Book review

Review: The Terracotta Bride – Zen Cho


51 pages| Fantasy/ short story/ novella

The digest: 51 pages don’t always provide enough time to tell a fascinating story, but here Cho expertly weaves traditional Chinese belief systems with a more modern lifestyle to do just that. A must read for anyone looking for a taste of non-Western fantasy fiction with a philosophical edge.

Due to the fact that this story is so short, this review won’t cover anything in too much depth. To begin, here’s the summary from the Goodreads page:

A tale of first love, bad theology and robot reincarnation in the Chinese afterlife.

In the tenth court of hell, spirits wealthy enough to bribe the bureaucrats of the underworld can avoid both the torments of hell and the irreversible change of reincarnation.

It’s a comfortable undeath … even for Siew Tsin. She didn’t choose to be married to the richest man in hell, but she’s reconciled. Until her husband brings home a new bride.

Yonghua is an artificial woman crafted from terracotta. What she is may change hell for good. Who she is will transform Siew Tsin. And as they grow closer, the mystery of Yonghua’s creation will draw Siew Tsin into a conspiracy where the stakes are eternal life – or a very final death.

THE TERRACOTTA BRIDE is an 11,000-word standalone fantasy novelette.”

Unlike some other Goodreads summaries, I feel like this one is wholly accurate to the content of the story whilst leaving enough space for a fair amount of intrigue!

The characters of The Terracotta Bride aren’t fully fleshed out, the action is standard, and the dialogue is occasionally a bit stunted, but the tone and presentation of this story is outstanding. I read it earlier this year (Goodreads has it marked as February 5/6 2018), and yet I still vividly remember how the story made me feel, and indeed its conclusion in full. The same cannot be said for many of the other 53-ish books I have read so far in 2018. The setting is also memorable and I have found that Cho’s descriptions are similar to Chinese (and some other Asian countries’) culture as described in documentaries and such.

Let’s cut to the chase. Have a free hour? Yes? Grab yourself a copy of this story and see for yourself what non-Western authors can offer in small packages. No spare time? I suggest you try and make some as this is truly a story you shouldn’t miss. I’ve already purchased more content from this author which I cannot wait to get stuck into! A 4/5 rating as, as good as the story is, it doesn’t quite justify the extra mark for me. I would have preferred a bit more explanation of certain aspects and maybe a few extra pages.


In case anybody was wondering, this year I started keeping a notebook filled with my thoughts after finishing a book. I use these thoughts as a starting point for a full review, so my above recommendation isn’t based purely on a memory of a book, but indeed my initial impressions upon completing it over 8 months ago.


Do you have any recommendations for non-Western fantasy literature? I’d be thrilled to add some to my TBR!

5 thoughts on “Review: The Terracotta Bride – Zen Cho

  1. I’ve had this on my TBR for a few months now but I’m struggling to find and affordable hard copy. What type did you get and where did you find it? I’m glad you liked it 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for commenting! I picked mine up on Amazon – it’s showing on Kindle (UK) at £1.87 so maybe $2 on the US store? Not the best price for a 51 page story but I think it’s worth it

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah I’ve seen it on kindle but I wanted a hard copy. I’ll look a bit more but if I can’t find it I guess it’s ebook for me 😊 £1.87 is really not a bad price tho for a quality book no matter how short 😊

        Liked by 1 person

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