. She made the artistic decision to change the spelling of some words to make them more user-friendly for her Western audience. One example she gave was the word "chi," which is technically spelled "qi." Because it's used so much in the book, she opted for a phoenetic spelling.

As a reader, I totally appreciate this. I hate funky names that I can't even begin to fathom how they sound. On my current WIP, a high fantasy in an Asian-inspired setting, I also take Chinese words and tweak them to be more user-friendly for my Western audience.

I'm wondering what you guys think of this technique? Do you prefer authentic spellings true to the culture and language being represented, or do you like spellings that are easier on the Western brain?

10 comments:

  1. I'm glad White Tiger is the story you'd hoped for. And I think "patient" is an excellent description for what you were trying to convey. As for tweaking words for the audience, I don't expect the author to do that, but I do appreciate it. Great review!

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  2. I tried reading this one a couple of years ago and got stuck on the patient plot. I wasn't engaged enough to end up finishing it unfortunately.

    As for Westernising words, I think I prefer when there is a glossary like in The Iron Druid series for example. That way the words can be left the way they are.

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    1. @ Lan -- yes, there were points in the story that seemed to drag, but I was involved enough with the characters and the world to keep slogging through.

      I will have to check out the glossary in Iron Druid. I've read 3 of the books, but all on audio so I don't have a visual of the names.

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  3. I've never heard of this one, but it sounds cool!

    I'm inclined to agree with Lan about having a glossary instead of westernizing the foreign words, although I'm sure we're in the minority on that. Most people would probably prefer the ability to easily pronounce those words when they read them. I know, for me, I'm kind of a purist in that regard.

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    1. @ Cathy -- I think I have just been over-satured with epic fantasy books and un-pronouncable names. :)They drive me nuts. But a glossary is a great idea!

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  4. Hmmm, this one sounds good but I'm not a fan of the kung fu movies. Does that mean I won't like it?

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    1. @ Jenny -- if you don't like kung fu movies, I'm not sure this is the book for you. :) It definitely has a lot of kung fu qualities!

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  5. Hm. I've never heard of this novel before. It definitely sounds really interesting. I will have to see if my library carries it. Seems like there is a lot of entertaining twists and turns :)

    Thanks for stopping by
    @ Livin' Life Through Books

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  6. This book sounds pretty neat. I love the Hong Kong setting it's so different and I like to think I'm traveling >.< I haven't heard much about this book before but it sounds really neat. Lovely review!

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