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Amnesiac
Amnesiac rated it
Ancient Strengthening Technique
May 23, 2017
Status: c757
In reading Xianxia novels--or indeed media of any variety--it's important to temper one's expectations beforehand, the author of Ancient Strengthening Technique, I Am Superfluous, has summarized his intent in writing the story quite well, stating that "[t]o put it simply, [Ancient Strengthening Technique] is a story about the rising up in ranks, and getting hot chicks along [a] journey to stand at the summit of this world."

If Ancient Strengthening Technique remained consistent with this original statement of purpose, there would be no problem. However, I Am Superfluous sabotages an originally... more>> innocuous novel with a lack of devotion to his world, setting, and characters, and lofty aspirations that, considering the subject matter contained within, are simply ridiculous.

Now don't get me wrong: novels that are well written and intellectually complex most definitely have a place within the realm of Chinese novels. One need only look at the breakout successes of genuinely sophisticated, well written, and interesting stories such as ISSTH and CD for examples of this principle in operation. However, there's also an audience for entertainment with less complexity--sometimes we just want to see an identifiable hero being badass and working his ass off to stand at the apex of the cultivation world. Sometimes we just want a narrative of wish fulfillment. It doesn't necessarily matter if these stories carry the tropes of their genres or are narratively facile so long as they manage to serve their core purpose, to entertain.

Oftentimes, the audience for these two genres of novels even overlap, and indeed, stories can serve as tools for wish fufilment and escapism while remaining structurally sound and telling evocative complex stories. Unfortunately, Ancient Strengthening Technique is not one of these stories. The author seems chronically unable to commit to his premise, leading to an egregious undercurrent of tonal inconsistency.

Having read up to this point in AST, I, while rather proud to have emerged unscathed from the vacuous quagmire of a plot so formulaic it would have Yun Che rolling his eyes (while of course having s*x with a 'woman' who has the body of an adolescent girl), I can only be so angry with the story for wasting my tine. After all, I should've seen this story for what it was at the beginning: after all, the first 30 chapters are mainly comprised of exposition dumps that lack any modicum of entertainment value. However, the translator stated that things started to heat up around chapter 85 so I stuck around. I'll save you the trouble; the hero gets his **** wet in this chapter--that's it. I just started reading Warlock of the Magus Word (highly recommended), and the first s*x scene is around chapter 30, but nobody in the comments was discussing it because the story could stand on its own merit. If I Am Superfluous wanted to make a serious story with a vibrant, living, believable setting--for the record, he doesn't have the talent to do so--but if he wanted to, he should've focused on making the plot, the world, and the characters novel and interesting. If he intends to write a story that you can pop a stiffy to, but lacks any real substance, that would be fine as well. But instead of committing to either of these archetypes, the author hovers in a strange middle ground, seemingly obliged to over-explain the details of the story's lackluster setting and-- in typical wuxia fashion--spout redundant descriptions of characters' psychological processes, while perpetually hinting at development in romantic relationship that rarely occur and never satisfy. Many of Ancient Strengthening Technique's flaws are embodied in his main character--a Frankenstein's monster of genre tropes bound together by erratic decisions and motivations that make little to no sense. The author clearly doesn't know how this character should act, just as he doesn't know where he wants his story to go. He just drifts from chapter to chapter--haphazardly stringing together forgettable plot-point after forgettable plot-point into ban** scenes. The writing style is bland and without much creative flair, and the narrative features some of the most unbelievable character relationships this side of Martial God Asura. Even one of the most unique aspects of the story, the romantic progression that takes place between the male lead and future members of his harem, is hampered by the author's lack of focus and talent. Storylines and character relationships, like the chapters themselves, tend to cut out randomly leaving the audience feeling cheated and dissapointed. While I feel faintly that AST has it's strong points, I can't for the life of me remember what they were; maybe my brain has been friend from reading too much exposition in too short a time. So, I'll leave you with this sentiment: Ancient Strength Technique is a story that feels less like it was written for pre-pubescent boys, and more as though it was written by a pre-pubescent boy. It's a bad novel and I feel like a worse person after reading it.

Not Recommended.

PS. Though the story sucks ass through a silly straw, the author's hilarious misogyny is worth a chuckle or two if you truly have nothing better to amuse yourself with. <<less
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Amnesiac
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Great Demon King
April 12, 2017
Status: --
The setting here is pretty interesting; the author abviously drew inspiration from medieval European fantasy, but the protaganist of the story, as a victim of transmigration, is able to integrate traditional aspects of cultivation into the story nonetheless. Our main character undergoes some pretty interesting development - he starts off as a beta faggot, becomes the archetypal prickish xianxia protaganist, and suprisingly, as of the current chapter, has taken on a more restrained and sinister persona while still maintaining vestiges of previous character arcs. The systems of magic and cultivation... more>> are well defined and, while not particularly interesting, feel fresh simply because they're distinct and have some degree of care put into them. Small details added about each of the nine realms that make up the path of demonic cultivation make the main character's progression engaging to watch unfold. The novel is pretty unconventional all in all, and it's a solid read as well. Unfortunately, this story suffers in execution. Plot points often feel hastily strung together, and characters ubiquitously lack depth; the prose here is also subpar, and what could've been a truly superlative novel is instead rendered "above average" by what must either be a lack of experience or care on the author's part. However, these issues are largely endemic to Xianxia anyways. As long as your life is as bereft of purpose and joy as mine, and you also happen to try and fill the yawning abyss that splits your bosom and leaves you feeling like a vacuous shell of a man with Chinese Novels, Great Demon King is as good a tool to stave off your eventual suicide as any. <<less
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I Shall Seal the Heavens
March 20, 2017
Status: v4c519
This review contains spoilers - you have been warned.

... more>>
Spoiler

Let's get this out of the way: "I Shall Seal the Heavens" is a good Xianxia novel. One of Er Gen's many strengths as an author is his prose, which, though at times repetitive, is eloquent in a sense that cannot be compared to his contemporaries. Irrespective of its significance to the plot, each chapter in "I Shall Seal the Heavens" is well written in its own right. In describing new locales, rare artifacts stumbled across in the depths of an ancient and mysterious ruin, or even one of Meng Hao's foundation shaking epiphanies, Er Gen is succinct and articulate. Much of the writing lacks density by design, making it an unequivocally relaxing undertaking to read sit down and start reading. Furthermore, "I Shall Seal the Heavens" is largely bereft of the vacuous padding that many Xianxia novels receive. The story frequently skips large chunks of time when necessary. And while this aspect of the story's composition may have resulted in a work that lacks cohesion and structure in the hands of a lesser author, in this case, it only adds to the feeling that the audience is experiencing a cultivator's journey through life. There is an inherently immersive progression to the world and characters, a feeling that the world is changing and evolving along with Meng Hao, and that, though the readers discover Planet South Heaven through the eyes of a protagonist, it isn't necessarily beholden to his whim. For instance, the incident that prompts Meng Hao to leave for the Southern Domain is when Patriarch Reliance (who turns out to be a giant turtle) decides to up and leave, taking the entire state of Zhao along with him, just because he doesn't want to be the protagonist's dao protector. Plot developments, while often predictable to those who've read enough Xianxia, can still surprise you either by being intriguing, downright silly, or, at the best of times, eliciting raw emotion.

One piece of criticism that is often levied at the novel is that there is a lack of variety in cultivation. This fault, while often articulated, continues to astound me. I can only conclude that individuals who find the story's variety in cultivation deficient either haven't read very much of the story or were lobotomized as children. One of "I Shall Seal the Heaven's" principle strengths is evident in the manner that cultivation is handled. The protagonist begins his journey by pouring over a Qi Condensation manual in every moment of his spare time, all the while holding onto the errant hope that he will one day manage to become an outer disciple of the Reliance Sect. While a member of the outer sect, he relies on pills and demonic cores to increase his cultivation base but begins to realize that such methods will eventually prove ineffective. While many of his minor breakthroughs are instigated by pill consumption, he is oftentimes only able to break bottlenecks through introspection, meditation, diligent cultivation, and ultimately, enlightenment. However, the topics upon that spark this enlightenment are so varied and his realizations are so profound and philosophically complex that these segments never grow dull or uninteresting.
However, the story still has flaws. One of the most glaring (and oft-articulated) issues here is with Meng Hao's character. While he begins the story as a scholar with nary a violent thought in his mind - a naive mortal with aspirations that amount to little more than crossing the sea and gazing upon foreign lands, the second stage of his character arc is far more interesting than the wonderbread generic protagonist that he eventually develops into. Meng Hao begins the story as a simple scholar, but after becoming a cultivator and a part of the reliance sect, he quickly begins to understand the rules of the cultivation world - thrown into a land where the law of the jungle is the sole governing force, the audience watches as the childish, small minded protagonist first introduced begins to develop. Meng Hao's moral struggle and attempts to reconcile the teachings of Confucius with the "might makes right" attitude ubiquitous to the cultivation world along with the young scholar's reliance on wit rather than strength make the first novel the most engrossing portion of "I Shall Seal the Heavens" that I have read thus far.

However, Meng Hao needed to develop for the story to continue, and as he "grows" through his travels, he begins to drift closer and closer to the rightly reviled archetypal badass, morally ambiguous (but not really) protagonist paradigm that is all too common within Xianxia. Some of Meng Hao's original wit and charm still remains, and his character progression is well defined. The audience develops a profound understanding of why the protagonist acts the way he does simply by being privy to his experiences and inner thoughts, but as the story continues onwards, Er Gen begins to rely more on character tropes, the most obtrusive and plot convenient being Meng Hao's clear moral code. Characters that act according to a set doctrine without variation are innately boring, and each time Meng Hao is described as "a cultivator who repays kindness with kindness and enmity with enmity" my heart sinks a little, for each repetition of this epithet sounds the knell for the character that carried the story through the first novel.

Fortunately, many of the story's secondary characters remain interesting as the plot progresses. They, like Meng Hao's path on the road to immortal ascension, remain unpredictable and interesting.

In Summation, while "I Shall Seal the Heavens" is better written, more ideologically complex, and more plot intensive than the majority of modern Xianxia novels, it is by no means free from the faults and tropes that plague the genre. However, the story is demonstrably its own tale, and, many of the things that manage to bog down lesser tales - most principally a one-note protagonist, and various plot conveniences - are relatively inconsequential in this epic narrative. If you have not read "I Shall Seal the Heavens, " for what it's worth, I would proffer that Meng Hao's story is about as worthwhile a read as any Xianxia novel that can be read online today. It's not the Citizen Kane of Chinese Novels and it doesn't have to be. A solid read that does what it sets out to doesn't have to be subversive or revolutionary to be good and well worth your time. So, If you're a fan of Xianxia and aren't bothered to death by the issues inherent to the genre, then you'll probably enjoy this one, and if you can't read stories that aren't genre-defying works of art without involuntarily lodging an icepick in the cerebral cortex of the nearest civilian out of sheer hatred for humanity and all that that it has engendered, I recommend that you try "I Shall Seal the Heavens" out anyways - you might like it.

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Amnesiac
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Warlock of the Magus World
August 25, 2017
Status: --
Warlock of the Magus World is a curious read - almost entirely unique within the world of Chinese Novels. It boasts a cold, inhumane protagonist, interesting setting, and adequate prose, that, if nothing else, doesn't serve to make the narrative less cogent or the world building less believable. However, many of the aspects of Warlock of the Magus World that originally differentiated it as a new and interesting take on fantasy cultivation weigh it down in later chapters and lead to the degradation of a series with superlative potential.

Warlock of... more>> the Magus world is predicated on its main character; Leylin Farlier was originally a scientist but died in a lab mishap and transmigrated to the body of a lascivious noble. Upon arriving in the new world, Leylin discovers that the A.I chip he worked to invent in his past life had fused with his soul upon transmigration. And so, with nothing more than the A.I chip, his wits, and the will to survive, Leylin attempts to climb the power hierarchy of this new world until even life and death lie obsequious beneath him. While many of the essential elements of a cultivation story are present in Warlock of the Magus World, the world is unique because of small yet significant differences in the narrative and setting, and this uniqueness is what makes it a conceptually great novel.

Most important of these aspects is Leylin; a character who originally appears cool and ruthless, but becomes more and more deplorable as the story progresses and he is exposed to various dangers. Within the first two hundred chapters, Leylin changes from a character who struggles to adapt to the nihilistic pragmatism of the Magus World to an emotionally dead individual - one who has no qualms with manipulating and hurting those "close" to him in the pursuit of power. He is a snake, as cold and unfeeling as the A.I chip he relies on and beholden exclusively to a bestial lust for power, Leylin is fundamentally inhuman. Forget love, even his pursuit of s*x seems driven by a desire to gain strength and influence;
Spoiler

when Leylin advances to a rank five Magus and evolves into the Kemoyin Emperor, even the most basic of human urges, the compulsion to eat, becomes a means to gain power.

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Seeing a character who is so unabashedly selfish and without a modicum of pretense is refreshing beyond words. Within a sea of ostensibly "morally ambiguous" protagonists, Leylin stands alone as one of the only truly evil main characters in a light novel. However, much like Frank Underwood of "House of Cards", Leylin is difficult to detest because he is presented as vacuous. Just as Underwood is a marionette beholden to the whims of political theater, Leylin is a slave to his desire for power. And so the audience, comfortable with the knowledge that the story presented is purely fictional, is able to enjoy watching his exploits without ever being forced to identify with him. The writing style also contributes to this sense of dissociation. At times, the prose takes on the qualities of a lab report. Extraneous emotional adjectives may be excised entirely, making the world presented appear even colder and the narrative even more skeletal than it would seem normally. However, Leylin's lack of a personality and the minimalist prose that makes Warlock of the Magus world interesting to read throughout the first couple arcs quickly becomes a hindrance as the authors' ideas gradually lose their novelty. In any long running project that has stringent time constraints, it can be expected that the novel's author will begin to experience fatigue, becoming less and less creative as the story drags on. However, this degradation becomes a massive issue in Warlock of the Magus world. Leylin's lack of character and the bland prose that permeates this story only serve to exacerbate the clear loss of artistic direction that the author experiences in later chapters. Warlock of the Magus World never becomes quite as cyclical as, say, Against the Gods. But as the locales and narrative elements introduced at the start of each arc become less novel and less intriguing, there is no safety net to save this story from plummeting into mediocrity.

For a novel in the style of Warlock of the Magus World to excel, clear artistic direction and a soundly structured story are needed along with adequate world building, otherwise, it becomes as bland and uninteresting as its prose and characters. In other words, the novel has to be technically and creatively excellent to truly be great. While Warlock of the Magus World accomplishes this feat throughout its first few hundred chapters, it is eventually crushed beneath its excessive length, leading to increasingly lackluster chapters in the second half of the story that eventually fall off in quality entirely. Warlock of the Magus World is an average story with a very strong start, and a vapid ending. I would recommend trying the story out. It won't be for everyone; some may find Leylin's personality abrasive while others may find the prose to be underwhelming. However, for those who don't mind these ostensible issues, the first act of Warlock of the Magus World is a unique and enjoyable read - hell, while the quality falls off later on, readers who are truly invested in the setting and characters might even be able to enjoy the story's later arcs. This story is definitely worth a try; by the end of the first hundred chapters, you'll know whether or not it's for you, and if you do enjoy it, the first 400 or so chapters are a pretty exceptional read. <<less
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Dungeon Defense
July 3, 2017
Status: --
The plot of Dungeon Defense centers around and is largely told in the voice of a nameless man who, upon answering a survey regarding a video game by the name of Dungeon Attack, is transported into the game's world as the second weakest of the 72 demon Lords who rule therein, Dantalion. Having completed the game and come to a conclusion regarding how the world would come to an end after the hero had defeated all 72 demon Lords, Dantalian vows to aquire authority and save the world by any... more>> means necessary.

The world of Dungeon Defense isn't anything particularly remarkable; the low fantasy setting consists of the usual genre tropes - the segregation and discrimination of races being first and foremost.

However, what makes this story notable is neither the plot nor setting. Rather, Dungeon Defense is, more than anything, a novel defined by it's characters and thematic content. Few characters in this story are either foolish or uninteresting. Take the misanthropic misfit Dantalian for example - a lazy and physically weak yet decidedly licenteous meglomaniac with a tongue of gold and the sh*ttiest moral compass this side of the Mexican border (don't get your panties in a bunch; it's just a joke) - a colorfull character to say the least. Indeed few characters in Dungeon Defense are uninteresting and even fewer are unintelligent. Dantalian is a master schemer, with all likelyhood the best in the story, and yet on a myriad of occasions he is outwitted by friends, enemies, and individuals of dubious standing. The resulting dynamic is unpredictable, exciting, and not at all insulting to the reader's intelligence (as with Death Note where stories attempt convince you that characters are smart by constantly explaining what they're doing and why it's so damn smart). Furthermore, Dantalian's lack of individual strength forces him to consistently rely his on wits and eloquence to accomplish important goals, meaning that intellectual and rhetorical confrontations make up the bulk of the novel. The author, Yoo Heonhwa, evidently understands his strengths and the strengths of his story, and is able to play to them quite adeptly.

The plot, while more or less a vessel for character interactions, is also well thought out. This story clearly isn't a hastily strung together novel composed of disjointed plot-points Making up unrelated story arc after unrelated story arc. No, this is a well paced, planned, and executed story and that also boasts suprising thematic density for it's medium.

The prose here is consistently excellent, at times even gorgeous. When characters choose to wax poetic while monaloging, their thoughts are rendered with the uptmost clarity and startling eloquence. While not so good as to warrant a read in and of itself, the gravitas and concision that Yoo Heonhwa has employed in writing Dungeon Defense is not entirely incomparible to the excellent prose of Light Novel paragons such as ErGen and only serves to enhance the reading experience.

Dungeon Defense a superlative novel - a well written, well paced story with adequate world building and morally ambiguous, intelligent characters. There's very little to objectively critique here besides a couple of game mechanics that are introduced early on and slowly fade out of relevency as the story continues. To my mind, even this choice on the author's part impacted the story positively. Rather continue to shoehorn game mechanics into the story in order to appeal to a demographic, the author chose to make the story more immersive by discarding tired cliches such as choice boxes in favor of traditional storytelling. If you share my tastes - if you love to watch scheming and tense character interactions awash with subtext and complexity; if you love solid storytelling and good prose; if you love structurally sound and concise stories - you will likely anxiously await the release of volume 5 along with me and this novel's burgeoning fanbase.

Tl;dr Really good story w. Really good characters. Try reading through the tutorial segment if you're interested cause nothing prior to that is truly representative of what DD is all about. <<less
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God Of Slaughter
May 31, 2017
Status: --
God of Slaughter is a XuanHuan novel that follows the exploits of Shi Yan, a former adrenaline junky reborn in the body of a wastrel.

This setup is archetypical transmigration--a young boy met an unfortunate accident, died, and has been reborn in the body of another young man. He occupies a low social standing, giving him the opportunity to rise up through the hierarchy of this strange new world armed with naught but his wits and an ancient enigmatic artifact.

As with many stories that lack an especially creative concept or setting,... more>> the execution of God of Slaughter is what makes--and eventually breaks--the narrative. While the main character has been introduced to this setting in an uninventive way, his backstory is used to help flesh him out: Shi Yan's parents died at a young age, leaving him with a large sum of money and little positive moral support or direction in life. It is implied heavily that the death of Shi Yan's parents left him feeling vacuous; he tried to fill the hole engendered by loss with adrenaline highs and s*x but was ultimately unsuccessful. Instead, he became addicted to his medication, chasing highs until he plummeted to his death.

This backstory is instrumental in the development of Shi Yan's character, and, for a narrative within its genre, shows admirable nuance and care.

Furthermore, the ancient artifact that Shi Yan comes into possession of early on is quickly shown to be sinister in nature, slowly changing the protagonist's nature.

Unfortunately, there is little else positive to say for the setting of God of Slaughter. Even if the story was a relatively short-lived tale of cultivation, the essential elements introduced from the beginning have all the makings of a good XuanHuan

novel. However, Shi Yan's character undergoes some rather distasteful changes when
Spoiler

he discovers that he is related to a powerful family and begins to abuse his background as a means to achieve often detestable personal goals. Subsequently, a character who could have developed into a brooding sinister antihero instead becomes a petulant child, the archetypal wuxia villian who abuses his family's backround in order to accomplish petty goals.

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As the story progresses past this revelation, the character begins to simultaneously regress, gradually turning more and more puerile as each chapter is released.

In summation, God of Slaughter has a strong beginning and an interesting premise but is ultimately weighed down by poor character development amongst the principal cast. My recommendation is that you give this story a try and continue reading until you can't stomach any more of the main character's rapey antics. <<less
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Amnesiac
Emperor’s Domination
April 12, 2017
Status: --
Emperor's Domination, while eminently imperfect in it's narrative and world building, is one of the purest, most poignant examples of wish fulfillment in the genre of contemporary Xuanhuan. The cultivation system is badly set up, imprecisely explained, and contains very little internal consistency towards the novel's beginning, but in all candor, the appeal of this novel lies not with its cultivation. Unlike many novel's that attempt to hide their intent behind flimsy, inorganic narratives, Emperor wears its this "shame" on its sleeve: the story only serves to aggrandize the main... more>> character, Li Qiye and allow the reader to enjoy his personality and exploits. It isn't heavy, or meaningful, nor does it intend to be and this unabashed pursuit of a single creative direction is what makes Emperor so great. In fact, one of the primary reasons why emperor works is it's main character, Li Qiye. Originally imprisoned by The Immortal Grotto - an organisation introduced within the first ten chapters that still remains mysterious - Li Qiye gained an immortal form at the age of 15. Using this body, dubbed the dark crow by posterity, his acumen, and (as corny as it sounds) sheer willpower, he worked his way to the pinnacle of the world without the power of cultivation, gathering supreme generals and training immortal emperors on his journey. In a way, the story's premise is comparable to that of Sovereign of the Three realms because Li Qiye, like Jiang Chen, possesses superior knowledge and experience to those around him, but lacks talent. However, while Jiang Chen remains calm and aloof (though never pretentious) regardless of the situation, Li Qiye displays both boundless arrogance and confidence. Whatever the circumstances, his actions are consistent with his character and the premise that a man who's experienced all the vicissitudes like has to offer is unbowed and arrogant at all times. In a world where might makes right, Li Qiye proves time and time again that he has the right to be arrogant. While many main characters collect numerous love interests - either intentionally or purposefully - on their adventures, Li Qiye's harem develops differently. He travels throughout a plethora of new and interesting locales, each one boasting a set of girls more genius and self satisfied than the last, and cows those heaven's proud daughters who oppose him or fail to recognize his superiority, turning them into maids and drivers, while never forgetting to remind them of his apathy towards their talents and appearances. He is not a character that is romantically dense in the style of japanese light novels. Rather, his problem is the exact opposite: Li Qiye is so experienced in romantic endeavors that next to no one can move his heart. The contrast cast between Li Qiye's actions and those of protagonists from inferior novels is clear. While other main characters may act arrogant to those who've wronged them and show unconditional mercy to the people who they hold dear, Li Qiye repairs any and all resistance he encounters with scler**ic arrogance and, if necessary, unconditional annihilation. He may be hypocritical at times, but is never ambivalent. He is always right, because he is always strong. He is all of the most hated tropes in modern Wuxia - the arrogance, the hypocrisy, and the "inexplicable" romantic success that protagonists exhibit - turned to 11, and it's glorious.

While Li Qiye's character and the superlative power fantasy that Emperor's Domination offers is present in the first hundred chapters of the novel, it is hampered by the author's clear lack of intent in world building, particularly in regards to the novel's cultivation system. While this system is unique, it is incredibly hard to understand at this point in the novel, and the author's lack of detail and clear explanation only serves to exacerbate this issue. Fortunately, when this issue resolves itself and the makeup of this system becomes clearer, it only serves to enhance the novel. In fact, cultivation in Emperor's Domination is similar to what is found in many of contemporary author Er Gen's works; each new stage that the protagonist advances to provides new challenges. Cultivation isn't a static effort that happens without the reader's knowledge. When Li Qiye advances to a new realm, the new challenges and chances to excel that the realm brings are just as, if not more important than the increase in ability that it represents. Unfortunately, as of the latest arc, the author's verbosity has only continued to worsen. While this problem is virtually inescapable, the dilution of any good story is a lugubrious sight to behold.

In summation, Emperor's Domination is a fun novel. It doesn't attempt to be an exceptional novel, but its lack of pretension and steadfast tonal consistency are what make it great. If the story's stellar concept was not degraded by the execution, I would consider this novel a perfect 5, a story that had managed to fulfill its purpose without any outstanding error. Unfortunately, a story as unique and enjoyable as Emperor is not the story that it should be as a result of the author's lackluster prose and world building. <<less
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Against the Gods
April 12, 2017
Status: c700
Against the Gods starts as many other stories in the xuanhuan genre do, with a transmigration. The unfortunate sod who's died in this story is a weak willed cripple by the name of Xiao Che, poisoned on his wedding day by boys from his village who covet the beauty of his betrothed. Ironically, Yun Che, an expert physician and the possessor of the heavenly 'Sky Poison Pearl', is reborn after committing suicide into Xiao Che, and thus, with his knowledge of medicine and the accumulated experience of two short lifetimes,... more>> Yun Che begins his journey as a cultivator.

What follows is fairly standard for wuxia:
Spoiler

Yun Che meets a mysterious 13 year old girl by the name of Jasmine who cures the defect that has stopped him from practicing cultivation by offering him the profound veins of the Evil God, and assumes the role of his master and protector provided he helps to reconstruct her body and allows her to take residence within the Sky Poison Pearl.

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Yun Che is an interesting character. While he originally appears to be the archetypal "pacifist unless provoked - incarnation of vengeance when sufficiently offended" protagonist, his origin is rather interesting.
Spoiler

The relationships and traumas of Yun Che's past life largely define his character, and while his originally demo is later abandoned for a more tempered, less abrasive personality, his past has remained relevant up to this point and eventually integrated into the main plot through the Mirror of Samsara.

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Against the Gods is often criticized for it's formulaic nature - a just and well founded critique to be sure. The plot proceeds in a cyclical fashion - developments are recycled starting near the first tournament segment - each time with the same essential elements aside from the setting and characters involved all the while progressing what seems to be an overarching narrative that relates to Jasmine, the primordial era, the Evil God, and a mysterious realm that appears to exceed the powers of comprehension belonging to Yun Che and his kin. This larger plot remains shrouded in mystery, much in the same way that the true nature of the Vast Expanse in ISSTH remains mysterious until the story's conclusion is in sight. This ambiguity in the setting is a powerful plot device that allows the author to hint at forces beyond the understanding of the protagonist at play and an ever brewing central conflict while leaving the story's shape and composition flexible. However, such a plot device is only useful if the promise of a greater conflict contains substance and the enigmatic quality of the setting gradually fades as the character grows in strength. Stories that fail to deliver on mystery of their universes in the long or short term such as AST are oftentimes rendered impotent by this small flaw irrespective of any other virtues and shortcomings. When used correctly, this device makes the setting of a novel infinitely more intriguing, and when used incorrectly, it discards any thin veneer of believably that the world posseses. While ISSTH was able to make effective use of this device, ATG may not deliver, and within the context of the story, not as it has been translated thus far, but rather as a cohesive work, this single point of interest is of paramount importance. Ultimately, I feel that it is too early to rate ATG, as the author appears to be nowhere near finished with this series. However, what exists as of my writing of this review is a typical wish fulfillment story with a strong premise and decent writing, and in reality, that alone is well above average for the xuanhuan genre. <<less
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