Complex, ambitious ... In less capable hands, this could feel gimmicky. But Choo pulls it off brilliantly, never once slipping into territory that feels silly or coincidental ... The magic of The Night Tiger, then, is not in where or what or even who. It is in the why ... Choo builds characters that are rich and nuanced, with fully imagined backstories that are revealed slowly as the story builds ... a fine example of historical fiction, a work of magical realism, a ghost story, a mystery, a romance, a coming-of-age tale. Each of these is impressive, but most impressive is Choo's ability to weave them all together in a way that feels authentic, and to use that intricate process to tell a story of colonialism and self-determination, love and death, family and tradition.
Choo... clearly delights in sharing her knowledge of Chinese and Malay folklore, traditional belief, and magical practices ... Choo holds back much information, in particular insights into Lydia’s character, that, had it been delivered earlier, might have made the resolution to this tangle more plausible ... Choo is fond of retelling her characters’ dreams—the dead communing with the living—but as a plot device, it can feel a bit contrived, constraining the story from developing naturally ... The many culturally-specific references—the scent of clove cigarettes; comparing a girl’s calves to lo bak, giant white radishes—give Choo’s work richness and sensual depth. The command of local detail and interest in the sensual sometimes combine in striking ways.