Monday, September 2, 2013

Review: The Nine Fold Heaven

Title: The Nine Fold Heaven
Author: Mingmei Yip
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Pub. Date: June 25th 2013
Source: Author, Mingmei Yip


Five stars.

The Nine Fold Heaven is a continuation of the novel Skeleton Women. In this next book, Camilla, Shadow, Rainbow, and even Jinying and the notorious gang leaders return. Camilla is left in the aftermath of the downfall of Master Lung, in a pool of uncertainty and speculation- Is Master Lung alive, and what of his son? To further tempt Camilla, she has heard rumors that even her own son may still be alive. Though once bitter rivals eager to claim the coveted spotlight in 1930s Shanghai, Camilla and the mysterious magician Shadow must now work together to free themselves from the seedy underbelly of the lives they lead, and nothing- not gangsters, superstition, or even the law- will stop Camilla from achieving her agendas, both hidden and in plain sight.


I was ecstatic when Mingmei Yip contacted me to review The Nine Fold Heaven, since Skeleton Women was one of my favorite reads of last year. I have to say that I definitely was not left disappointed.

The author's gift for narration and prose is one that I rarely come across while reading, a cool and refreshing change from my normal books. It wraps around the reader's thoughts and demands attention in its beauty and detail. There is a melodic, dark tone to the entire novel that I cannot quite explain, leaving the writing with a vibe somewhere in a mixture of a song, a meditation, and a story. This work is also sprinkled with quotes from books and poems, as well as Chinese sayings and proverbs, that help give this book a tone of unique mysticism that sets it apart from others. And then there are the elaborate details that whip up vivid images of Chinese life. Whether in a five star restaurant or a slum of Hong Kong, I was easily able to lose myself in the world that Camilla lives in.

As an English speaking reader, I also greatly appreciated that non-English words were italicized. I was easily enough able to learn their meaning based on the context, but it was a simpler process because my attention was drawn to them.

The plot of this book takes many twists and turns, and often times I found myself utterly unknowing where it was going to lead me next. When Camilla is self-reflective or plotting, the writing appropriately slowed to a more leisurely, tranquil pace. But when gangsters, masterminds, and murder take their place in the story, the pace quickens to one full of action and suspense that left me quickly turning the page to find out what happened next. More often than I'd care to admit, I was pleasantly taken aback by a change in story development.

Like Skeleton Women, The Nine Fold Heaven is full of strong female characters, and I don't read nearly enough books where this is the case. Whether it is the meticulously trained Camilla, the cunning and elusive Shadow, or even the little orphan Peiling, each are headstrong and smart in their own ways. My personal favorite is the journalist, Rainbow, due in large part to her "army" of Pink Skeleton women, who obtain her information from the four corners of Shanghai and beyond.

Emotions run strong throughout the course of this book, and there are a lot of them. The love of a mother. The desire or romance of a lover. The desperation of one fallen on hard times. Even the wistful memories of love and memories long past. I felt so many things while reading this, sometimes more than I could name and definitely more than I could even comprehend at times.

Another aspect of this story that I thoroughly appreciate is that there is no cut and dry good versus evil. Everyone is a little bit of both. There are "bad" people who unexpectedly do good things, and there are "good" people that are forced to do bad things do to dire situations. Because there is no clear villain, this story has an added layer of realism and grit that give the story more depth.

Though this is a continuation, and I recommend reading Skeleton Women first, it is not required. Back story is provided throughout enough that this can work as a stand alone. For anyone interested in gangsters, strong female leads, Chinese history, or beautifully woven narration, The Nine Fold Heaven is a must read. This is adult fiction, and does contain brief profanity and adult situations. This is the second book I have read of Yip's, and it definitely will not be the last.

Thank you to Mimgmei Yip who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


  1. There is no doubt that I must have this book for my collection, but I will certainly be grabbing Skeleton Women first. This review is amazing, I can't wait to dive into this books pages!

    1. Seriously, check these books out. They make me want to visit China and also be a spy haha.

  2. Thanks Jillyn for the great review, I'm going to post this on FB and twitter! My next novel Secrets of a Thousand Beauties are also of strong woman characters.

    1. Thank you so much. I cannot wait to read your next book :)