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Against the Gods
March 18, 2016
Status: --
For a series that is consistently ranked at the top at this site, it has sparked a lot of derision and contempt.

“Against the Gods” is the prime example of a series that is steeped in emotion, playing to the common denominators to keep the reader interested. Cycles of greed, treachery, pride, revenge repeat in a myriad of ways that are predictable and yet compelling to read for those who are looking for a straightforward, well written series.

Much of the criticism lies in the philandering ways of the MC as... more>> well as the conveyor belt of antagonists that are generic, doomed to meet their inevitable demise, humiliation and clan annihilation at his hands. Yun Che is someone who is prideful, brash, lecherous, reckless, vengeful. Yet as a MC, we are supposed to root for him when he retaliates against those who do the things that he would do. Most readers do, because the antagonists are mostly one dimensional characters that have no redeeming features whatsoever.

Yun Che himself can be a compelling MC. A long, storied background meant a new reader can get behind his behavior; his early turmoil and suffering gives him the underdog tag. When he powers up later on and unleashes a torrential firestorm of vengeance, readers cheer for him despite the huge swath of destruction that he has carved. And then the readers get to read it all over again in a different setting. Different power levels, different women involved, but ultimately the same outcome for the enemies in the arc. Predictable? Yes. Enjoyable? Also yes.

Some readers take offense at his behavior later on, especially his multiple love interests as well as generally randy behavior. Yet, as the author wrote:

Spoiler

Yun Che looked to the far distance; then his gaze became deep and profound: “There are only two ultimate goals that a man pursues; one is to conquer the world, the other is to conquer women. To conquer the world is to reach a new height in life, but to conquer women, is to embellish the scenery of life. If one isn’t able to conquer the women that he wants, even if he conquered the entire world, he would still be at a lonely summit, and experience loneliness everywhere. Yuanba, don’t you think that what I, your brother-in-law just said is right?”

That's right, that's the MC bragging to his brother-in-law the reasoning for courting more women than just one wife.

[collapse]
Those who continued to read on after that particular chapter can’t really say they didn’t see his lechery coming.

“Against The Gods” does have its strong points. The story-telling and translation are superbly done. To a seasoned reader, the material might not be an award winning, critically acclaimed story. One can say it’s the Michael Bay of Chinese fantasy novels. But the fact remains that it is popular. People read on because they want to see him kick the ass of the arrogant on an ever increasing scale. <<less
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The King’s Avatar
February 20, 2016
Status: --
Review as of Ch. 261.

Finally, a refreshing change from the likes of Shi Luo Ye’s stories (Zhan Long, Legendary Thief) or Korean gaming novels (Ark, Legendary Moonlight Sculptor) or Japanese ones (Sword Art Online) which are more about one MC’s goal to get rich/be the best by grinding mindlessly/tripping over good luck and collecting the affection of poorly developed women along the way.

QZGS has none of that. For a start, it isn’t a VR game, but your current or near-future World of Warcraft type of game setting. In short, a... more>> novel about MMORPG games you and I can play now with keyboard and mouse. The MC and his background is far more believable than any of the above mentioned titles. Just imagine your local internet cafe’s near 30-ish manager/supervisor is actually one of the best player of World of Warcraft in the world. He knows he is good, and he has no need to show off. If anything, his self-depreciating sense of worth is a change from stories which have MCs who are supremely confident in themselves. He knows that after all it is still a game, and while being good at it (perhaps even the best) it is still nothing to shout about in the 'real world'.

A gaming novel can’t escape all of the usual tropes. Yes, the MC is god-like (he is a pro-player after all), and he has a cheat weapon nobody has. He is also seemingly the only one who is willing to try and push limitations towards a direction that nobody has ever considered. Most gaming novels focus about their MC powering through the game and surviving with incredible luck, able to PK anyone because of their OPness. Such stories don’t feel “fair”. You don’t get that feeling with this story.

What makes this story stand out is the characters and dialogue. Characters like Steamed Bun Invasion provide the direct laughs, while the MC himself has pithy one-liners that can give you a smirk.

Other stories try to dazzle you with the MC and his gang of friends having the best skills and equipment, throwing stat windows and numbers in your face, drowning you in trivial nonsense that you probably don’t care about or remember after you clicked “Next Chapter”.

You’re not going to read about statistics here, you’re getting actual prose. <<less
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Death March kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyusoukyoku (WN)
February 28, 2016
Status: --
Review as of V12-20.

Death March is what I consider the epitome of light-hearted adventure. It has comedy, it has fluff, its dramatic moments few and far in between and you never get a sense that the characters were in any sort of certain doom. It’s a near day-to-day first person’s diary of an overpowered MC who is hesitant to take advantage of his ridiculous powers to take over the world and his circle of women who follows him loyally.

The main selling point of the series is the characters. Not the... more>> main character, because he is a generic OP guy with superpowers; but the side characters. They are generic tropes (the lecherous one, the shy one, the stoic one who lapses when it comes to meat, the two cutesy ones with speech peculiarities, the emotionally-detached one etc), but because their dialogue and actions are written well and easily digested, any reader who has watched a few animes can basically animate them in their heads. A simple “awawawa” exclamation easily conjures up the image of a distressed loli elf waving her arms in panic, because the author has built up the character and let us read into her personality from previous interactions.

Yes, it’s a harem, the sort you see in animes. Yes, the MC is pretty much a herbivore. The running gag is that he is surrounded by lolis when what he want are busty ones.

Usually in novels like this, the harem is a vehicle to show the ‘awesomeness’ of the MC. In this series, the author has built the side characters well that often they are the color to what is otherwise a drab MC who tries to be friendly with everybody. The MC of Death March is basically an excuse to gather these side characters together and showcase their eccentricities.

It really reads like a web novel, you feel that the author is writing to please his web readers who click on his page day to day. There isn’t a sense of an overarching plot or end-goal, like a slice-of-life anime that doesn’t have an main antagonist and no end in sight. The LN version is a little more polished and there are some differences to the pacing and sequence of events, but the translation of that hasn't gone far enough to change my opinion above.

With all that said, new readers should read this as a time filler, not as their main novel of choice. For readers who had followed the series for a long time, reading the latest antics of Pochi and Tama are like tuning in to your favorite Saturday morning cartoon. <<less
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Romance of Dragons and Snakes
March 11, 2016
Status: --
Review as of ch 56.

Well, well. I was deceived by the whimsical name and thought it was some sort of story that had mystical connotations of sorts, and I expected a usual story of hidden relationships between martial artists like in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

No, this is a martial arts story with real Chinese kungfu set in modern-day China. A previous reviewer mentioned the similarities with the Japanese kungfu manga “Kenji” and I agree.

The novel follows the martial path of an average teen student named Wang Chao who had... more>> a fortuitous encounter with a mysterious older woman whose kungfu practice entranced him. She saw his earnest interest and took him in to mentor him in the ways of Guoshu, a deadly martial art derived from the combined essences of kungfu from all over China. After a period of teaching, she decided to part ways. Left to his own devices, Wang Chao begins to walk down the path of kungfu in modern China, trying to reach a higher level of enlightenment, facing the modern realities of financial needs, encountering other masters of the martial arts, lowlife gangsters and the very real danger of firearms.

This is mostly about real kungfu: punches and kicks, grapples and throws, dodging and blocking, sparring and massed brawls. Each action scene is explained in detail and I find myself wondering if the author is either a martial arts choreographer or is constantly referring to picture guides of kungfu to construct them.

Later on there are some elements of the fantastic like qi; but it’s mostly grounded in reality and the customary beliefs of kungfu. Of course there’s some fiction in it, the highest levels of kungfu described within are said to be pushing the limits of what a human can do, a level above an Olympian athlete. Stuff like the MC’s speed of learning, sensing killing intent, sweat pores of martial artists, increased vitality and health and such. But these are introduced very gradually so that the reader would find it acceptable.

Of note is the care and accuracy of many things described in the novel. The Central Guoshu Institute mentioned in the novel was a real historical institution. In fact, many terms, names of individual kungfu moves and their specific actions, famous persons and histories are all taken from real history and literature. One can spend quite some time looking them up in Google and Wiki like I did. Actually you might want to, as the author assumed the reader would be somewhat familiar with the names of those past masters and did not really elaborate on them, nor did the translator put in any historical notes.

Otherwise, the translator did a very good job as some of the terms are the official English names found in various websites (eg, for Tai chi). There aren’t any glaring problems with the translated text, it seems very polished and edited.

The novel itself is very well written. It reads like a novel that is trying to be solemn and serious about the subject matter, even though there are some weird but short detours here and there about the MC’s financials in the computer networking industry (yes).

Like a kungfu movie/serial, it focuses more on the action. The distinct characters are few, they are mostly enablers to give the MC opportunities to go deeper into the realm of kungfu. Some aspects are not realistic (eg, the bodyguard job) but the author needed to put in some color and drama into what is otherwise a straightforward kungfu novel. Things get more interesting when the criminal underworld and the political realm are introduced much later. The dialogue works well enough, though the early chapters are almost lecture-like and a reader might find it boring. The action ramps up quite nicely later on.

Highly recommended for those who want a break from the fantasy novels here. <<less
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Overlord (LN)
March 23, 2016
Status: --
The memorable thing about this novel for me after the passage of time is the MC’s callous behavior. There haven’t been many LNs and their anime adaptations that describe brutality and disregard for life at the forefront like this, which evokes the images of Light Yagami from Death Note. As it also started off as a VRMMORPG, one can consider Overlord to be one of the first to showcase darker aspects instead of the noble-hearted characters like in Sword Art Online or Accel World (.hack doesn't count because nobody remembers... more>> it).

The main character himself is a dichotomy, two personalities that seemingly opposing to each other. On the surface, he plays a coldly calculating and dispassionate immortal being that sees everything else as inferior. Yet on the inside, he still remembers his original human personality and his lack of confidence, especially when dealing with his followers who obey him zealously. His experiences with his subordinates who are overpowered creatures in their own right reminds me of the humorous scene in “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”, where the protagonist yells at the crowd in exasperation at their blind faith in him, only for them to repeat his words as gospel.

When we read about his fortress-like sanctuary and his numerous and unique minions, it’s like a chuuni dream come true. Remember, the times when you scribble and sketch about yourself being the president of the universe, having your secret base where friends/subordinates with superpowers hang out and an arsenal of ultimate weapons…

The difference is in the writing, which is written in a solemn style that depicts action, violence and black humor. Minor characters die horribly, casually killed by beings that deemed them as annoying little bugs. The MC’s subordinates can barely conceal their disgust and disdain for ordinary humans, putting their master in an awkward spot. But then again, the MC himself treats the inhabitants of his new world with as much interest as a kid with an ant-farm.

The main draw of the series is seeing how an overpowered, deity-like being and his cohort of followers crush all those in their way. Renowned warriors, mages, assassins, the theocracy and the royalty, all their scheming and struggles are petty and pointless because they couldn’t comprehend the sheer magnitude in the difference of power.

It is very well written, though the author can veer off the path considerably for padding material. For those who want to read more after watching the anime, you can continue from volume 4. However, I strongly suggest reading from the start as the novel version had a lot of internal monologue and descriptions that adds to the characterization which were glossed over in the anime. <<less
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Douluo Dalu
March 22, 2016
Status: --
A premier example of a xuanhuan novel: a fantasy story infused with Chinese elements. Much of the setting are typical of a Chinese novel, but there are elements of ‘foreign’ influences like angel wings and Romanized names.

Written by the veteran TJSS, you can see many of the elements that appear in his other works: great fights, humorous dialogue, emotional writing, very long winded narrative; all around an interesting premise of a world of spirit summons and martial arts.

Douluo Dalu’s key strength is in its characters. In too many stories... more>> the supporting cast are often relegated into the background, demoted as cheerleaders or forgotten entirely. In Douluo Dalu, the supporting characters are important. Each friend has role and they all work together as a team which is constantly emphasized by the author, all given their notable characteristics and dialogue to make them stand out from each other.

The love interest of the main character is perhaps one of the better ones in this genre, as she is not just a pretty face. Indeed, she grows to be the focal point of the MC’s life and her destiny becomes the story’s plot later on.

The translation is top notch and the translator can be an example for the community.

Once the reader gets past the verbose style of writing, he or she can discover a story that has action, camaraderie, romance, struggle and tragedy. A very good first choice for someone who wants to start reading Chinese novels. For seasoned readers, it remains a well written story that has the usual elements of the genre. <<less
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Long Live Summons!
February 24, 2016
Status: --
Review as of Ch.189.

It can swing to extremes between bloody revenge and lewd humor. The MC is ruthless, and yet a pervert. The title seems to focus on summons, and yet the MC himself has nearly unrivaled strength in combat. All in all, you have a contradictory setting.

I’ll admit, the very first paragraph which had a quote from Stephen Chow’s movie “Pandora’s Box” (a parody of Journey to the West) immediately hooked me.

But how does it read? The bloody scenes are well written, and you can understand the MC’s decision... more>> making even if you don’t agree the extent he is taking matters. The lewd scenes are handled with humor, never going too far but doing the things many men wish they could do with impunity: touching and feeling and not caring about the consequences, only to laugh and joke in a roguish manner to infuriate and attract the victim.

It is the humor that sustains the series, much more than Heavenly Jewel Change which is similar in style and substance. This is not something you recommend to those who dislike lewd humor.

At the point of this review the story seems to have lost its way somewhat, a jumbled mess of plots: an academy setting, tests, battles, kidnapping of his family, flying from one fight to another with barely a rest.

Some characters and mysteries have not been referred to in a long while (long time readers: hands up if you remember the Heavenly Sword Goddess).

But at all times the MC remain true to his perverted self.

There are many mysteries being thrown about, too much in fact, and there isn’t a main end-goal in sight for the MC.

But I will continue to read to find out. <<less
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Mushoku Tensei (WN)
February 25, 2016
Status: --
One of the series you could read if you ever want a decently written reincarnation-with-memories-intact story.

It reads like an obvious web-novel: rough spots here and there, unpolished prose, unwieldy explanations, superfluous padding of the plots which are easily skippable. But what you have is a decidedly well told first person view's story, able to balance between humor and drama. The MC does know his limits and aware of some powers trying to turn him into a chess piece, and willing to play along until he gets more powerful. There is... more>> a stated objective for the MC, not the mindlessly powering up that you find in Re:Monster or the light-hearted adventuring without a goal in Death March.

Much of the criticism arises from the overly complicated plot towards the end, as well as a large cast of minor characters that aren't fleshed out. Like many of its contemporaries, the author drifts about writing obtaining this or that, which ultimately to the reader doesn't seem memorable or particularly interesting.

There are wildly different opinions about Mushoku Tensei, and I believe the author even considered quitting at one point after negative criticisms. But he persisted and in the end I think he should be happy that he has a story which can be interesting to read. Sure, it can’t satisfy all readers; but who can?

Give it a try. <<less
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I Shall Seal the Heavens
February 22, 2016
Status: --
Review as of Ch.481.

I waited this long, because I'm still in the process of trying how to formulate my opinions. In the end, I settled on the word: "Ponderous". It's a huge undertaking to read, an epic story about a man's journey to become strong. Along the way there are the usual xianxia tropes: offending powerful people/factions, getting the interest of beautiful women, gaining insight into mysteries that nobody else could comprehend, following in the footsteps of those no one else dared/capable to follow, obtaining magic and items that are... more>> the envy of others.

The difference is how the story is written. "I Shall Seal the Heavens" is a story written with gravitas, designed to give a sense of impact and yet tranquility. It's like listening to a zen monk's biography, a quiet voice that teaches the profound in simple terms.

The MC has straightforward goals, yet can't help but be distracted by those who tread a more crooked path. The romance tag is a little misleading, it's very much subdued and hardly talked about, it's just an excuse to remind us that the MC is still human despite his deity-like abilities. Try telling someone the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" movie is a hot-blooded romance story and you'll get incredulous looks.

The main strength of the novel is in its story-telling, in how the sentences are constructed, in convincing the reader that "this is important". As the MC walks the cultivation path, he slowly joins the likes of immortals and the inhuman. You have combat and battles involving spirits, magic that involve and affect thousands, power that is so off the scale that it's almost incomprehensible, like reading a novelization of Dragon Ball Z-like power levels with characters wearing robes and Taoist/Buddhist elements.

If "Against the Gods" is the example of a "vengeful xianxia", then ISSTH is the prime example of a "cultivation xianxia". <<less
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Martial God Space
February 16, 2016
Status: --
Review as of Ch.146.

Very average, very run of the mill. Standard tropes of having a cheat/plot armor, defeating higher level opponents, able to use skills and refine strength far beyond his own rank, surprising and offending people along the way. Some find such things entertaining, as for myself, I don’t mind seeing the typical being repeated as long as it’s well written. But MGS doesn’t stand out in any way. I’m only 140+ chapters in and already the major themes are repeated thrice: powering up, entering and winning a tournament,... more>> kill beasts/demons in another area, repeat. The antagonists are forgettable, most die within the same arc or so. Even the powering up scenes are repeated: using the same methods of pills/stones and breaking through under pressure every time.

There isn’t an overall plot yet which is understandable in series with a huge number of chapters.

The protagonist is one-dimensional, he treats friendly rivals nicely and won’t hesitate to be ruthless against those who wish him ill. There is very little dialogue beyond the "How dare you!" “You die now!” “You think you can kill me!” “Impossible!” etc… The writing is very dry, like the framework from a martial arts movie script. It doesn't have the humor of "Long Live Summons!" or the stoic beauty of "Ze Tian Ji", not the emotions of "Against The Gods" or gravitas of "I Shall Seal The Heavens". It reads very simply, nothing fancy, nothing memorable.

The family members are merely plot devices, the parents has little or no role in influencing the MC’s growth, the siblings exist to be cheerleaders. Friends are few and far in between, and the MC’s friend from the early chapters all but disappeared entirely. There is one female character, speculated to be his romantic interest but hasn’t developed beyond the “she is like a fairy and so far away, one day I’ll reach her” stage yet.

Perhaps there is potential in the series once the romance aspects are developed, but thus far the xianxia aspects are extremely ordinary and nothing special. Read as a time filler for other series. <<less
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Maria-sama ga Miteru
April 2, 2016
Status: --
This is a dark novel series, featuring hard boiled ladies as they scheme and plot against each other, drowning in lust, desire, betrayals and tragic love. Characters die horribly as a bloody game escalates to higher and higher stakes…

Just kidding.

Maria-sama ga Miteru is a long (and I mean long) series that has become the face of yuri, that being of mutual attraction and romantic feelings between women. Nothing explicit here guys, it’s a somewhat fluffy series, set at a girls-only Catholic school that is full of traditions that includes a... more>> mentoring system whereby a senior takes on a junior and they become sœurs (‘sisters’).

It follows the school life of Yumi Fukuzawa, a somewhat naive and scatter-brained commoner girl who had an encounter with the prim and proper Sachiko Ogasawara. After some misunderstandings, they become sœurs; and Yumi soon finds herself joining the prestigious Yamayurikai, the student council whose members are made up of the most popular and idolized sœurs.

You won’t find action here. The plot is languid and tells of the gentle school life of these young women from rich families. Readers will get to know some French terms. It also probably popularized the archaic phrase “gokigen-yo” (good day to you) in modern usage.

Each chapter is relatively lengthy as the author goes into detail about scenes, descriptions, emotions and relationships of Yumi’s circle of friends and onee-samas. It is written in grace, suited to its setting as characters speak in polite and sometimes traditional manner of speech that would be out of place in modern society. It’s like reading a time capsule of elite people where noble mannerisms remained the norm, and the ojou-samas are somewhat insulated from modern living (eg: fast food).

It’s a slice-of-life story where nothing really dramatic happens, where people talk to each other politely even when they are disagreeable. It’s about friendship and romanticism. Almost every volume is self-contained, containing a mini-arc by itself.

Is it enjoyable? For me, yes, it’s a good enough distraction.

…Yes, I also watched the anime adaptation, which is quite faithful to the novels. <<less
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Hail the King
April 2, 2016
Status: --
Dropped.

Like how I felt with “My Father In Law Is Lu Bu!”, I cannot get past the premise of the story. Oh, the basic background is fine: a university student wakes up to find himself right in the middle of a battle. He soon found out that he had transmigrated into the body of a mentally challenged, puppet king of a small kingdom that was being besieged in a fantasy setting where magic exists. Not only that, there were those who were manipulating the throne and using him as a... more>> figurehead. That is all well and good, a MC taking charge of a kingdom can be a nice read, but…

I did not get very far into the story, because this novel is almost a fanfiction as the power-up process is the game Diablo II. Not “something like Diablo”, but Diablo itself. For reasons only the author knows, the MC can jump into a game of Diablo II as a Barbarian player. So in addition to transmigration, we now also have a pseudo-VR game type story for Diablo II which is separate from the MC’s new world.

Diablo II. Yes, that famous game produced by Blizzard. Actual game characters like Warriv and Akara, actual questing and mechanics like Town Portal and inventory limitations; lifted wholesale from the game and placed into the story as a way for the MC to grind, level up and gain skills to be taken back to his fantasy kingdom setting.

Other reviewers enjoyed the story, but not me. Due to its heavy reliance on an existing, world famous intellectual property, I actually question it’s legitimacy to be listed here on this site. <<less
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Monster no Goshujin-sama
March 3, 2016
Status: --
Review as of V2c8.

A school of students and its staff were transported into a fantasy world and immediately enters a classic Lord of the Flies scenario. A caste was quickly established, those with fantasy cheat powers and those who don’t. Of course, things quickly went south, because humans.

The author is trying to build a dark story, a world where strength is needed to survive constant dangers from monsters and from the base nature of humans. Very quickly the grim scenario is given to us: powered students turning against the unpowered,... more>> resulting in destruction of the fragile community that was still trying to learn about its predicament.

Did the two paragraphs above sound interesting? If so, you will be disappointed to know that all of the above are told after the fact, we don't get to read about the actual event itself.

Our MC is someone who is purportedly unpowered and thus was a victim of the infighting. When the story opens, he was alone and injured. Traumatized, he bore a grudge against his fellow students and discovered that he actually had the power to tame the monsters of the new world.

As he starts to trek across this new world, he slowly finds a scattered schoolmate or two and discovering a few more monsters to bond with. His view of humans forever tainted by the traumatic incident, he would rather believe the monsters who follow him loyally.

One only needs to look at the harem tag to immediately guess that the monsters he recruited are either female or possess female attributes.

It immediately brings comparisons to Arifureta, the difference in that the MC of Monster no Goshujin-sama is still weak. So weak that the entirety of the translations thus far is about how he gets into life-threatening situations and the resulting crisis that forces his monsters to rescue him.

The author tries to inject emotions and the general thought process of a person who is still troubled by his new, grim outlook, and wants us to care about the monsters that he had bonded with. Time and again we are told that the monsters share his distrust of humans due to their shared links, that the monsters wish they could do more to help him, that he should rely on them more. Their loyalty borders on blind love, that they would gladly sacrifice themselves to save him. Most of all they want to be with him and receive his attention, to the extent that newcomers into their circle are viewed with intense suspicion and distrust.

It is actually nicely written and structured simply but effectively. The translations are well done, but slow. Most of the character buildup and dialogue is about the monsters themselves.

A dark series about a monster-tamer can be interesting, however one might get turned off by the harem. Don’t worry it’s not like Re:Monster.

Yet. <<less
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Altina the Sword Princess
March 1, 2016
Status: --
Review as of V5.

This is a military story involving swords, spears, knights, politicking between princes and rival countries. There will be plenty of descriptions of tactical warfare, from cavalry charges to sieges written in a way that tries to emulate the epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but for a younger audience.

If you have read/watched Legend of Galactic Heroes, then you will find that the author of Altina tries to evoke images of that hard science fiction. The male lead Regis is a JRPG version of Yang Wen-li, a... more>> bookish person who is only in the military purely to alleviate financial distress, displaying none of the martial prowess or aggressiveness of their respective peers and yet unrivaled when it comes to strategy and tactical acumen. Just like Yang Wen-li, Regis puts forth his suggestions reluctantly to save the lives of his fellow soldiers, only to be rebuffed and ridiculed by his inflexible superiors whose idea of strategy is simple weight of numbers.

The female lead Altina in the story is a warrior princess, wielding a huge sword, determined to prove herself. The typical anime trope of a tomboy-ish but kind, strong but clumsy female character. One look at illustrations of her shows you the fantasy feel of the series: a young girl who is thin and yet able to swing a sword of ridiculous weight. Despite her love of personal combat, she dislikes actual war itself, seeing it as a waste of lives unlike other commanders who think war is glorious.

In between serving in the military this duo would cross paths with factions who intend to move them around like chess pieces for their own selfish reasons, only for such plots to be derailed (or accelerated) when an actual crisis invaded their country. You have the typical hard-headed types who think wars should be fought “honorably”, decadent nobles who think it’s all a big game, a distant and unconcerned Emperor who watches everything impassively and growing foreign powers eager to tear them apart.

The author tries to inject some creativeness in the battles, having the MC resorting to ruse and strategies to overcome numerical inferiority.

Sprinkled in between these dramatic moments and set piece battles are moments that show the growing attraction between the two, as well as humorous slice-of-life events involving their close circle that includes maids and a disguised knight-in-training.

Altina reads like a typical JP novel, in that the characters are well developed despite being stereotypical. Characters have their individuality and you can easily see this novel being adapted to anime once it has enough content. <<less
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Shura’s Wrath
February 12, 2016
Status: --
Review as of Ch. 105.

I expected a lot more after the initial chapters. It had some semblance of a plot, emphasizing the close relationship between the non-blood siblings. The calm, stoic brother and the shy, loving sister (coughMahoukacough). Then it went downhill. Very quickly the “goal” of saving the sister was all but accomplished (postponed really) and then put on the backburner, turning the series into a Zhan Long / The Legendary Thief type of story. Even the condition for saving the sister, owing someone a favor; is continuously pushed... more>> further and further back.

What made this worse was that the MC gained an advantage so quickly in the story that he is basically playing a single-player game. He has leveled so fast that he barely sees any other players over the course of 100 chapters, because he is always the first to enter a new area, discover the secrets. This means most of the dialogue is with sentient NPCs of the game.

Which begs the question, what’s the point of framing the story around a gaming experience instead of a ‘regular’ xianxia story, like The Six Immortals or Ze Tian Ji? There is seemingly no need for a game backstory because the “real life” aspects are simply skimmed through: stopping to clean, cook, take care of the sister, hug her to sleep, talk to someone in the shadows, go back to the game. Interactions outside of the game are so limited, usually involving descriptions of the sister's love. Lets just say you wouldn't want those moments to be on your monitor if someone walks into your room.

It’s hard to believe that the author also written Against The Gods (a far superior work compared to this), because from the style I thought it was by Shi Luo Ye (author of Zhan Long). Combat is described as hugely challenging which is overcome by the MC’s sheer persistence… and OP items and unique skills that only he miraculously can get. Not to mention that the MC in “real life” has hints of a shadowy background, like the MC of Shadow Rogue.

If you enjoy Zhan Long, you will like this because it’s more of the same, including gratuitous descriptions of items and skills, statistics and numbers indicating damage done and taken. <<less
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The Princess Wei Yang
March 17, 2016
Status: --
Impressions as of Ch9.

The very first chapter tells you the heinous crimes committed against the MC, and it can really make one’s blood run cold. One of the more memorable opening chapters that I’ve read in Novel Updates. It reminds me of the infamous Empress Lu of the Han Dynasty who ordered an even worse atrocity than what Tuo Ba Zhen had done in the novel.

The MC Li Wei Yang was an unwanted daughter of the prime minister, sent far away because of the ill omens surrounding her birth.... more>> She was recalled to be given away as a sacrificial wife to a prince who did not have good prospect; to avoid the same fate being dealt to the prime minister’s other favored daughter. Fortunately, the MC and the prince persevered and eventually rose to become the emperor and empress of the land. Unfortunately for Li Wei Yang, the emperor in his newfound power and wealth, forgot the hardship they had shared and replaced her. Of all people, it was her stepsister, the one who was "saved" from marrying the prince all those years ago; that would be her replacement.

Destroying root and grass, even the son of Wei Yang was not spared. Wei Yang herself was tortured and then executed. In her dying breath, she cursed her fate… and then she woke up, to find herself back to all those years ago before she was recalled back by her distant family, before ever meeting Tuo Ba Zhen.

This should be an epic story of revenge. But thinking deeper about the subject matter, how justified is the MC in scheming and plotting a revenge for events that might not even happen in her new timeline? Could her new actions provoke new animosities instead? We will have to wait for further translations to see whether the antagonists of her previous life remains just as vicious and terrible in this new one. It goes to show you how deep the hatred and despair the MC had at the end of her first timeline.

The translation is well done and I look forward to read more of it.

I have very high expectations of this story. Even if the antagonists technically haven’t done anything yet in this new timeline, it is due to the heart-rending opening that promises to the reader that we should be ready for a calculative and cold-hearted MC who would tear apart those who had wronged her in her previous life. <<less
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Lord Xue Ying
February 19, 2016
Status: --
Review as of V2c3.

It’s a novel by I Eat Tomatoes, so those who are familiar with Coiling Dragon, Stellar Transformations and The Desolate Era can expect to find the same: hardworking MC with a good disposition and straightforward progression. The moment you read about the MC being a prodigy at 8 years old and being as mature as if he is 20 gives you an idea.

The setting involves a vast continent, power rankings, people who can live beyond a hundred years, sentient half-men half-beasts races and an initial focus on... more>> physical martial arts.

Perhaps what makes this MC different is that he is using a spear and not a sword.

It is still too early to tell what the story will be focusing on, but I expect the same sort of development you see in the author’s other novels.

My advice is to wait for chapters to pile up before reading in one go, preferably by volume. <<less
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My Father in Law is Lu Bu
February 16, 2016
Status: --
Review as of Ch. 100.

I don’t like this series. As a fan of Romance of the Three Kingdoms (the novels, the games, the drama series, the mangas, animes etc), the premise of the story intrigued me. There have been fiction about time-traveling and changing the course of the history of the Three Kingdoms (eg, Ryuurouden manga) and I have been more than happy to read it.

But “My Father-in-Law is Lu Bu” is very poorly written. I cannot get past the MC’s cheat ability. For some reason or another, the... more>> MC is able to warp between the Three Kingdoms and back to his modern world. He would use this ability to bring back advantages to help his cause. However this mechanic is never explained in detail and we are supposed to go along with it. People in both worlds simply accept his comings and goings without too much questions, making you wonder why not just have him find an inter-spatial ring or a Doraemon-like figure to give him the help he needed instead of warping back and forth. There is very little discussion about the effects of him changing history beyond selling ‘antiques’, which is a shame considering the MC is actually able to go back to the future if pushed to do so.

The title tells who the MC is, not what the story is about because Lu Bu’s daughter is hardly developed. Most of the story is about the MC overcoming challenges which are a drastic change from his modern mindset. People coming in due to the Three Kingdoms setting and expecting a similar emphasis on the politics and strategies might be disappointed in the first 100 chapters. The closest equivalent to this story is the 2012 Hong Kong TVB drama series, “Three Kingdoms RPG” which has a game addict transported to the Three Kingdoms. There is an English sub somewhere on the internet.

The writing is very amateurish at the start, it improves later on. I’m not sure if this is due to the original story or the translator’s own efforts to improve the prose. Some might be put off by the translator’s use of ALL CAPS to emphasize emotional statements.

The MC is hampered by the unexplained cheat ability which acts like a gigantic Plot Device. It only exists because the writer needed a way to bring modern ideas/items to the past. He does develop greatly over the course of the history, you might even empathize with his grief and rage. These few emotional moments are written good enough to paint a picture in your mind. But everything else are just functional and pretty much skimmed through.

As much as I love everything Three Kingdoms (I even read Ikkitousen and Dragons Rioting, for god’s sake), I won’t be continuing to read this. If you can get past the cheat ability, you would probably enjoy reading this. <<less
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Gate – Jietai Kare no Chi nite, Kaku Tatakeri
April 6, 2016
Status: --
Gate is one of those novel series where you love the underlying premise, but might dislike the MC.

There have been other literature about modern armies crossing over to technologically-inferior worlds but currently Gate is at the forefront due to the fantasy setting and its popular anime and manga adaptations.

A mysterious dimensional-crossing gate opens in the middle of Tokyo, and mayhem ensued as a medieval army complemented by fantasy creatures poured through. The invading force found modern Earth a strange place, but thought it was ripe for the picking as they... more>> slaughtered the civilians... only to be beaten back and destroyed by the modern JSDF which had mobilized a swift response due to the actions of the MC: the laid-back and otaku Youji Itami.

His quick-thinking turned him into an overnight military poster child and he was sent as part of an expeditionary force to go through the gate and explore the other side...

The story is great and we get to read how a modern force of tanks, fighter jets, artillery and modern infantry decimates a medieval army with almost contemptuous ease. The JSDF is shown as an entity that was reluctant to inflict such slaughter, but not hesitant in using their advantages after the attack on Tokyo. The Empire on the other hand seemed to be filled with short-sighted people who do not comprehend the gap in technology, resulting in bloodbaths whenever the two get into a conflict.

Well written and filled with decent characters, much of the criticism from people who disliked the anime lies with the MC who is at the forefront and thus trip over a bevy of fantasy women: a female mage, a forest elf, a dark elf, a demi-goddess. However, they are well-written and their attraction to Itami is a gradual process and somewhat understandable.

The novel has more details than the anime and fans of the series should read it. It is interesting as the LN features character illustrations which are a little different from the manga as well as the anime. <<less
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Empress with no Virtue
March 25, 2016
Status: --
This is a story about a mismatched royal couple who are both unhappy with the arranged political marriage. The story opens with the young emperor Ji Wu Jiu aggrieved at the marriage forced on him, the empress Ye Zhen Zhen irritated at being used as a pawn in her grandfather’s scheme. It culminated in a disastrous first night for them, resulting in the emperor being furious and the empress being indifferent to her exalted position. In short, a loveless marriage.

The emperor being restricted by political reasons, resorted to petty moves... more>> of his own to trouble his new empress; putting her in charge in resolving the crisis and drama that arose one after the other in the palace so that she would trip up and embarrass herself. The empress who grew up willful and independent, took on the ploys head on as her successful resolution of them would demonstrate her own defiance. In short, both sides find small delight in annoying the other.

Surrounding this dynamic and strange relationship is the usual array of palace drama standards: the unhappy empress dowager, concubines competing with each other for the favor of the emperor, ministers and officials with vested interests to make sure their own daughter gets ahead, eunuchs and servant maids eager to see their respective mistresses win.

The initial draw of the story is reading about how the empress Ye Zhen Zhen uses her wits and decisiveness to overcome the challenges of the palace, as well as slowly gaining the trust and respect of the emperor as he realizes his consort is someone clever. Perhaps too clever. Still, she is still his consort, and all the back-and-forth made him feel more and more amicable towards her.

That and the anecdotes that arise from a couple that does not want to lose to the other makes for a humorous read at times (eg: “walnuts”).

Warning: the novel contains adult situations. Many. Explicit. In fact, the ‘problematic adult situation’ is one of the key relationship drivers. The other, as another reviewer mentioned; is misunderstandings. Colossal misunderstandings between two people who have no idea what it means to love.

Personally I was a little annoyed with the characterization of the empress in the second half of the novel. Her brazen recklessness comes as surprise to me after the bouts of intelligence in the palace and is one of the main source of misunderstandings between them; as if she didn’t know her actions could have life-threatening repercussions. I felt the author wrote those chapters in to blow up the drama. While it did switch away from the typical palace drama for a while, I felt it was forced in.

The translation is unpolished and the translator admitted that the more difficult parts were edited and summarized within the chapters (eg: poetry, lyrics). This doesn’t ruin the story, in fact to some readers it may help to quicken the pace. But it does mean some of the subtlety is lost.

The prose itself isn’t as descriptive and the dialogue isn’t as dramatic as other palace novels eg “To Be A Virtuous Wife”, “Mei Gongqing” or “Chu Wang Fei”. It reads more like a narration. The earlier chapters are quite understandable, but there are some parts where the the sentences don’t exactly roll off the tongue correctly.

Overall, a nice novel to read. <<less
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