White Tiger is the first of four books in Kylie Chan’s Dark Heavens series. The series is launching this month in the US after having been originally published in Australia over 15 years ago. The flavor and language is decidedly foreign and at times the story suffers from rough editing between the colloquialisms related to the various countries. Additionally – American readers may be more sensitive to certain racial images.
The story follows Emma as she joins the Chen household as the nanny to Chen’s only daughter. Along the way, Emma realizes that John Chen is actually a Chinese god in human form. They fall in love with each other but are unable to even share a single embrace because of a terrible twist of fate. As the story unfolds we learn that Chen is the primary demon slayer for the Celestial court and that the demons are hell bent on kidnapping his daughter in order to gain leverage over Chen. Emma becomes involved in martial arts and demon slaying in order to protect Chen’s daughter who she now considers her own.
The story is slow to build but Chan does a great job of making Hong Kong come to life. The reader learns about Chinese mythology through Emma’s exploration. But frankly the majority of the demons and actions scenes seem tame by American UF standards. The only exception is a particularly graphic scene with the son of the Demon King wherein he sexually molests Chen’s 5 year old daughter in front of Emma. Not only is this story line disturbing but the author treats it rather lightly in the book.
The romantic story line between Chen and Emma is so restrained it is ridiculous. Fans of Historical Romance might get a kick out of it because it has echoes of Jane Austen and the Brontes.
The characters in this story are so 2 dimensional it is hard to get really excited over them. At times I felt like I was reading a guide to stereotypes. The 4 year old daughter acts like a Stepford child never once throwing a tantrum or being disagreeable. The African American body guard is imposing and gay so of course he is impeccably dressed at all times even when fighting demons. Chen’s housekeeper is a kindly but timid Filipina. And the author informs us that Chinese consider Filipinas to be the lowest level of Asian domestic – not once but three times in this novel. Australians are opinionated drinkers without social airs. Stereotypes – like these abound in the book.
There are also several storylines that are introduced and just left hanging in the wind. I suppose to be picked up in later books, like why Emma won’t meet with her sister in England while they are there visiting?
If you are willing to slog through the slow pace, weak villains and heavy stereo types, then you will be happy to know that there are three more books in the Dark Heavens series and 3 more in the Journey to Wudang series (3 books) which continues with the same characters only 8 years later.
This interview also appears on http://paperbackdolls.com/?p=8194