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 businessmanonly 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 land 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 Chans 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?