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Aicila
Aicila rated it
I’m Really a Superstar
December 14, 2016
Status: c427
I’m Really A Superstar is a novel that starts with an amazing amount of promise. It’s take on common elements found in xianxia/xuanhuan novels spun in a different direction is refreshing and the reaction chapters are very entertaining. Zhang Ye borrows literature and other works from his 'old world' and imports them into his new world where they do not exist with the help of game elements. This, among other game elements such as skill books, helps him on his journey to becoming a superstar.

The alternate world that Zhang Ye... more>> falls into is interesting, but it is perhaps too malleable for the author’s intents. Parts of the world change around him, but everything always changes to his benefit. Things that are easier to keep the same, stay the same. The world is simply too convenient. IRAS is very enticing in the early story because it shows the same traits as other successful CN novels:

Person goes to a workplace (sect) and is looked down upon by coworkers (other disciples). He proves them wrong by his show doing better than others (in a fight) and basks in the subsequent reaction chapters. He outgrows his workplace (family, sect) and leaves in search of a new place (academy, workplace) where the process repeats itself.

The conflicts in the story are resolved far too easily with no noticeable impact on Zhang Ye as a character. There is zero character development in I’m Really A Superstar. His popularity increases, but he does not progress as a person, at all. He is petty, and the events of the story do not change this. It is simply a series of people going up against him and getting burned. Conflict in a story and the resolution are supposed to be a tool to develop the characters and story. IRAS does not do this.

Speaking of not learning from his mistakes, Zhang Ye is a lech. Even if his advances are refused, he continues. The ‘romance’ in IRAS is the poorest I have read in a translated novel. It is cringeworthy. If you are expecting any form of decent male to female interaction, this novel is not for you.

I’m not even going to talk about the nationalism in this story. I understand that it is very nationalistic because it’s written by a Chinese author for a Chinese reader base, but outside of this, it adds nothing to the story besides attempting to put the MC on a moral pedestal where he is better than others simply because he likes his country more. Nothing wrong with this, but if you’re reading the translation, you are not the target audience.

My biggest gripe however with IRAS is the big picture. At the start of the novel, there is a big picture. He’s hardworking and he wants to make his way to being a superstar. This goal doesn’t change, however, the focus of the novel does. The novel becomes less and less about his workplace and goals, and more and more about senselessly getting into trouble and creeping on any woman who comes within a 10 foot radius of him. The novel loses the plot, the direction becomes aimless. You don’t know when, if ever, he is even going to go back to work because the author spends way too much time writing (poorly) about irrelevant crap that has no implications on the story. It’s filler, and it’s terrible.

I would highly recommend that people read the first 100-150 chapters of IRAS. Initially, it is fantastic. The new spin on common ideas is refreshing and to see it used in a different manner is very nice. The initial reaction chapters are amazing and are very entertaining to read. After a while, the novel doesn’t just go downhill, it falls off a cliff. I could not recommend this novel in it's entirety to anybody. Even if the reaction chapters are very nice to read, they become further and further apart, and the content in the middle is not worth reading. <<less
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Aicila
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Kuro no Maou
November 30, 2015
Status: --
Time of Review: c217

I like Kuro no Maou. The start is a little bit of a chore to get through but once it opens up a little the worldbuilding is quite interesting and there is a very wide range of characters and concepts. Despite this, the author manages to delicately balance what fleshing out is required with not dragging it on too much which makes the novel feel well developed without being too slow. The motives of the antagonists side are mainly a little one dimensional (wrong beliefs/race = rape... more>> and pillage) which is a slightly dissapointing way to build up the tension but there are a couple of exceptions.

One of the things I like the most about Kuro no Maou is that characters aren’t safe, which I think adds greatly to the sense of desperation and/or helplessness which is prevalent in many cases. Characters will die. If you can’t handle getting attached to a character only to see them have their head lopped off 20 chapters later, Kuro no Maou isn’t for you.

So far, Kuro no Maou hasn’t tried too many different things, but what it has tried has worked out pretty well. If you’re looking for something a bit grimmer, a bit more brutal, or a bit more desperate, Kuro no Maou is worth a try.

Oh, and there’s a yandere. <<less
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Aicila
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Ookami to Koushinryou
January 27, 2016
Status: --
Fantastic.

Spice and Wolf is probably my favourite LN series, which is strange because slice of life isn’t really something i’m particularly fond of. So don’t be put off by it. The story follows Lawrence, a traveling merchant who originally traveled around in a fairly set pattern which followed the seasons to make his living. After meeting Holo, he decides to instead begin to travel North with her towards where she claims her home is. A combination of Holo’s knowledge due to her longevity and quick wits often helps Lawrence with... more>> his business decisions, and she soon develops from someone providing advice to a partner.

Disagreements, sometimes poor business decisions, and Lawrence’s inner conflict over whether to continue with Holo or settle down with a shop (which had had always been his dream) create tension between the two. But ultimately, Holo, someone who is carefree and unrestrained on the outside, begins to show a generally reserved Lawrence that there is more to life besides saving money and peddling wares. The conversations and relationship development between Lawrence and Holo is the highlight of the series, and the translations thankfully convey this very well. Holo is incredibly quick witted, and the conversations between the two often carry a variety of subtle meanings which is very entertaining to read.

Characters apart from Lawrence and Holo are generally written quite well, and the author is very persuasive about giving the reader the intended impression. Characters that you initially distrust (which is common for medieval setting trading) can slowly develop into reliable people and most of the influential characters are given significant development to their own respective backstories which helps flesh them out. The worldbuilding in Spice and Wolf is appropriate for the setting, but is fairly standard with concepts.

Overall, Spice and Wolf is a very entertaining series. It is often laid back, but it also knows when to be serious. The take on trade in a medieval/historical setting is very well thought out and is written accordingly. The intelligence that has been put into Spice and Wolf is by no means insignificant, and you will find yourself wanting more when the journey finally reaches a conclusion. <<less
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Aicila
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The Deer and the Cauldron
October 18, 2016
Status: Completed
The Deer and the Cauldron is a book that I think people should read, especially if you are a fan of wuxia, more traditional stories, or both. The different take on the genre coupled with its grounding in history makes for a unique story that is very entertaining. The main character Wei Xiaobao is a fantastic protagonist, seemingly for all the wrong reasons, which adds to the charm. He lies under oath, he cheats, he’s lazy, he’s shameless, and he puts self-preservation above everything else. He can’t fight, and he... more>> doesn’t want to learn how to fight. He’s completely illiterate, and he has no intention of even learning how to write his own name. Wei Xiaobao isn’t the type of character who will pick up sand and throw it in your eyes during a fight. Instead, he’s the type of character who will challenge you to a fight in an hour and then go and buy a bag of sand to throw in your eyes.

The bigger picture during the story of The Deer and the Cauldron is largely factual, although parts are changed. Set during the reign of Emperor Kangxi (reigned 1661–1722), many of the characters in the story were real people, and the military conflicts in the story (including the Revolt of the Three Feudatories, battles against Tsarist Russia, and defeating the Kingdom of Tungning) were real events. The impressive part is how Jin Yong (Louis Cha) managed to keep the events of the story in line with historical fact, while inserting Wei Xiaobao into it with an often integral role. Due to this, the worldbuilding in The Deer and the Cauldron is historically sound, with the author adding in additional pieces here and there to supplement the story.

There is a good mix of characters in The Deer and the Cauldron. Characters from all sides of different conflicts are well written with their own motives and traits, although being able to use historical figures (e.g Wu Sangui) helps. The array of characters in the story does not fall into the trap I have found with some other wuxia’s, where there are so many characters coming and going that it becomes difficult to remember who is who (especially if you are poor at distinguishing Chinese names). While there are many different groups of people, they all have their own unique aspects and backgrounds which add to the story at different intervals. In particular, Wei Xiaobao’s actions as a character are very amusing, and anyone who likes a shameless main character would enjoy his antics which occur all over the country and beyond. The interactions and relations (and how they change) between characters makes for very entertaining reading.

The fighting in The Deer and the Cauldron is quite simple to follow which was a positive. It maintains an array of different techniques which reflect the different schools and styles without creating an overly complicated variation of moves. I found it was easier to imagine the conflicts in comparison to some other wuxia’s as the moves were all generally quite realistic for a wuxia, and were easy to follow.

If Wei Xiaobao and other characters are the highlight of the story, ironically for a story based on historical fact, I found it the least impressive part of The Deer and the Cauldron. An integral part of the story (so integral that it is a primary driver of the story at one stage) is essentially forgotten without resolution at one stage in the story and it seems that everyone just forgets. Besides Wei Xiaobao thinking about it infrequently, it is not mentioned again by other characters which is essentially inexplicable. The romance (if you could call it that) is also quite poor, although this isn’t a bad thing as his relationships with many of the women essentially take a back seat to other proceedings. Anyone who is worried about the harem tag on this novel shouldn’t be concerned as it plays an insignificant role for the large majority of the story.

The ending of the story is also quite weak, even though this was Jin Yong’s longest work, which is very disappointing. There is some form of resolution, although I am sure that many people would have wanted a more. It is somewhat fitting, but it is almost as abrupt as the dropping of the integral plot point mentioned earlier.

That being said, I still recommend The Deer and the Cauldron, even if only for the sake of Wei Xiaobao. He is a character which will leave you smiling no matter what. Inappropriately joking with the emperor, lying through his teeth to save his skin, cheating at the gambling table, or just crudely cursing just about everyone in his heart, everything that Wei Xiaobao does can be entertaining.

A very nice change of scenery among many other wuxia stories. <<less
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Aicila
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Dungeon Hunter
January 24, 2017
Status: Completed
Dungeon Hunter is a bit of a mixed bag. Randalph Brisiel, a demon, gets a second shot at what is essentially a battle royale between 72 demons which takes place on Earth. Unfortunately for the humans, demons don’t really care about their wellbeing, so while some of them ’awaken’ and get some strength, they’re still quite poor in comparison to most of the demons.

The demons all get their own home dungeon which is placed somewhere on the globe and they can develop it from there, using points to buy extra... more>> monsters or other buffs. Whoever is the last demon standing becomes the demon king.

Dungeon Hunter starts with some promise, as the MC juggles relationships with different humans, demons, and spirits while at the same time compensating for the fact that his starting hand (in comparison to some of the other demons) is quite poor. His logic and subsequent manipulation is nice to read about and the story opens itself up for what should be a very interesting middle section.

The characters in Dungeon Hunter aren’t bad, but they aren’t memorable either besides a very select few. The author doesn’t fall into the trap of introducing too many characters to keep up with which is nice, although some fleshing of some of the more integral characters was sorely needed. This doesn’t even just span one group of characters (humans, demons, etc), they’re essentially all somewhat underdeveloped.

Besides characters, the worldbuilding in Dungeon Hunter is incredibly poor. I would extend that to just say that the descriptive language in the entire novel is just incredibly poor. Besides the appearances of a few characters, hardly anything is described. His home dungeon, where he lives and where a large chunk of the novel is set, is not described at all. In one case, an entire battleship of sorts appears, but it isn’t described at all. Is it flying? Is it in the water? Who is on it? What is it made of? Nothing. Turns up and starts shooting out of god-knows-what guns. The entire novel is completely devoid of descriptive language which I felt was the most disappointing thing about this novel.

Although it’s tied with the latter half of the story for disappointment. I can get over how convenient everything is, I can get over how the MC doesn’t suffer from any real setbacks at all throughout the entire novel, and I can get over how characters just disappear for hundreds of pages at a time to return like nothing happened. But the ending of the story and all of the plot holes and seemingly ridiculous solutions to many of the problems were incredibly frustrating. Like many other novels, this story collapses on itself in the final third of the book. The resolution isn’t even satisfying either, there is hardly any sense of ending conflict or even any closure with any of the main characters once the story is complete.

Dungeon Hunter doesn’t start off too badly. Some interesting concepts, some interesting relationships with characters (although the characters themselves aren’t anything to write home about) and some neat ideas for monsters etc. By the time you’re committed to the story you’ll start to realise that all of the early promise seemed to fade away when you weren’t thinking about it. It’s not the worst thing I’ve read, but it’s certainly not one of the better novels. Any form of decent descriptive language could have really breathed a bit of character and creativity in to this novel but it wasn’t there and the novel suffered because of it. It’s not the longest read ever though, which is a plus. <<less
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Aicila
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Battle Through the Heavens
November 30, 2015
Status: --
Time of Review: c226

Battle through the Heavens shares a lot of features with other similar xianxias. Considered trash, finds a teacher, fixes the issue and becomes strong. BTTH for me suffers from some (small) rather bland patches, although the majority of it is well written and interesting, including the opening 100 chapters. The alchemic elements of the story are quite well done and the flame concept is well thought out.

One of my major gripes with BTTH is that after the initial 100ish chapters the main character begins to have less... more>> and less input on what their plan of action is, and is simply directed around by his mentor who resides in him. Most of the decision making lies with this mentor who is very knowledgeable and as a result the main character is able to navigate through many dangerous situations with relative ease.

Despite this, BTTH is still a well written story which should definitely at least be given a try. <<less
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Aicila
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A Deadly Secret
December 14, 2015
Status: --
A Deadly Secret is a fairly depressing story. It revolves around Di Yun who is framed, and his subsequent journey after he leaves prison. Di Yun is quite a simple man who didn’t really deserve the hardship he ends up with, so if injustice makes you frustrated, this book probably isn’t for you.

A Deadly Secret has some very strange pacing, in particular near to the end. I think that this is probably a result of initially being a magazine publication, but the ending is very abrupt. While there is a... more>> proper conclusion/resolution, and the story is tied off without loose ends, it still feels rushed.

The wuxia elements in A Deadly Secret are quite interesting, although the explinations are at times a little shallow. They are generally sword techniques but there are exceptions. Many of the other characters besides Di Yun are quite similar to eachother which is dissappointing, although being wary and backstabbing like many of them are is a nice contrast to Di Yun.

My biggest gripe with A Deadly Secret is that the main character Di Yun is very often a bystander in the events. There is always someone else who dictates the course and flow of what happens and Di Yun is simply dragged along with little input. Many of the different conflicts in A Deadly Secret resolve themselves through the actions of other characters and Di Yun as the MC has very little actual input in what happens. The ending is a particularly bad case of this.

Overall, if the injustice doesn’t faze you and older wuxia piques your interest, A Deadly Secret is worth giving a shot. It’s fairly short too, it took me around 7 hours to get through reading fairly slowly. <<less
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Aicila
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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk
November 30, 2015
Status: --
Time of Review: Finished v6

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk is another battle academy-esque story which takes place on a fairly closed city which is essentially a big island which has six academies. They generally focus on different things or have different strengths (eg R&D, women only, specific types of combat) so there is some contrast between their goals and aims. The main character is fairly powerful but has restrictions placed on his current strength which he is looking to resolve.

The characters are written decently, and although there is some common types, ... more>> (princess, childhood friend etc) all of the characters have their own personal goals and motives instead of gravitating around the main character out of romantic interest. The story also has a good level of intrigue as the city has a relatively dark side on top of the bright and ideally depicted academies. The fight sequences are written fairly well (both in the interschool competitions and outside) and the world building is certainly not bad but there is nothing particularly new. If you like JP academy/battle harems you could do alot worse than Gakusen Toshi Asterisk. <<less
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Aicila
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Smiling Proud Wanderer
November 28, 2016
Status: Completed
Smiling Proud Wanderer, as a novel, is an incredible shame. Such a well thought out piece of writing with incredible depth in politics, interesting world-building, and some fantastic characters, is marred by the complete incompetence of others. Like many of Jin Yong's works, the storytelling in Smiling Proud Wanderer is fantastic. There is always something that is dangled in front of you, and you keep reading because you want to know. Coupled with a series of interesting and creative scenarios where the bigger picture is always in the back of... more>> your mind, there are many reasons for you to keep reading through all four volumes. The story twists and turns. Characters are written very deeply and their motives, which are present and hinted at from very early in the story, come to fruition even volumes later. Unexpected events are frequent, and these events come from a wide range of characters who all have their own merits. Almost every character, besides the MC, that is. Linghu Chong is one of the most unintelligent, frustrating, and naïve characters that I have ever seen in a story. He is at times completely incapable of even putting 2 and 2 together when the writing is on the wall, seemingly because his incompetence is required for the story to progress. He is a stain on what is otherwise a fantastic piece of storytelling, and a very big one at that. If character density is something that frustrates you, you will not like this novel. At all. If it's something that you can look past to see the solid storytelling in an interesting world that Jin Yong has created, this novel is a good choice. <<less
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7 Killers
February 15, 2016
Status: --
7 Killers is a well written, well translated, and tidy story. It’s not too long either, so it’s certainly something that you should consider picking up to at least have a look at. It’s a little difficult to describe the story without revealing too much due to its very compact nature, but the gist of the story involves MC Liu Changjie, who is tasks himself with assisting a famous figure in the region, Dragon Fifth.

7 Killers isn’t too heavy on the action, but it still shows in patches, and when... more>> it does, it is written quite well. The empasis of the story is largely placed on cleverly written dialogue (which is very interesting and entertaining), negotiation, plotting, and intrigue. The best thing about 7 Killers is that it’s hard to put down. Even from the first chapter, you always want an explanation, to know more. The way the book is written is very well planned as when it does give the answers, it has already developed new questions.

Overall, 7 Killers is an entertaining story that doesn’t take long to read. Especially if you’re looking for something a bit different than what seems to be popular right now. It’s a neat wuxia in a compact package. <<less
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Horizon, Bright Moon, Sabre
April 5, 2016
Status: --
Horizon, Bright Moon, Sabre was quite an interesting read. Fu Hongxue and a partner of sorts travel around, surviving assassinations as they work towards the figure at the end who seems to be pulling all the strings.

The length is quite good, not too long, and everything is relevant. There's no bloat which is prevalent in some more recently written stories (WNs in particular) so the read is succinct. The cast of characters was probably what disappointed me the most. There are many characters, and new ones appear all the time,... more>> yet not so many of them are particularly memorable. If I had read the story in one sitting, it may have been easier, but a couple of times I ended up confused as to who was who. The worldbuilding is also quite average, but I think that is pretty standard fare for wuxia. It's not disappointing, it just wont offer anything new.

Despite the flaws, both the story and dialogue are very entertaining. While the ending is slightly predictable, the manner in which it is done is very good and events that run through the entire story all seem to fall in to place near the end so everything ties up. As with many of the pre 1980's wuxia, the dialogue is intelligent and well written, and the quality of the translation ensures that the quality here isn't lost.

If you are interested in flashy fights and techniques in wuxia, this is maybe not for you. There is hardly any descriptions of the fights themselves as they are almost all over in a single instant due to how quick people are with the sword. It's not a bad thing however, as the tension is usually built up very well beforehand with good writing. That being said, there are certainly different techniques, many of which are quite interesting.

If other wuxia from around this period is something you like, you will probably like Horizon, Bright Moon, Sabre. If it's something that is new to you, it's not a bad place to start, although I think the start is a little weaker than some of the alternatives from the same period. Not that it is worse, it just takes a little longer to feel invested in the story. <<less
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Hachinan tte, Sore wa Nai Deshou!
November 30, 2015
Status: --
Time of Review: c34/interlude 7

Hachinan tte, Sore wa Nai Deshou! So far seems to be a combination of both adventuring and navigating through diplomatic relationships with nobles and royals. There is a breif period of time spent on his immediate post-reincarnation self (6ish years old) but it seems to jump rather quickly into his young teens so the flow is a little strange.

If you don’t like stories where only 1/1000 people are both with ’talent’ which can immediately place them above normal people, this might not be for you. While... more>> the main character does practice hard, the combination of being born with the right talent and stumbling upon a mentor result in a child who is very strong even at a young age. The diplomatic relationships with important figures in the capital stem from this as people then desire to rope him in.

No issues with the writing/translation quality, although the updates are a little slow. <<less
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Devouring The Heavens
December 16, 2015
Status: --
Time of Review: c17. It’s early but it’s good to give people an idea. I’ll update this later on.

Devouring the Heavens has some pretty typical xianxia elements. Child who needs to cultivate more than others to ’level up’ but is strong for his level, a spirit teacher of sorts, and an artifact that is very powerful. His artifact is a blade which has the ability to penetrate defences and suck cultivation out of other people/animals. It seems to only be useful in specific situations which seems disappointing because it looks... more>> like it will be used as a fallback method to help him escape from dangerous situations.

Devouring the Heavens seems to progress quite quickly. I don’t know if it will iron out, but while the developments are quick, they don’t feel too rushed and pacing isn’t an issue. It’s a little early to make any judgements on the worldbuilding, but the fact that the MC is an orphan with no clan/family ties is refreshing, although as a result some of his motives seem a little forced. He's picked on for no reason other than to create enmity between him and other people which is used as motive.

The MC is quite smart, and while in the beginning he seemed a little naive he is quickly fixing this issue and is becoming quite ruthless. He is looking to shape up as someone who is quite friendly with people that are nice to him, but has a ruthless streak to others. There hasn’t been very many characters so far, but they mostly seem quite black or white (rude/domineering or good/polite) with little in between. I am also predicting some decent harem elements, he already looks more on the upfront side than some of the more reserved MCs when it comes to women.

The early signs for Devouring the Heavens are reasonably promising. I’ll update this a little later when more chapters come out. <<less
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