I chose this book because it has a really cool cover. And also because I’m currently having a blast with fantasy based on Chinese mythology. I kept reading it because the world-building is wonderfully inventive and exuberantly Chinese. And the main character, who tells her story in first-person present tense, is a fabulous narrator.
Shanghai Immortal takes place in “jazz age Shanghai” and its underworld reflection, immortal Shanghai, which is basically a version of Chinese Hell. Immortal Shanghai is where the dead work through their attachments before drinking Meng Po’s soup of forgetfulness and passing over the Naihe Bridge to reincarnation. It is ruled by the yaojing immortals—gods, demons, hopping vampires, hulijing (nine-tailed foxes)—and one Big Wang, the King of Hell. Both Shanghais are loud, irreverent, and perilous.
Our heroine narrator, Lady Jing of Mount Kunlun (called Little Jing), is equally loud and irreverent, though possibly not as perilous as Shanghai. Possibly. She is half vampire and half hulijing, and at not quite one hundred years old, she is still an obnoxious teenager. She has severe anger management issues, particularly when dealing with her boss, Big Wang, or her hulijing grandmother, the Venerable Matriarch of the Hulijing Court. She also needs both blood and the yang energy from mortals to survive.
So when Big Wang sends Little Jing to the edge of Hell to meet a living mortal, a rather handsome banker named Tony Lee, there is bound to be trouble. And there is. On top of his danger from Lady Jing’s appetites, Tony Lee is key in a plot to open the Bank of Hell, a modernization which the Hulijing Court vehemently opposes. In the endless disputes in Hell, no one, whether yaojing or mortal, is safe. Plus, Little Jing kinda likes him. Maybe a lot.