Monsters, Magic, and Kung fu: The Daoshi Chronicles by M. H. Boroson

Monsters, Magic, and Kung fu: The Daoshi Chronicles by M. H. Boroson

The Daoshi Chronicles, published in paperback by Talos Press. Covers by Jeff Chapman

I discovered M. H. Boroson’s delightful Daoshi Chronicles when Sarah Avery reviewed the opening novel The Girl With Ghost Eyes here at Black Gate five years ago, saying in part:

We’re connoisseurs of kickass combat scenes, eldritch lore, and victories won at terrible, unpredictable price. We want our heroes unabashedly heroic and morally complicated at the same time. Add a decade or more of research on the author’s part, distilled to the most concentrated and carefully placed drops, and a well-timed sense of humor, and you’ve got the recipe for the perfect Black Gate book…

Li-lin’s family has protected the world of the living from the spirit world for generations. Most Daoist priests and priestesses take it on faith that their rituals work — they can’t literally see the spirit world and the efficacy of their magic. Li-lin can, though. She has yin eyes, ghost eyes, a visionary ability that appalls her father and would disgust her trusting neighbors if they knew…

Devoted daughter, faithful widow, compassionate protector of Chinatown, Li-lin must conceal her rarest talent, lest she shame everyone she loves. Long practice at concealment, combined with the necessity of bending rules and stories if she’s to be effective in a world where even a warrior priestess is expected to show deference to men and elders no matter what, has prepared her almost too well for the mystery she must solve.

Someone wants her father dead. That someone wants it enough to lay trap after trap for her family. Bad magic is on its way, of the kind only the Maoshan can stop.

Li-Lin and her ghost eyes save Chinatown, don’t you doubt it.

The Girl With Ghost Eyes proved popular in broader circles as well. Publishers Weekly called it “A brilliant tale of monsters, magic, and kung fu in the San Francisco Chinatown of 1898,” and The A.V. Club proclaimed it a compelling page-turner, saying it “Introduces a thrilling world of kung fu, sorcery, and spirits… The pace never slows, offering a constant stream of strange characters, dire threats, and heroic actions.”

I had to wait for the paperback of the sequel, but Talos released The Girl With No Face in mass market in September and now I finally have a matching set.

[Click the images for magically enlarged versions.]

Back covers of The Girl With Ghost Eyes and The Girl With No Face

Boroson is serious about his influences; the books have appendices that include detailed Recommended Reading and Recommended Movies lists, highlighting cult classics like the Hong Kong films Mr. Vampire (1985) and The Bride With White Hair (1993) and Stephen Chow’s brilliantly funny Kung Fu Hustle (2004).

If The Daoshi Chronicles seem like an odd mix of Eastern and Western influences to you, you’re not alone. Boroson clarifies nicely in his Amazon bio.

When M. H. Boroson was nine years old, a Chinese American friend invited him to dinner with his family. Over a big, raucous meal, his friend’s uncle told a story about a beautiful fox woman. She had a magic pearl and she stole men’s energy.

Boroson wanted to learn more about this fox woman, so he went to the library. They had Greek, Norse, and Arthurian mythology. They had vampires, witches, werewolves, and fairies, but they didn’t have anything like the story his friend’s uncle told — not even an encyclopedia entry.

This baffled him. A number of his friends were Asian American; why weren’t their families’ stories in the books? He asked his friend’s uncle to tell him more stories. He started asking other kids if he could interview their families. If they said yes, he’d go to their houses, bringing a notebook….

One day he realized he could combine everything he loved: Chinese ghost lore, Buffy, kung fu movies, fantasy novels, history. He could write stories about Chinese magic and monsters, using these incredible cultural details as metaphors to dramatize the experiences of immigrants in America…. From Iris Chang, he learned to write about history from a place of compassion. Chester Himes’ Harlem detective stories taught him how an investigation can paint a vivid picture of an ethnic enclave at a specific historical moment. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files showed him how to create big fun supernatural adventures. Tony Hillerman’s Navajo mysteries gave him a way to write about a culture that isn’t his own, and honor the people he’s writing about.

The Girl With Ghost Eyes is his first novel.

There’s no word on a third book in the series yet; keep an eye on the author’s blog and Facebook pages for updates.

Here’s the details on the first two. Both were published in paperback by Talos Press, with covers by Jeff Chapman

The Girl with Ghost Eyes (286 pages, $7.99 paperback and digital, October 11, 2016)
The Girl with No Face (325 pages, $7.99 paperback/$16.99 digital, September 22, 2020)

See all our recent coverage of the best fantasy series new and old here.

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Eugene R.

Nice to learn that there is a published sequel to The Girl with Ghost Eyes. Our monthly sf/f reading group read the first book in September 2018, and we kinda spotted how it really asked for a continuation, which most of us would welcome (as we said in our discussion). The book was recommended by our resident anime/manga fan, but it did find fans among those who were not familiar with more visual fantasies.

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