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Attica
Attica rated it
Record of the Missing Sect Master
September 2, 2018
Status: Completed
Once upon a time, there was a boy with loving parents, adorable siblings, and an all-around happy family. His future was bright thanks to his great talent, until one day a group of villains ruthlessly butchered his family. The young boy desperately escaped and managed to find refuge, until one day that same group of villains came by and wrecked that refuge too.

... Yeah, you can imagine what the motivation of our MC might be.

And indeed, if I had to describe Record of the Missing Sect Master in a single... more>> sentence, I'd say it's "The Count of Monte Cristo where the Count gives himself amnesia and assumes a different identity to publicly pursue the villains who took everything away from him."

Revenge is a dish best served cold--That's a principle that this novel understands extremely well.

And the best part is, this epic revenge story is also gut-bustingly hilarious, with a colorful cast of quirky characters and a multitude of wonderfully awkward situations.

1) Story

The story starts with Ye You, the leader of a prominent demonic sect, losing his memory. His amnesiac self encounters a man named Wenren Heng, who claims to be his older disciple-brother from 10 years ago. One thing leads to another, and the two of them end up working together to unravel a conspiracy that spans the entire Wuxia world. Any more than that is spoiler territory~

I will guarantee you that just like all great revenge stories, Record of the Missing Sect Master does a superb job weaving numerous characters and plotlines, building up suspense and then releasing it in immensely cathartic reveals. The wonderfully foreshadowed plot twists kept me so hooked, I binged the entire book in 3 days (I literally couldn't stop reading and finished the last half of the novel in one session!!!) Pretty much my only problems with the story would be that 1) With all the manipulations and mindgames it can sometimes get a little hard to keep track of who's exactly doing what, and 2) Why isn't the story longer so we can get more time with all the characters???

2) Characters

Ye You as an MC walks an incredibly delicate and awesome line between "real" and "acting". He has so many faces, and yet you can recognize all of those faces as part of a coherent whole. He's jawdroppingly badass with a genius intellect, so it's of course extremely satisfying when he always chooses the perfect moment to slap his enemies' faces. Yet we also get to see him in his most vulnerable moments, especially when he trusts Wenren Heng enough to reveal that Ye You is still that innocent determined child at heart.

Wenren Heng, the ML, similarly has many faces and sides. He shows a different side of himself to everyone he meets, which really reinforces how he feels like a real human being. You can think of him as the equivalent of the "Mercedes" character in the Count of Monte Cristo, if Mercedes had remained faithful to the Count over all those years and then worked alongside him to pin down the vile criminals.

The two main characters serve as perfect counterparts to each other, where Wenren Heng gives Ye You a stalwart ally who will follow him to the grave and a safe space to show his human weakness, and Ye You gives Wenren Heng the opportunity to see the truth and the chance to pursue justice. And both are absolutely hilarious on their own, so when they get together... their combined shameless antics can reach the clouds.

Now for the supporting cast... I LOVE PRETTY MUCH EVERY SIDE CHARACTER IN THIS NOVEL. Every single character had their own unique quirky personality, badass time in the spotlight, and hilariously awkward moments where they played the straight man. Pretty much every single "good" side character was extremely likeable. I loved every single one of the eccentric Demonic Sect Elders, I loved all the adorably dorky younger generation characters, I loved all of Ye You's helpers (especially since those helpers always had awesome entrances)... yeah I could go on forever.

And even the villains felt like real human beings. This is because the novel had a compelling recurring theme - everyone is capable of love. Even the villains, as disgustingly horrible as they were, had loved ones who they treasured. In fact, if they didn't have loved ones, Ye You would not have been able to exact his revenge. (Like all great revenge stories, there's always that backdrop of tragedy even in the most satisfying moments ;___;)

3) Overall Enjoyment: This is of course entirely subjective. But as I previously mentioned, I literally finished the second half of this novel by reading 14 hours straight. My heart hurt at the reveal of the tragic past events, I smiled when Ye You and Wenren Heng talked things out and got together, I gasped at the unexpected plot twists, I cheered at all the moments of Ye You and co. being awesome, and I of course couldn't stop laughing at the hilarious antics resulting from wonderful character interactions. This novel was just pure unadulterated joy to read, and I give it my highest recommendations. <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System
June 17, 2018
Status: Completed
Reading the Scum Villain's Self-Saving System is a ticket onto a true rollercoaster of emotions: heartwarming fluff, depressing angst, and of course lots and lots of laugh-out-loud humor. Like any good parody, it simultaneously makes fun of common tropes while also triumphantly embracing those very same tropes.

1) Story

The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System is predominantly a parody of the infamous power/revenge/harem fantasy genre of books, nicknamed "Stallion novels". You know, the whole "OP Protagonist is tormented and abused as a child, then gains a sudden boost in magical power which he... more>> uses to exact merciless revenge on his old tormentors--while also amassing a giant harem of beautiful ladies."

In fact, the protagonist of Scum Villain is a reader who detests one such particularly poorly written Stallion novel (starring the male protagonist Luo Binghe (LBH)). This reader's hatred of the novel is so great that when he dies, he gets transmigrated into that very same story. Unfortunately, he happens to be given the role of Shen Qingqiu (SQQ) --the "scum villain who tormented the child protagonist and cast him into hell, and was later brutally tortured and murdered by the grown-up protagonist."

As you can expect, our main character, the newly reincarnated SQQ, is very eager not to get brutally tortured and murdered like the original SQQ was in canon. He also has all his knowledge of the original book's plot to help him survive (and poke fun at the cliches). Unfortunately, he cannot act freely. His transmigration comes with a "System" which forces him to act in character and maintain at least some of the canon storyline--including the crucial turning point where SQQ traitorously casts LBH into the equivalent of hell.

The result is a perfect recipe for both hilarity and angst (though mostly hilarity). The story is vaguely split into a fluffy beginning (where SQQ serves as a Tsundere teacher to the adorable teenager LBH) vs. a second half that's both humorous and sad (where SQQ navigates a complicated/uncertain relationship with the powered-up LBH who returned from hell).

On a more general level, Scum Villain's Self-Saving System creates a vibrant high fantasy setting while parodying it at the same time. The use of magic and demons follows the usual tropes, but having SQQ giving silent audience commentary makes everything feel fresh all over again. SQQ successfully fills in many of the original story's plot holes along the way :P

Overall, "Scum Villain's Self-Saving System", is a cohesive and beautifully written story that uses even the smallest of details. Of course it's not absolutely perfect. I'd say the 2nd half of the plot has quite a bit of angst resulting from miscommunication, and the pacing can sometimes move at a breakneck speed. However, I personally find these to contribute to the story's uniqueness, as opposed to detracting from it. (ex: The miscommunications in question actually made sense in-character. The story definitely does not drag.)

2) Characters

I think it's fair to say I love every single character in the Scum Villain's Self-Saving System. It's funny because the original novel's characters were almost entirely 1-Dimensional, but the world of SQQ's revised story truly feels alive.

First, let's look at our main character Shen Qingqiu. I find his character to be super interesting for a MC. He manages to put on a "calm, smooth, badass" appearance, but we as an audience can see his inner monologues where he is always secretly freaking the hell out, swearing at novel cliches, and smashing the fourth wall. SQQ is a rare protagonist who falls under the "stoic sagely mentor" character archetype but hilariously subverts it at the same time. (Makes you wonder what all the other stoic sagely mentor characters in other works of fiction were always thinking beneath the surface...)

On one hand, SQQ shows himself to be incredibly intelligent, driven, kind, wise, powerful, clear-headed, and easygoing. On the other hand, he has clear flaws that naturally stem from those very qualities! His stoicism successfully hides his inner freak-outs, but also prevents other characters from seeing his true thoughts/feelings. His biggest strength (using the plot of the original Stallion novel to his advantage) also becomes his biggest weakness (thinking the living people around him are still the stereotypical characters they were in the original novel). And yes, it is extremely fulfilling and satisfying when he realizes and overcomes those flaws <3

SQQ is probably the first Isekai protagonist I've ever loved, and I adore his character. (... legit the only thing keeping me from cosplaying him is how he doesn't have an official design yet)

Now onto the other main character--the male lead of the original novel, Luo Binghe. LBH is a really fun character, with two obvious faces: the "innocent hard-working lamb disciple with a maiden's glass heart", and the post-hell "ruthless overpowered genius demon lord out for revenge". But instead of how you'd expect these two faces to contradict each other, they actually co-exist perfectly!! Given the unique way these two sides interact with other characters, every scene with LBH is a joy to read. (Interestingly enough, he technically falls under the trope of Male Yandere. But when reading the novel I never once thought of him as a tropey character, simply because his thoughts and emotions were written so naturally.)

As you can tell, I love both main characters. But the supporting cast also has its share of wonderfully 3-Dimensional people, each with their own badass/touching/heartbreaking/funny moments. My favorite side characters are probably Liu Qingge and Yue Qingyuan. Liu Qingge is absolutely hilarious as the unfortunate straight man to the SQQ/LBH chaos, while Yue Qingyuan is the warm big brother figure with hidden depths.

There's not a single person I can truly hate in this story, even the original "scum villain" SQQ or the spoilery Big Bad. All in all, I honestly have absolutely no complaints about any of the characters. Oh wait, I guess I do have one complaint--I wish the story was longer so we could get more time with all the characters :P

3) Overall Enjoyment

This is of course entirely subjective. But from my personal perspective... reading the Scum Villain's Self-Saving System was the most fun I've had in a long while. It had the perfect blend between drama, fluff, and humor (which I find pretty impressive since the original author seemed like he had a fetish for tragic backstories LOL). It never takes itself too seriously and has a great time poking fun at high fantasy popcorn novels, but it's also not afraid to tell an earnest story that delves into realistic human emotions and situations.

[Miscellaneous Comments: Since the author of Scum Villain also wrote Mo Dao Zu Shi / Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, a comparison is inevitable. I do love both works, especially how each fulfills its own unique niche! I will say that on a subjective level, I find Scum Villain more enjoyable to read. Its humor and fluff is relaxing/easy to digest and pretty much everyone gets a happy ending, while MDZS sometimes ventures into depressing/horror/tragedy territory. Though that's just my personal preference for comedy/optimism showing :P

Also of note, the BL romance in Scum Villain's Self-Saving System is relatively downplayed. While the interaction/relationship between Luo Binghe and Shen Qingqiu forms the absolute core of the novel, it only become a reciprocated romance near the end. Poor Luo Binghe has most of the feelings, while SQQ is completely oblivious for over half the story. I definitely did not mind this though, and found it felt quite natural.] <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
Thousand Autumns
August 29, 2018
Status: Completed
Thousand Autumns is a fantastic analysis of what makes a strong man. A man isn't strong because he can shatter mountains with a single strike, or make a nation bow with a wave of his hand.

A strong man is one relentlessly betrayed and beaten down by everyone he holds dear, who can still take every blow and stand back up even straighter than before.

A strong man is one who can go through hell and emerge on the other side with the same warm and gentle heart he started out with.

A... more>> strong man is one who brings out the best of every person who surrounds him.

Shen Qiao is one such strong man. And luckily for us readers, a wonderful character like him is the MC of this novel.

1) Story

The story starts with Shen Qiao as a martial artist at the very peak of the world, until disaster strikes and he finds himself falling to the same level as the dust and mud. At this vulnerable time in his life, he finds himself aided by another martial arts master, Yan Wushi. The only problem is, Yan Wushi is definitely not a benevolent person--in fact, he wants to see how far a good man can be pushed before finally succumbing to the same evils of human nature that plague humanity.

It's the classic Boy Meets Girl, except, you know, for the part where it's actually "Righteous gentle Taoist cultivator becomes complex frenemies with an amoral trolling Demonic sect master."

On a more general level, Thousand Autumns feels like a living Wuxia world, with factions and politics galore. Each area and martial arts sect has its own time in the limelight, weaving the plot points together beautifully.

Overall, Thousand Autumns nicely juggles numerous characters and plotlines into a coherent epic, all seen through the eyes of best MC Shen Qiao!

Of course, it's not absolutely perfect--I think the 1st half of the story is a bit more compelling since that's when Shen Qiao faces the most hardship (I swear I'm not a sadist or masochist lol). The 2nd half of the plot does have a couple cliche plot points too like
Spoiler

fake deaths and split personality.

[collapse]
The complicated politics can make your head spin a little bit at some points too. And the ending is a bit rushed (effectively ending immediately after the climax, just when Shen Qiao is recognizing his feelings), so we don't get full resolution on some of the side characters that have shown up over this massive plot.

Still, I can only bow in respect to the author for how well the plot flows--I couldn't stop reading, and ended up binging the entire book in 3 days!!

2) Characters

Okay, yeah, I love Shen Qiao. Pretty much everyone who reads this book loves Shen Qiao. The book itself loves Shen Qiao--in fact, Thousand Autumns is very much a character study of Shen Qiao :P

Unfortunately, this means he undergoes lots of horrible tragic circumstances to test his mettle. His allies abandon and betray him, his kindness is repaid with cruelty, his enemies pressure him from all sides, he is spit upon as a useless failure of a beggar. You know, fun fun fun!

However, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, these hardships also grant him the opportunity for his true inner strength to shine. For in the end, no amount of dust can possibly obscure the beauty and shine of a real pearl. This makes Shen Qiao fall into my absolute favorite category of characters: Genuinely good people who suffer horribly, yet keep walking forward just as beautiful and kind as before. Warm as the sun and gentle as the grass, yet with a core as strong as steel and enduring as the mountains.

Now onto the other main character--the amoral, ridiculously powerful, cynical, and hedonistic Yan Wushi. The initial Yan Wushi really did terrify me, especially how he treated Shen Qiao as an experiment and toy. But that only made it that much more satisfying when he finally realizes Shen Qiao truly exceeds his expectations. That just this once, there could exist a real human as wonderful and genuine and good as Shen Qiao. I was very much pleasantly surprised at how the dynamic between these two characters continually changed and evolved, until they finally reached a very adorable equilibrium of "genuinely playful Yan Wushi teasing a Dere-Tsun Shen Qiao". Both characters are such complete opposites, yet they both grow to understand the other's perspective while managing to preserve their own core.

Now for the supporting cast... yeah it's massive in this novel thanks to the political aspects. But every single character has their own role to play, and the political alliances/betrayals make those side character dynamics really fun to keep track of. My favorite supporting characters were probably Bai Rong/Fifteen/Yu Ai, as well as the long-deceased Qi Fengge. Now I only wish the story gave us more time with the side characters so everyone could get resolution :P

3) Overall Enjoyment: This is of course entirely subjective. But I will be honest, Thousand Autumns got me absolutely ridiculously invested into one man's story. I smiled with his joy at being able to save a single child, I cheered when he showed his true strength and proved his enemies wrong, and I goddamn wept like a baby every single time he cried.

Now if only our current world had someone like Shen Qiao. But if there are none, that's okay too--all we have to do is each aspire to become someone Shen Qiao would be proud of.

P.S. One last warning, whenever Shen Qiao has a flashback to his long-lost happy childhood, get those tissues ready because you know those waterworks are coming!!!

[Also of note, as I previously mentioned, the BL romance in Thousand Autumns comes really late and is pretty downplayed. This is because Shen Qiao's character is naturally not a super romantic person lol. Still, I feel the romance fits the story really well by bringing out the human side of both Shen Qiao and Yan Wushi.] <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
Quickly Wear the Face of the Devil
October 12, 2018
Status: extra 1 part1
First off, one honest comment amidst the endless masses of hysteric praise--Quickly Wear the Face of the Devil is a fun "gateway drug" to the Boys' Love and Quick Transmigration genres, but it's nowhere near the cream of the crop.

-----

One of the greatest strengths of the Quick Transmigration genre is the sheer variety of content. No matter what your preferences are, Quickly Wear the Face of the Devil is bound to have a certain genre/arc/trope that you like.

Unfortunately, this same characteristic is also one of the greatest weaknesses of the... more>> genre.

Because for every arc/world that perfectly fits your personal preferences... there's going to be one that makes you cringe so hard you can feel your liver.

1) Plot

At its core, Quickly Wear the Face of the Devil is a series of repetitive story arcs that all follow one general premise:

Zhou Yunsheng transmigrates into a character that would normally be stupid and evil cannon fodder. Because he has a ridiculously overpowered wealth of knowledge (especially the skills of a "L33T HAXORZ"), he instead makes this cannon fodder character shine. This involves slapping the faces of those who previously disliked the cannon fodder character, particularly the "original protagonist" of each world. Along the way, he strikes up an eternal romance with another person who appears to be transmigrating from world to world with him.

All 15-16 of the arcs/worlds that Zhou Yunsheng travels to follow this same pattern. Just by reading this premise alone, you can probably tell whether you as an individual will enjoy this story.

At the same time, each arc/world uses different tropes from different genres. Personal taste definitely factors into which worlds you enjoy, but some of these arcs are inherently more compelling than others.

Disclaimer with my personal preferences: I like historical/fantasy settings. I absolutely goddamn hate "overpowered Hollywood Hacking", which is sadly all over the place in this novel.

And as someone who does cherish originality, I resented that some arcs of this novel kept holding up the MC's ability to copy/plagiarize as some great and noble act which we readers should applaud.

As a result, out of these 15 arcs, some of them I greatly enjoyed, while others I absolutely hated.

Expand the "spoilers" below for my extremely quick reviews on each arc.

Spoiler

    1. Rich Heir/IT Developer - a very dull first arc, with lots of the aforementioned "bullsh*t hacking". Every single side character was extremely extremely flat. I almost dropped the entire novel because of how little substance there was to this world. 1/5.
    2. Autistic Painter (modern day) - I enjoyed the drama, especially how the MC took a more subtle/manipulative role instead of BSing every single thing with "hacking". 3.5 out of 5.
    3. Scholar in Ancient Times - some of the plot points were cliche, and MC used "Silly Plagiarism Powers" to impress everyone. I did enjoy some of the side characters, and at least there was no "B.S. hacking" haha. 3 out of 5.
    4. Gold Digger Boyfriend - I liked the drama and catharsis in this arc, though I felt the writing was on the hammy side. The ML's role was a tiny bit shoehorned and shallow. 3.5 out of 5.
    5. Landlord - hooray for more drama! I liked that the side characters of this world weren't completely flat--even though they were kind of antagonistic, they had understandable motivations. The ending kind of sputtered out without a strong finish though. 3.5 out of 5.
    6. Rockstar - I hated this arc. It was the epitome of this novel's worst aspects: the MC plagiarizes/regurgitates stuff from popular culture and claims it as his own, while the crowds eat it up like candy as "original". The ML's role was also shallow. 0 out of 5.
    7. Concubine - I'm a sucker for ancient times stuff with compelling side characters. (The original world's protagonists actually felt human, as opposed to shallow smug assholes!) And the MC got to play a more subtle/manipulative role again. 4 out of 5.
    8. Supermodel Contestant - I thought I would absolutely goddamn detest this arc since I hate reality TV shows and this kind of petty drama. The ML in this arc also gave me creepy vibes to be honest... However, I was really pleasantly surprised by one of the wonderful side characters!! She carried this arc for me, even though the writing fell back into boring territory near the end. 3 out of 5.
    9. Researcher in the Apocalypse - I also enjoyed this more than I expected, since the side characters were nicely fleshed out. I liked that the MC actually didn't focus much on manipulation and deception this time around, and instead honestly worked really really hard. Unfortunately, this made his own character a tiny bit flat. 3.5 out of 5.
    10. Light Priest - how do I put this... some of the tropes in this arc really did not ring my bell, and the side characters could be extremely infuriating. The overly detailed scenes between MC and ML read a bit like someone's fetish play... 2 out of 5.
    11. A/B/O Intergalactic Soldier - oh boy, petty love triangle drama and a "original protagonist of this world" who acted overly stupidly. This arc felt a little discongruous, like it wasn't sure what tone it wanted to be. 1.5 out of 5.
    12. Disciple Cultivator - I like the cultivation genre, so I was happy to dive into this. However, it was on the cliche side for a cultivation novel. 3 out of 5.
    13. CEO of an IT Company - this is probably the only technology-related arc I didn't mind too much, simply because it didn't focus that much on silly OP hacking. It was just drama, plain and simple, and didn't overstay its welcome. 3.5 out of 5.
    14. Hidden Twin/Piano Prodigy - mmm give me that delicious drama and angst. Some of the MC's "bullsh*t overpowered musical skill" moments made me roll my eyes, and I again felt the ML's character was rather shoe-horned and flat. But overall, I liked the side characters and absolutely loved the general themes of this arc. 4 out of 5.
    15. Emperor - a nice and "simple" court politics arc!! I really liked how this story knew exactly what it wanted to be--the MC masterfully manipulating the events around him, without using any random "oh I know everything about this subject because hacking" bullsh*t. 4 out of 5.
    16. Genius Hacker in the "Real World" -... this last arc was not good. Not good. The world-building was confusing, the side characters were all really stupid, the plot was paper-thin and riddled with holes, and... Bullsh*t Hacking returned. It made the story end on a sour note for me. 0 out of 5.
      [collapse]
2) Characters

Since this is a Quick Transmigration novel, the main characters do change from world to world.

In some worlds I really enjoyed the MC's cunning and wisdom, while in others I detested his selfishness, arrogance, and smugness.

In some worlds the ML went through incredible character development and growth, while in others he was a walking "plot device built to protect the MC", without much of a personality of his own (oh, besides being extremely possessive... sigh).

If you're looking for a complex protagonist with both flaws and lovable aspects, you're not going to find that here. But if you like an overpowered protagonist whose main purpose in life is to slap the faces of each world's protagonists left and right? Congratulations, Zhou Yunsheng is for you. Don't get me wrong, this isn't an inherently bad thing--the story itself understands that the MC is this type of person ;)

(I do appreciate that he is an openly homos*xual MC! I know, it's the small things in life.)

3) Overall Comments:

Quickly Wear the Face of the Dead is not an irredeemably bad story by any means. On the other hand, it's nowhere near a masterpiece. Its writing is not even "objectively good", thanks to a plethora of dropped plot points, flat side characters, Deus Ex Machina, etc.

In particular, there are two big red flags. Do not read this novel if you:

-Want one coherent storyline with true long-term character development, as opposed to all these isolated arcs

-Can't stop rolling your eyes at egregious Marty Stu level "hacking" that's basically the MC waving a magic wand and giving himself godlike powers to resolve any difficulties at all

If you don't mind the above two points, this novel is still a very fun read. It's a prime example of casual/popular/popcorn fiction. If you do pick this novel up, I recommend reading with the baseline expectation that this is inherently a revenge/escapist fantasy. (That way you won't be disappointed like I was.)

In particular, I highly recommend that if you see there's an arc/world with tropes that you do not like, just go ahead and skip it. It will make your reading experience much more enjoyable if you don't have to slog through genres/tropes you hate. You won't be missing much, and you'll still have tons of fun <3 <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
Liu Yao: The Revitalization of Fuyao Sect
September 21, 2018
Status: Completed
First and foremost, Liu Yao is a heartwarming story of found family and blossoming romance. Despite everything I'm going to say below, it has a genuinely happy ending.

But beneath that surface layer, Liu Yao is also a wonderful deconstruction/exploration of the usual themes and messages in the extremely popular cultivation/Xianxia genre.

What does it mean to pursue immortality? Why does one walk down the path of a cultivator? What makes a "good" cultivator? What makes a "good" person?

What happens when we--we utterly foolish, puny, insignificant humans--attempt to defy the will of... more>> the heavens? What happens when you attempt to push the limits of what should be possible?

What does it mean to be only human, yet yearn to become something beyond humanity?

Liu Yao forces us to ask ourselves these ephemeral yet timeless questions. Its characters represent humanity's possible answers to these questions.

Some of these answers have better intentions than others, some have better outcomes than others. An answer can be foolish from one perspective, wise from another. Each person who has ever existed will answer them differently. But there is one common thread--in the end, what could be more human than trying to transcend one's own powerlessness?

1) Plot

At its most basic level, Liu Yao is about a ragtag group of kids who are brought together by their seemingly silly master to join the run-down and ramshackle Fu Yao sect. These disciples share a hilarious childhood filled with trouble-making and mutual complaining/teasing. However, good things can never last. A horrible disaster strikes, and this group of disciples ends up separated and away from home for many many years. As they struggle to return home and rebuild that family, the disciples begin to uncover long-buried secrets of the past: conspiracies, magical corruption, evil plots, and... the dark history of their very own Fu Yao sect.

I will say first and foremost that the pacing of Liu Yao is perfect. The author does a superb job building up the sweetness of a familial daily routine, the dread of incoming calamity, the tearjerking grief of having to bid a permanent farewell, the shock and horror of a plot twist... Each arc is the perfect length and tone.

And yes, despite lots of adorable humor and the relief from relationship development... the overall tone is somewhat dark. If you couldn't tell from my opening monologue, Liu Yao is not what I'd call a super optimistic story haha. While the main five disciples earn a happy ending for themselves, the story is always on the bittersweet side. Liu Yao's most prominent themes are the inevitability of death, the futility of trying to avert one's fate, and the impossibility of returning to one's nostalgic happy past. All in all, how being human sucks.

Hey, at least it's realistic! :P... :/... : (

Still, if there's one thing this novel argues, it's that while we appear to be stuck in despair and grief and hopelessness, we can always do our best within those circumstances. We may never be able to go back to our loving past, but we can try to make our future full of love. Things aren't truly as dire as they seem--we always have a thread of hope. Where the previous generations made mistakes and failed, the bonds of friendship and love between the current disciples give them the strength to successfully earn their happy ending.

2) Characters

Priest does an excellent job writing multidimensional characters who behave in startlingly realistic fashions for their fantastical circumstances. Each of the main five disciples has their own cute quirks, badass moments, and crippling weaknesses.

Our main character is Cheng Qian, the most hard-working and serious disciple of the five, who often plays the straight man to the rest of the group. His wonderful sarcastic tongue makes all his interactions with the sillier characters absolutely hilarious, and I admire his sheer willpower at trying to take all the burdens of the other disciples onto himself. He also has really well-written "obliviousness"--he acknowledges he's not the smartest person in the room, and it makes sense for him to always tackle serious business first. At the same time, Priest deftly explores how these unique characteristics can be turned against him, and how he eventually grows to achieve balance and reclaim his warm dynamic with the other disciples.

The main love interest is Yan Zhengming, who is an absolute joy of a character. He starts off as a complete and utter spoiled narcissist rich kid, pretty much a laugh-out-loud caricature of a lazy dandy. But as the Fu Yao disciples undergo more trials and tribulations, his true core emerges: a real leader who is determined to watch over his younger disciples, who is willing to take on any hardship for the sake of the Fu Yao sect. I also love how he is actually self-aware: he develops an inferiority complex over not being worthy of inheriting the Fu Yao sect and not deserving Cheng Qian's love, which he grows to overcome.

Of course, great character development isn't limited to those two alone. Literally every single character in this novel goes through a complete arc that makes perfect sense for their personality and role in the story!! There are way too many for me to count!

Spoiler

... Unfortunately, for almost every single side character, that complete character arc ends in their tragic death~ Again, "bittersweet".

[collapse]

The villains are also handled with immense skill, whether it's the plot twists they're involved in or their actual character. While some were straight-up more evil than others, their initial motivations and how they became the way they are today all made perfect sense. Every villain character advances the themes of the story, which is exactly what all great villains should do!!

3) Overall Thoughts:

Liu Yao is an extremely captivating novel--to be specific, it is the best Danmei that I will only read once.

Everyone in this book suffers--but to be fair, life is literally us suffering in confused futility. Liu Yao just has a more realistic take on the Xianxia genre through this lens of suffering. (Even now, my heart aches at the very thought of the fate of the story's side couple.)

However, at its core, Liu Yao isn't truly a story of suffering. It's a story of love.

Love in all its beauty and ugliness. Love as it drives us to attempt the impossible. To climb the eternal stairway to the heavens, to push our limits to protect our children, to sacrifice everything to resurrect the love of our life.

Because even if we end up falling and screwing up... we can look back and say: "I don't regret a single thing." <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
Who Dares Slander My Senior Brother
October 9, 2018
Status: Completed
What does it mean to trust someone? Is it enough to blindly believe in that person, to follow them with utter devotion and faith despite not knowing their true motives?

In the end, trusting someone without understanding their true self will only lead you to a dead end of disappointment and betrayal.

As the main characters of Who Dares Slander My Senior Brother find out, true trust must be earned--through suspicion and inquiry, through fire-forged bonds, through opening up about both the good and the bad. And only through that trust, can... more>> they build a love that could last millennia and lifetimes.

1) Story

The young teenager Wen Jing is an adorable fanboy of a certain Xianxia novel's protagonist, the perfect gentleman Jun Yanzhi. Unfortunately, Wen Jing dies before he can finish reading the ending of this novel. Fortunately, he ecstatically discovers he has transmigrated into the world of that novel. Alongside his "JYZ-senpai please notice me" routine, he begins investigating the underlying plots and mysteries of the original novel... and discovers forbidden secrets he was seemingly destined to uncover.

At first, the story of Who Dares Slander My Senior Brother gets off to a somewhat slow, almost slice-of-life start. However, I found myself shockingly gripped by the advent of the aforementioned mystery/conspiracy elements. I loved the use of dramatic irony in particular. I couldn't stop reading to see where the constantly evolving dynamic between Wen Jing and Jun Yanzhi would go next <3

Don't get me wrong, the story definitely had plenty of flaws. Some of the plot points were kind of shoehorned, including a certain time skip. After Wen Jing and Jun Yanzhi's amazing reconciliation about 3/4 of the way through, the plot really struggles to finish on a strong note. It uses rather dry exposition dumps to tie up the remaining plot points, which weren't very dramatic/compelling. In general, the ending was a little abrupt and shoe-horned; the pacing could have been improved by fleshing the final arc out, extending the story 10 chapters or so.

Still, I will say that I absolutely adored how this novel gave a wonderfully plot-relevant explanation for the MC's transmigration, incorporated into the reveal of the MC's true identity!!

2) Characters

To be honest, my favorite part of this novel was the MC's growth! Wen Jing started off as a naive, fanboying, mildly annoying little kid. This fit perfectly since he did transmigrate at only 14-15 years old. Then as the plot revelations started piling up, I was extremely impressed by his realistic reactions and growing maturity. I could empathize with his changing emotions of denial, suspicion, and anger. I adored the scenes where he actively confronted the ML over some of these revelations. Ah, it was overall such a pleasure to see his worldview mature, from blind worship of ML, to willing to kick ML's ass, to accepting both the good and bad sides of ML <3

The ML Jun Yanzhi was also a really fun character, as the archetypal "appearing to be a perfect gentleman, yet actually a scheming mastermind under the surface". His motivations, methodologies, and powers nailed all my favorite tropes~ Any more than that is spoilers lol.

I will say I felt Jun Yanzhi's possessiveness/Yandereness was rather overdone, including some very questionable dubcon/noncon moments in the first half of the story. I'm also not sure what happened to his personality near the end? The MC kind of started overshadowing him after the two reconciled.

Still, the frequently changing relationship between Wen Jing and Jun Yanzhi was such great fun to read. Man I'm such a sucker for these "initially blindly in love --> uncover secrets and get disillusioned with each other --> find out the truth and get back together" plots.

Now for the supporting cast... I enjoyed all of MC and ML's disciple-brothers--they really did feel like a real family. The MC and ML's shifu was also very compelling, so I'm glad he had such an important role in the story and extras. I will say I wished the disciple-brothers got more closure, and that the shifu showed up more near the end. The writing of the villains could have been done a bit better (see the aforementioned "dry exposition dumps" above), but I appreciate that the author did try to give everyone 3-dimensional motivations.

3) Overall Enjoyment: Who Dares Slander My Senior Brother has a wonderfully unique and enjoyable take on the classic "transmigration into a xianxia novel" genre, and hits many of my personal favorite tropes. It ran into some problems in execution (especially near the end), but it was definitely worth it overall!

[Side note: I totally agree with one of the other reviews that literally everything that happens in this novel, both good and bad, is ultimately caused by gay love hahahahahahahaha] <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
The Founder of Diabolism
June 26, 2018
Status: Completed
If there is one aspect that I admire most about the Founder of Diabolism, it is the sheer ambition of the author. Mo Xiang Tong Xiu does her best to weave an astonishing number of plot threads and details together into this novel. Overall, I would call Founder of Diabolism "flawed, but a masterpiece nonetheless."

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1) Story

I honestly find it quite hard to give a concise description of the story of Founder of Diabolism. The novel spans so many genres: fantasy, romance, comedy, tragedy, drama, action, adventure... I guess if I... more>> had to summarize it, Founder of Diabolism is the tale of a man who previously met a tragic end, but has now been given a second chance to mend his mistakes.

The main character in question is Wei WuXian (WWX), a cheerful and mischievous cultivator who turns to dark forbidden magic out of desperation from being horribly oppressed. He makes countless mistakes and inadvertently finds himself harming/alienating everyone he ever cared about. In the end, the other cultivators unite to kill this deranged founder of an evil necromantic path. The end.

... But wait, that's not the end after all. In fact, the story starts the moment Wei WuXian is resurrected from death. Alongside his longstanding frenemy (the uptight and righteous Lan WangJi), he ends up roped into solving a mystery/conspiracy affecting both the past and the present. Having learned and grown from their experiences in their "first life", WWX and LWJ now find a second chance at hope, redemption, justice, and... yes, love.

All in all, the story's ideas and premise are just superb. Still, ideas aren't enough to carry a novel--you need good execution of those ideas.

On one hand, I believe Founder of Diabolism delivers its recurring themes with immense skill. (Oh boy, I could gush about the themes of FOB for days, and in fact kind of do that in just a bit.) The climax in particular ties up every single major plot thread and character arc in a downright beautiful manner.

On the other hand, the writing is definitely not impeccable. It especially has trouble with pacing and tonal consistency.

  • The first half of Founder of Diabolism is rather episodic, kind of like a "mystery-of-the-week" format. Characters drop in and out of each plot arc without any obvious ramifications for the overall story. This means there isn't really "one single goal" driving the story forward so the start can feel somewhat slow. The Big Bad only shows his hand around the halfway point of the novel. That's when the threads of a common conspiracy really start to coalesce.
  • The story frequently bounces between past and present. We are often treated to lengthy flashbacks from WWX's past or from other characters' experiences. Don't get me wrong, those flashbacks have extremely interesting content. They have tons of foreshadowing and dramatic irony, reveal previously hidden secrets, and truly flesh out the living world of Founder of Diabolism. However, no matter how nicely I can try to spin it... It's still disconcerting when one chapter ends on a "present-day cliffhanger!!" and then the next 10+ chapters are spent in an "enormous flashback without any advancement of the present-day story". This type of storytelling, while tolerable and fun for me, is definitely not for everyone.
    • (I will note that the pacing is fine whenever the story is consistently staying in "just the past" or "just the present". It's just the transition points that can be awkward.)
  • The mood of the story changes frequently at the drop of the hat. The story can jump from depressing tragedy to hilarious comedy to heartwarming sentimentality to thrilling action within just one chapter! These rapid mood changes can feel abrupt and dizzying. However, IMO this writing style does fit WWX as a protagonist given his forgetful, flighty, passionate, and "sad clown" personality.
  • I'm going to be honest... some parts of the story are very depressing, even horrifying. Lots of people meet tragic ends in this story. The flashbacks of Wei WuXian's downright hellish first life and death were especially painful. As someone who prefers lighthearted comedy, it got pretty tough to read at some points.
Still, in my subjective opinion, these flaws do not ruin the story. In fact, these "flaws" are natural extensions of this novel's unique strengths and themes. How much the past inevitably affects the present, vs. how you can choose to learn from history and avoid repeating it. The power of a second chance. The potential for change and growth that comes from just lending a helping hand to another person. The strength and courage you can find deep within yourself when you have someone you love by your side. The importance of continuing to find joy in life and persevere onward, no matter how tough times are right now. Yes, life can seriously suck, but what can we humans do besides move forward one day at a time to earn a happy future. :'-)

(NOTE: The donghua is going to reshuffle the story, so I have hope that the adaptation will smooth out the pacing of flashbacks and fix that particular flaw at least!)

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2) Characters

Yet again, I can only applaud Mo Xiang Tong Xiu's ambition. Pretty much every single named character in Founder of Diabolism has a 3-Dimensional personality, backstory, and motivation. (The aforementioned frequent flashbacks actually help a lot for this purpose.) Even seemingly one-shot unnamed side characters reappear later in the story and show themselves to have changed from their previous experiences. This makes the world of FOB truly feel alive <3

First, let's look at our main character Wei WuXian. Obviously he's the most popular character in the novel, and for good reason. He's first and foremost an absolute joy to be around, a hilariously shameless troll with the intellect and ability to back up his chatter. But he has a ridiculous number of other sides and faces: coldly furious, kind and gentle; loyal and responsible to a fault, disloyal and irresponsible to a fault; brave and just, merciless and cunning; crude and vulgar, adorably innocent and romantic; an endless well of optimism, a tired man who has given up on life. The best part is, all of those faces don't feel disjointed. Instead, they make up a coherent whole, just like the "sad clown" archetype I compared him to earlier. WWX feels like a real living, breathing person, which is the highest praise I can give a character.

Now onto the other main character, Lan WangJi. You might say, "I'd recognize that classic Kuudere gap moe stereotype anywhere." You wouldn't be wrong, he does belong in that category. But LWJ never once feels like a tropey character. His thoughts/motivations/emotions/character growth all feel natural. Even though LWJ is a stoic person whose perspective we never get to see directly, the writing manages to delicately convey the complexities of his thoughts behind that emotionless facade. The observant reader can track how much character development Lan WangJi goes through: how his initial annoyance becomes mixed with attraction, how he slowly starts to open up and become less stuffy, how much he grows to respect/admire/worry for WWX, how much he struggles to convey his deep sentiments into words even as an adult. It's a testament to Mo Xiang Tong Xiu's skill that we can feel LWJ's struggles just as powerfully as WWX's (heck perhaps even more powerfully at times).

WWX and LWJ are definitely opposites, but they complement each other perfectly and are even more fun together than they are apart. Even then, they actually share some similar traits in their sense of justice, their kindness and compassion, their deep sentimentality, etc. Their romance is on the slow burn side but that just means it makes perfect sense in-character.

As you can tell, I love both main characters. But the supporting cast also has its share of wonderfully 3-Dimensional people, each with their own badass/touching/heartwrenching/funny moments. Even the villains have complex backstories that explain their present-day actions/motivations. (Come on... I just wanted to hate a scumbag, but this novel wouldn't let me : ()

My favorite major side character is probably Jiang Cheng, who has a fascinatingly complex and heartbreaking dynamic with WWX. I also love Jin Ling, Wen Ning, Lan SiZhui, Nie MingJue, Nie HuaiSang, Xiao XingChen, Song Lan, Xue Yang, A-Qing... Never mind, I give up, it would legit be easier for me to name which side characters I didn't find interesting.

All in all, I honestly have absolutely no complaints about any of the characters. Oh wait, I guess I do have one complaint--I wish the story was longer so we could get more time with all the characters :P

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3) Overall Enjoyment

This is of course entirely subjective. But from my personal perspective... reading the Founder of Diabolism was a wild ride beyond compare. It made me laugh and cry. It made me cheer and get mad. It tore my heart apart with its tragedies and carefully glued it back together with its heartwarming ending.

Again, even though Founder of Diabolism has its problems, I can only applaud MXTX for how valiantly she strove to make a genuine and earnest story, despite knowing herself how difficult it is to write something with such a heavy focus on the past vs. present. And what a story it is! A story that uses a vibrant fantasy world to delve into realistic human emotions and situations. A story with a character cast so diverse and fun that you could probably ask 20 different people who their favorite character was and you'd get 20 different answers back. A story with too many powerful themes and messages to count.

There is one wonderfully bittersweet message in particular that I am glad to have learned from Founder of Diabolism: not everything in life can be fixed completely, and that's okay. A wound can heal but it will always leave a scar. A villain can pursue redemption but he will always carry the burdens of his sins. A mystery can be solved but there will always be lingering secrets and ambiguities. Old friends can start to reach back out to each other but they will never be able to return to their nostalgic past.

In the same way, this story may have its flaws, but it will always be dear to my heart.

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[Miscellaneous Comments: Since the author of Founder of Diabolism also wrote a Scum Villain's Self-Saving System, a comparison is inevitable. I do love both works, especially how each fulfills its own unique niche! Founder of Diabolism is definitely written to be on a more epic scale than Scum Villain. FOB's side characters are more fleshed out, its plot is more complex and ambitious, it literally has a higher word count, etc.

I will say that on a personal level, I find Scum Villain more enjoyable to read. Its humor and fluff is relaxing/easy to digest and pretty much everyone gets a happy ending, while MDZS sometimes ventures into depressing/horror/tragedy territory. Though that's just my own preference for comedy/optimism showing :P] <<less
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Attica
I'm gonna be honest, I really enjoyed the first two volumes of this novel and would probably have rated it 4/5. There was an excellent blend of plot and romance, with great character interactions not just between MC and ML but between all the characters.

However, starting in volume 3, the book started to go downhill. It seemed like the author was starting to give up entirely on the plot, so almost all the side characters began to disappear (if they did reappear, it was only one at a time). The... more>> extremely abrupt and awkward time skips did not help. As a result, the ML's personality suddenly changed in the blink of an eye, and the MC-ML dynamic was immediately shoved into the "oh now you're my love prisoner" territory. There were also a parade of smut scenes that felt uncomfortable because of the rapidity of the aforementioned personality change, and started to get rather dull since they followed pretty stereotypical BL dynamics. I did like the ending to volume 3 though, since it brought the plot back on track. However, Volume 4 made it worse with nonconsensual (well, definitely extremely extremely dubious consent) scenes between MC and ML. Stuff like the memory loss plot point was also done in a rather cliche manner.

I will say I love the side characters in this novel though. I appreciated the fun start, and only wish the rest of the novel had followed that. I think the novel would have benefited from abandoning the time skips so the MC doesn't feel left out of the plot. <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
The Transmigrated Senior Martial Brother
December 10, 2018
Status: Completed
Your enjoyment of this novel heavily depends on a single factor: whether you enjoy the archetypal rapey Yandere without any good writing behind the trope. There, you've probably already made your decision.

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Summary: Transmigrated senior brother MC attracts the attention of a very very Yandere ML, who actively frames MC to isolate him

Pros: Extreme Yandere for those of you who are into that stuff. Some good ideas about "oh a single choice can turn someone into a saint or a demon" (... that aren't followed up on at all and don't... more>> make a lot of sense). And I guess morbid curiosity to see what would happen next to MC?

Cons: Oh boy.

    • Very abrupt and rushed writing style. It feels like ML falls in Yandere love over like 2 chapters. We don't get to see him fall in love, it's completely brushed over as "oh MC dropped by and helped him out from bullies, welp now ML is in love I guess). I think the author tried to give some side characters depth, but then they either a) got shafted by ML being possessive or b) abandoned that development and died.
    • The transmigration thing was completely dropped and honestly rather pointless.
    • The plot was just disjointed in general, without a central storyline/goal. The worldbuilding was pretty lacking, with the usual Xianxia "hey here have this random secret realm or other world thrown in out of nowhere".
    • MC's character arc is not hopeful at all. It's a relentless downwards spiral of his situation continuously getting worse, mostly because ML is ruining everything. The story ends on an awkward note riiiight as MC and ML were just beginning to reconcile.
Overall... yes, this is extreme Yandere with explicit noncon, and IMO it's not even well-written or deliciously angsty or anything. It's literally just that particular trope in the most stereotypical/meh form possible. <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
Dark Empress
October 3, 2018
Status: Completed
I'm going to be honest, overall this novel ended up leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

There were some aspects I liked for sure. In particular, the MC's proud and arrogant personality led to some really fun antics near the beginning, when she had to pretend to be quiet and dutiful on the surface but was secretly running wild. I also enjoyed the MC's reminiscences of her previous life, scant as they were.

But many parts of the novel were just too cringeworthy for me to handle.

  • The smut scenes followed the usual stereotypical "dubious consent" and "overly forceful" dynamics. I know some people like this stuff but it's not my thing at all, especially since it kind of made the MC act out of character.
  • As an extension of the above, the emperor's (the main love interest's) personality was rather unpleasant. He started off arrogant and forceful, and didn't develop at all. (No, becoming obsessed with the MC is not development.)
    • I actually cheered when the MC broke free from his grasp. Unfortunately, I was then really disappointed when he pretty much just kidnapped her back and the novel immediately ended.
  • The aforementioned ending was really abrupt and unpleasant, with many many hanging plot points. (ex: What ended up happening to the MC's friend who also transmigrated?)
    • No, giving birth to a child does not automatically make this a happy ending.
  • As other reviews have pointed out... For some reason, the narrative wouldn't stop chattering on and on about her new body's "dark skin" and "flat breasts". I know cultural standards are different and all. But the excess focus on superficial appearances just gave me really uncomfortable vibes. It didn't help that the MC's nonstop comments felt extremely disrespectful to the original owner of that body, the original Empress.
On the bright side, this novel was nice and short. Whoo?
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Attica
Attica rated it
The Daily Life of Being the Campus Idol’s Fake Boyfriend
October 3, 2018
Status: Completed
The Daily Life of Being the Campus Idol's Fake Boyfriend can be summed up very simply as this: an extremely long and serious game of Gay Chicken.

The first 2/3 of this novel were an immense pleasure to read. Ling Ke is a fascinating MC--the story really explored how his deep-rooted feelings of inferiority were both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. His drive to be better than Qi Feng enabled him to reach incredible new heights, but it also consumed his life to an unhealthy degree. (I also liked... more>> that he openly acknowledged his own homos*xuality.) And when Ling Ke and Qi Feng actually began interacting, the wonderful s*xual tension between them was so much fun. Misunderstandings and sweet moments and drama galore!

Unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and rainbows here. There were definite flaws that I noticed:

    • Qi Feng is a less compelling character than Ling Ke. He had the potential to be just as interesting as Ling Ke if his flaws and weaknesses were further explored. Instead, the author chose to make him a "perfect boyfriend" character, so he becomes rather boring/predictable.
    • As an extension of the above... after Ling Ke and Qi Feng get together, their dynamic falls into rather stereotypical BL territory. You know, the whole "extremely devoted and confident Gong, the shy and vulnerable Shou". Ling Ke especially suffered a lot from this, since it felt like he was being forced to act out of character.
    • The novel really piled on the whole "omg being homos*xual is shameful, I can't let anyone know!" I know it's realistic and the result of cultural differences, but it got rather repetitive to hear the same thing over and over and over again. It would have been nice if that aspect was toned down at least a little bit.
Overall, The Daily Life of Being the Campus Idol's Fake Boyfriend was a hilarious and fun ride. Its execution had problems, but Ling Ke was such a nicely unique MC that it was still worth reading.

[Of note, the Fake Relationship trope didn't actually last too long--the two of them resolved their miscommunications and got together pretty fast.] <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
Empress with no Virtue
October 3, 2018
Status: Completed
"Unlikely woman becomes Empress and must manage the imperial harem while also winning the love of the initially hostile Emperor". You've probably read this exact premise at least a dozen times, all with varying levels of execution and unhealthy relationships.

I'm proud to say that Empress with No Virtue is probably the most fun I've had with this genre, precisely because it knows exactly what it wants to be and executes that premise perfectly.

1) Story

Ye Zhenzhen is a free-spirited and self-confident noblewoman who loves her family, with a few quirks to... more>> compliment her great intelligence. Given her lack of ambition, she is not too happy when she ends up strong-armed in a political marriage with the only man above her in status: the playboy Emperor Ji Wujiu, who bears a grudge against her family. Their marriage gets off to a hilariously disastrous start with the wedding night alone, which is further complicated by the intricate political dynamics within the imperial court and harem.

Despite this "typical soap opera" premise, Empress with No Virtue is a joy to read because it capitalizes on its strengths so well: Humor (both dry and laugh-out-loud) and the ever-changing dynamic between its two main characters. That isn't to say it's all fun and games--I was surprised at how well the writing handled the drama and angst parts too!

I always found myself looking forward to what antics Ye Zhenzhen got herself into (particularly how she cleverly made fun of the other members of the imperial harem), what conspiracies and power struggles she must avoid, what odd yet ingenious strategies she would use to expose her enemies, and of course the blossoming friendship and romance between her and the Emperor. Note the last entry in particular--I literally binged the entire novel in 2 days because I was so eager to see the development of the...

2) Characters

Yes, Empress with no Virtue is so much fun because both Ye Zhenzhen and Ji Wujiu are really fun characters!

Ye Zhenzhen is a hilariously straightforward woman with very adorable and strange interests. Initially, her main goal is just to survive and pursue those interests. When she does get caught up in court politics, she shows off the intelligence and confidence to go toe-to-toe with the schemers, and grows to take more active control of her own fate. On the other hand, Ji Wujiu is a very competent emperor who just happens to have one big flaw: seeking shallower surface-level affections. He initially appears spoiled, arrogant, and ambitious, resenting Ye Zhenzhen despite how she was not at fault for this marriage. But over time, his interactions with Ye Zhenzhen open his eyes towards the importance of humility and open-mindedness, and it's really satisfying when he can finally see things from a different perspective.

Both main characters boast an abundance of endearing quirks, brilliant calculations, humorous reactions, and badass confrontations. Better yet, they aren't perfect! The author went out of her way to point out that these two main characters are still flawed human beings who misunderstand each other and mistakenly harm each other. YZZ and JWJ have very different perspectives and must work very hard to reconcile their viewpoints, make up for previous wrongs, and finally reach a harmonious equilibrium.

Above all, the relationship development between Ye Zhenzhen and Ji Wujiu is one that sparks off the page with its exquisite s*xual tension. Their personalities complement each other perfectly. Even after the two officially get together, I was really happy to see how they got to preserve that wonderfully bickering and teasing dynamic, instead of degenerating into character stereotypes.

The side characters are also surprisingly well done for this genre. The friendly side characters are so ridiculously good at acting the straight man in the kookier and more hilarious circumstances. And even the more "villainous" characters have understandable motives, and their reactions can be pleasantly realistic at times. (The rival concubines are of course hostile, but they change over time and realistic consequences for their actions instead of remaining the stereotypical "mean low-IQ rivals who irrationally hate the MC").

3) Overall, I can say with certainty that Empress with No Virtue was just pure unadulterated fun to read--which is high praise for the often plodding "imperial politics" genre. It had the perfect blend of fluffy light-heartedness, dramatic politics, and teasing romance. I could genuinely believe every step of how Ye Zhenzhen and Ji Wujiu fell in love, which completely soothed the secret romantic in my heart <3

[NOTE: I wasn't too satisfied with the translation--it switches tenses constantly, uses unnatural/crude phrases, and just plain doesn't flow well in English. Still, you can at least understand it. o/ ] <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
My Legend Still Exists in the Cultivation World
September 21, 2018
Status: Completed
(Disclaimer: This novel got pretty difficult to read at times, so I did quite a bit of skimming.)

My Legend Still Exists in the Cultivation World reminded me quite a lot of classic Xianxia fantasy (just with extra BL elements). A reborn protagonist who grows at an extremely OP rate, who runs into a plethora of different characters/factions/timelines, who consistently shows up and face-slaps those who look down on him. It's a novel with a truly astronomical amount of content packed into it--for better or for worse.

1) Plot

It's hard... more>> to pin down a single primary plotline in My Legend Still Exists. It's a very character-focused story. Of course there's going to be a final battle against the Xianxia equivalent of the "Anti-Christ incarnate", but every single arc is extremely different: from small city politics, to academy exams, to getting stuck in a time-warping mini-world, to infiltrating the monster kingdom, to getting transported millennia into the past... yeaaaahhh the story took a while to get going. In addition, the entire novel absolutely loves the idea of reincarnation as a way of reconnecting with one's lost past (again, for better or for worse).

Sometimes it does feel like the author wrote down every Xianxia plot idea that has ever existed, and then started pulling ideas one at a time out of a hat. Don't get me wrong, every idea was really different and unique, and it did make sense how the characters transitioned from one arc to another. But at a certain point, the sheer number of side stories made my eyes glaze over at times (especially since I'm not a native Chinese speaker lol). I've always nurtured a dislike for filler, and this story definitely has a ton of unnecessary detours, plot points that are only useful for a little while before being discarded, etc.

Overall, though, I would say you don't really read this novel for the plot--you read it for the two main characters. That brings us to...

2) Characters

Luckily, the 2 main characters are wonderfully badass/intelligent, with distinct strengths and flaws.

The main character is Jing Yue (previously widely known as Jing Yuan in his last life), one of the founders of "modern-day" cultivation before he died 10, 000 years ago. While his new reborn body basically has to start cultivation over, he advances at a frankly "ridiculously overpowered" pace because of his previous experience lol. His personality is an interesting combination of both warm and cold: warm to those he cares about (especially his disciples), harsh to everyone else (especially those who get in the way of his cultivation). His drive, cunning, and ruthlessness all make him feel larger than life. He really seems like the type of historical figure who would get legends and songs written after him, millennia later. At the same time, his fondness for his sect, his disciples, and his love interest give him a cute human touch--especially when he struggles to understand his personal feelings and then reconcile them with his grand ambitions.

This brings us to the love interest, Qin Yanzhi, a once-in-a-generation talented sword cultivator. He starts off as somewhat on the stoic side since he's devoted to the path of the sword and all. But it's an absolute joy to see him open up, show his affectionate side, and always kick ass. Qin Yanzhi is my favorite character in the novel, and one of my favorite love interests in Danmei :D

Unfortunately, none of the side characters really stuck out to me. The vast majority of side characters only appeared for one arc before never getting mentioned again, kind of like microcosms within the immense world of My Legend Still Exists. This is "realistic", but it means I can't even recall a single likable side character off the top of my head. Even the recurring side characters weren't that compelling either. And yeah, the villains weren't memorable at all lol.

3) Overall Enjoyment: Hmm... this novel was pretty fun overall I guess. The heartwarming relationship moments between Jing Yue and Qin Yanzhi were 100% worth reading. Everything else... was skimmable I suppose. It feels like the author was getting paid by the word when writing this, so the novel truly went all out with the filler.

Perhaps if someone picks up this novel for translation, I might appreciate the subtleties more. Until then, I'd probably give it a 3.5/5.

Qin Yanzhi is best boy though~ <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
Picked up by the Protagonist of a Tormented! MC Novel
December 10, 2018
Status: v3c10
Can a paranoid person ever trust someone from the bottom of their heart? Can you ever truly be in love if you lack a foundation of trust? If Pandora's Box is right before you, knowing that the potential for a horrible event exists, is it okay to just ignore it forever?

Picked Up By the Protagonist of a Tormented!MC Novel analyzes what it truly takes to defy one's own nature. We follow our adorable beloved MC, Zeno/Cino, as he transmigrates into a novel as an infant who's picked up by the... more>> protagonist. The only problem is, the novel he transmigrated into just happens to fall under the infamous "Abusing the Protagonist" genre. And this adoptive father protagonist Xiwei just happens to be the very paranoid and cold ML who will inevitably get betrayed and abused at every turn. As Zeno and Xiwei adventure together, they discover long-kept secrets both about Zeno's past and about Xiwei's future.

1. Plot

This story is very much on the episodic side, following Xiwei and Zeno's journey through different locations in this "Chinese version of Western Fantasy" world. This means there isn't really a coherent storyline, just what randomly happens next. Yes, there are churches and demons, elves and unicorns, nobles and peasants, mermaids and monsters... all the slightly modified spins on all your stereotypical fantasy tropes. And yes, some tropes were more interesting to me than others, so I did kind of doze off during quite a few of the arcs lol.

Still, I will say that the pacing and writing style of the beginning was absolutely wonderful at establishing this novel's world of hardships as well as the bond between the MC and ML. I really enjoyed how the MC was fleshed out as a character complete with a backstory.

And IMO, the ending to this novel was insanely good and fitting!! (NOTE: This ending does involve some Dubious Consent, but it makes sense in the context of the story.) This ending honestly brought my rating up from like a 3.5 to a 4.5 (a nice contrast to other novels which sputter out by the end). I'm a huge sucker for "Book Ends, " which this story nailed perfectly.

2. Characters

Our MC Zeno is probably best characterized by his extreme loyalty to Xiwei for picking him up and spending so much to take care of him. Over time, he begins to uncover certain forbidden secrets about his own origins, but he never loses that faithful heart. In contrast, our ML Xiwei is paranoid to the very core, whose only soft spot in his entire heart appears to belong to Zeno.

It was such a delight to watch the immense evolution in the dynamic between the MC and ML over the course of the novel. They start out as platonic father-son, which in itself had very cute interactions. Then after the two are separated for a while, they must carefully retread that old relationship, attempting to preserve their bond while also navigating new doubts and mysteries. And yes, it was very sweet when they did get together. (Not spoiling the ending~)

Unfortunately, most side characters didn't get screentime or development, so they came across as rather flat. The villains were not compelling at all. Any side characters who did appear more often sadly fit into tropes that were not my thing. The ending does involve some dubcon (it's complicated).

3. Overall Thoughts

Does Picked Up By the Protagonist of a Tormented!MC Novel have flaws? Absolutely, ranging from its chaotic plot to its flat-as-paper side characters to its messy worldbuilding.

However, above all, it understands exactly who to focus on to keep to keep its core message--its main character duo, Zeno and Xiwei--and deftly handles their constantly changing relationship with great skill. By the end, when Zeno and Xiwei reached their final answer to those questions of trust and love, I was cheering amidst my tears <3 <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
Agreement of Being Gay for 30 Days
October 9, 2018
Status: c39
(Disclaimer: less positive, somewhat miffed rant incoming)

I've realized that one of the reasons I prefer fantasy/ancient settings to modern-day settings is that... modern-day settings tend to have an underlying current of homophobia and other negative stereotypes.
Sadly, nowhere is this more obvious than this story "Agreement of Being Gay for 30 Days".

In fact, this story hits every single one of my "Most Cringeworthy Plot Points in Danmei".

1. "Oh I'm not actually gay, I'm only in love with you" --> bruh that's not how s*xuality... more>> works. Can we get just one--just one--modern-day BL novel without the obligatory crisis of s*xuality?

2. Related to number 1... Are there any other actually homos*xual characters besides the main pairing? Congratulations, they're irrational beasts who commit s*xual harassment and get beat up by the main characters as punishment!

3. The extremely cringe-worthy arguments over "omg I want to be the gong in the relationship!! Being the shou sucks and deserves to be made fun of."

I'm begging you, no one besides uninhibited fujoshis actually uses the terms "gong" and "shou" in real life. These two terms are fraught with homophobic and misogynistic undertones.
In this case, the ML kept rubbing it in to the MC that "lol we decided you're the shou by a coinflip! So for the rest of your life you better keep acting like the girl in this relationship."
"Oh, you got angry because I kept referring to you with this term you clearly don't like? haha you're so cute~"
I'm sorry, but that isn't cute or heartwarming in the slightest.

Literally every single time the ML called the MC "shou shou~" or otherwise kept using those terms, my hairs literally stood up on end. I legit wanted to kick the ML's teeth in so he never used those stupid stereotypes again.

(Corollary to number 3: characters start out with their own unique personalities, but those personalities get warped and corrupted over time until they fit into the stereotypical "gong" and "shou" dynamics. In particular, the ML suffered because the author decided his only personality trait was "becoming a stereotypical gong")


4. Are there any female side characters? Congratulations, they are all extremely shallow/air-headed and don't feel like real human beings at all! They are either ungrateful gold diggers, squealing caricatures of fangirls, or the most stereotypical of fujoshi.

Okay, let me stop my ranting and take a deep breath.

I mean, it's not completely unsalvageable.
Looking on the brighter side... this novel did have quite a bit of funny and cute banter between its main characters, especially during their adorable rivalry moments. (At least, I enjoyed the banter when it did not involve the words "gong" or shou".)

As an extension of this, I much preferred the MC to the ML! The MC acted way more like a real human being as opposed to a walking stereotype.

And the parts of the plot not involving the above four irritating points were executed okay, at least if you like the "sheer fluff" genre.

Overall Comments:

I wanted to give this story a fair chance. I tried to avoid those four irritating points I mentioned, and attempted to finish reading for the plot alone.

Yet every single chapter, I found my eyes rolling to the back of my head at the next "shou shou~".

In addition, the plot really wasn't anything to write home about. There were the usual stupid misunderstandings, bickering over girls, and otherwise "denying your own gayness."

Do not read this novel unless you:

-Enjoy modern-day slice-of-life

-Enjoy soap opera dramatics

-Enjoy the Fake Relationship trope

-Enjoy the bickering between rivals dynamic

And last but not least...

-Can tolerate the aforementioned four irritating points of homophobia, misogyny... basically, how the writing is full of shallow stereotypes. <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
Blood Contract
December 11, 2018
Status: Completed
Vampires! Magic! Assassins! Werewolves! Vampire Hunters! Eternal Love that can last throughout lifetimes! Rape!....... uh... wait a sec.

Yep Blood Contract is archetypal Dark Fantasy, with preeettyyy heavy emphasis on the Dark part. On the bright side (haha I swear that wasn't on purpose), you kind of get used to it over time to the point where it can be darkly humorous. And the MC always does his best to survive and thrive with what little resources he has, making the stakes high and the plot thrilling.

NOTE: There is indeed Noncon... more>> in this novel (I think the ML is the only "love interest" who doesn't force the MC at any point). There is indeed a bit of a Harem element in that lots of guys pursue MC, but his one true love is the ML and they end up together.

Summary: The young assassin MC (who goes only by the codename Zero) finds that he has transmigrated into another world filled with supremely powerful vampires and other creatures of dark fantasy. He struggles to survive while being chased by a seemingly endless parade of bloodthirsty and annoyingly horny-as-hell powerful dudes. As he wanders the continent, he discovers long-hidden secrets about his own identity, including how he holds some kind of bond with a once-powerful vampire emperor ML Aiosius (something like that anyway). The only problem (or is it actually a blessing?) is that this vampire emperor's brain effectively turned into that of a crazed puppy after the death of his long-gone lover.

Commentary:

I actually found the plot's many twists and turns to be very enjoyable overall. The worldbuilding is immensely fun with all the different countries and political affiliations, the history and mythology. Zero is very much an underdog constantly running into dangerous situations that can change as quickly as the wind blows, so I was always on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next.

Zero is very much the star of this novel. It's really fun to watch his will to survive when in terms of power levels, he's effectively a lamb being tossed between various hungry wolves. His counterpart Aiosius is also as sweet as a puppy. A very murderous, insanely powerful puppy.

Amidst all the blood and murder and s*x, I enjoyed how the undercurrent of the MC and ML's relationship was actually... oddly sweet and heartwarming. I was also pleasantly surprised by the yummy angst around 2/3 of the way through the novel (mmm the angst was so deliciously heart wrenching and tear jerking... of note it's very much a Happy Ending so everything's resolved and all.)

At the same time, pretty much every single side character is fleshed out with believable motivations, to the point where I was pleasantly surprised I didn't dislike certain "side character archetypes". Even for those side characters I did end up disliking or finding repulsive, I could see the glimpses of humanity in their behavior.

That's not to say everything is perfect in this novel. Oh boy.

    • Some of the aforementioned "hangers-on" pursuing Zero besides the ML were rather... insane/unpleasant (in my opinion), to put it gently. Because they were often so much more ridiculously powerful than the MC, the power dynamics were rather uncomfortable. This is not helped by how the ML doesn't show up until like 40 chapters in lol
        • When the very bloodthirsty and rather Yandere ML who's literally lost his mind is the most reasonable of the lot, I often found myself praying for Zero to maneuver out of the other guys' clutches as fast as possible before the situation could get worse. Luckily (?), Zero manages to guilt-trip and/or restore some degree of sanity to these lunatics by the end of the novel, and they're reduced to basically being annoying pets lol.
    • The horrible Werewolf side storyline = ughhhh pointless noncon and nothing remotely close to closure... luckily it's only a small part of the story. Honestly, I would have probably given this a 5 if it weren't for this part of the story. x__x
    • Some side characters drop out of the plot and/or have less relevance overall. Not a super big deal but it's there.
    • The writing style spams exclamation points like they're going out of style (seriously, there are more exclamation points than periods sometimes hahahaha)
    • LAST BUT NOT LEAST--the author definitely loves their father-son incest vibes. It appears most commonly because 1) siring vampires usually involves s*x and 2) vampires will call their sires "Father."... Yeah. To be fair (?), it could be worse--I just ignored everything to do with those appellations and I made it through just fine.
Overall Thoughts:

If you love (Very) Dark Fantasy, this is the novel for you. An MC who's as badass as he can be in his situation! An ML who's as sweet as he can be in this setting! As long as you can tolerant occasional Noncon/incest vibes/slight harem elements, this is honestly a very fun and wild ride. Just... skip the werewolf storyline lol. <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
Cold Sands
October 3, 2018
Status: Completed
Ah, tragedies. I traditionally avoid anything with a whiff of a sad ending, since I've always been the optimistic type who feeds off of happy endings to survive.

But I can only applaud Cold Sands as the embodiment of the perfect tragedy. Where two people's differences are finally irreconcilable. Where an unhappy ending is logical, even inevitable. Where a proud and determined human refuses to bend, and in the end can only break.

1) Story

Han Xin is an idle young nobleman pressed into the military by his corrupt nation, despite dreaming of... more>> nothing other than living a free life. He ends up captured by the enemy, where he remains proud and unbroken despite his seemingly lazy nature. This gains him the admiration, trust, and eventually affection of the ruthless ambitious enemy prince Murong Yu. Out of their mutual love, Murong Yu lets him go to live that free life. Yet at this seemingly happy ending, a revelation shatters everything Han Xin knew about himself, and he is dragged into the clutches of destiny's unceasing machinations.

(Re) reading Cold Sands is a uniquely bittersweet experience. The beginning of the story is an archetypal example of my beloved "enemies-to-lovers" dynamic. The bickering s*xual tension between Han Xin and Murong Yu is so much fun to read, especially with the hilarious levels of crude swearing coming from Han Xin's free-spirited mouth.

Then at the halfway point of the novel, the story takes a drastic turn into serious court drama and politics, as Han Xin's personality is warped and changed like steel forged in the fire.

Finally, yes, the two main characters of Cold Sands do meet what can only be called a truly unhappy fate. The ending was absolutely flawless in that it even had the tiny glimmer of hope just to add to that depressing realism~

This is the essence of a perfect tragedy: if Han Xin and Murong Yu had the chance to do everything over, they still wouldn't have changed a thing.

2) Characters

Our main character Han Xin is absolutely the star of this novel. It's both really fascinating and really depressing to see him evolve from a carefree, lazy, and hilariously mouthy/sarcastic youth... into a cold and ruthless emperor who must personally take the responsibility of an entire nation on his shoulders.

On one hand, he gains a sense of purpose and the ability to make a hugely positive difference in the lives of countless people. But at what cost, at what terrible cost?

In the end, he has lost everything--his friends, his freedom, his love, his very self.

On the other hand, the main love interest Murong Yu is wonderfully written as Han Xin's exact counterpart. Where Han Xin grows to deny his own humanity, Murong Yu develops in the opposite direction. He starts off as an inhuman conquering prince, but grows to acknowledge his own humanity through his love for Han Xin despite knowing how it will become his glaring weakness. Still, in the end, he cannot abandon his ambition and thirst for power, and it costs him his last chance to be truly together with Han Xin.

Besides these two amazing main characters, the side characters of Cold Sands also fit the story extremely well. Every single one represents and develops the themes of the main story: Han Xin's childhood friends that he must cut ties with, the crueler subordinate generals below Murong Yu, the corrupt old order of Han Xin's nation that he must root out... Special shout-outs to the love rival of the story, the wonderfully written Heng Ziyu.

3) Overall

All in all, I have pretty much no complaints about Cold Sands whatsoever. It's just that I don't want to reread it since seeing how happy Han Xin and Murong Yu used to be makes my heart hurt too much.

I can only hope that in their next life, Han Xin and Murong Yu can live free of all these burdens and worries, and finally be happy together.

I'll leave you all with this poem, which I think captures the bittersweet ending of Cold Sands perfectly.

Rima XLI by Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (Rough translation)
You were the hurricane, and I the tall tower which challenged its power: You had to either smash me or knock me down!
It could not be!

You were the ocean, and I the firm stone which awaited your waves: You had to break upon me or tear me down!
It could not be!

You beautiful, and I proud: accustomed one to crush, the other not to yield; The path narrows, the inevitable impact...
It could not be!

[Side Note: The translation of this novel is on the more liberal side. It reads very smoothly in English, but there are anachronistic changes here and there.] <<less
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Attica
Okay first and foremost, since this really bothers me...
This novel is barely like "Quickly Wear the Face of the Devil" at all!!!! At most it has the "Quick Transmigration" aspect in common, but the tone and plot is 100% different. TPWSTKMFMI is basically pure fluff in a nutshell, especially for cat lovers like me <3

--------------------

Summary: As an author known for writing great stories with horrible endings, MC finds himself torn from his beloved kitty and being sent into the worlds of his novels. Luckily in every world he runs... more>> into the very protective ML, who bears an odd resemblance to his cat...

Pros:

  • so so so much fluff!!! I can't understate this enough lol. <3 (As a cat slave myself, I totally related to MC lol.)
  • The one arc that ends in tragedy is so well done, it made me cry.
  • The ending was fantastically fitting and sweet!!!! Probably one of the sweetest endings I've seen in a quick transmigration story.
Cons:

  • The 3rd arc (Gaming world) was rather pointless and boring without any stakes whatsoever, with the ML constantly hopping identities.
  • The writing style can sometimes be rather awkward and childish, constantly referring to MC as "the youth" despite his character in that world not being very young, etc.
In general the plot is pure "wish fulfillment fantasy" and isn't anything to write home about; you read this for the sweetness alone lol. <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
Faraway Wanderers
January 20, 2019
Status: Completed
Beneath all its hilarious comedy and sweet character interactions, Faraway Wanderers asks us an astonishingly depressing and human question: What does it take to walk out of one's past mistakes? How many good deeds does it take to erase one previous sin? Once one has fallen into the dirt and mud, can that stain ever be washed clean again?

Is true redemption actually possible, or is even the tiniest wrong forever inescapable?

1. Plot

Our MC is the commander of the secret imperial intelligence network, Zhou Zishu, who manages to retire from that... more>> dark line of work, but only by placing a death sentence of three years onto himself. While using his last few days to wander the Jianghu and maybe do some last bit of good to make up just a little for all his previous wrongs... he stumbles onto an overarching conspiracy that threatens to overturn the martial arts world. In particular, he encounters the ML Wen Kexing, a playboy martial artist who insists on sticking to MC's side, and is revealed to possess even more dark secrets than he does pick-up lines. These two men form this adorably funny yet incredibly badass merry band of adventurers by picking up teenagers as their "Adopted children".

Looking back, the plot of Faraway Wanderers was a truly wild ride, with well-foreshadowed plot twists and turns galore. The writing is as smooth as silk, excellently blending together horror, action, comedy, and yes, tragedy (yep, this is a Priest novel). This novel has the perfect amount of Wuxia worldbuilding--not too little and not too much.

The ending especially just blew me away with its ridiculous amount of reveals about certain backstory elements. That very last extra (;__;) reinforces how Faraway Wanderers pulls the old Priest classic: analyzing, deconstructing, and reconstructing the themes and philosophies of its genre of Wuxia. It really does feel a lot like the Wuxia version of Liu Yao by the same author (though this novel came first lol).

Of note, like all Priest novels, the ending was almost a little "too realistic", with that ever-present tinge of bittersweetness and tragedy even though it still counts as a Happy Ending. There is no perfect redemption here, no "becoming famous and celebrated as a hero for saving the Jianghu", no "everyone survives and lives happily ever after all best friends forever". And that's okay.

2. Characters

Ah, every single character in this novel was so nicely fleshed out, with 3D motivations and behavioral quirks. I loved the many sides and facets of our MC. He's kind of like a super badass Tsundere looking for a meaning to his existence. I really enjoyed how he took the role of the "wise Shifu" to a character who would serve a more traditional "young protagonist" role in another Wuxia novel--though an especially Tsundere Shifu.

(I will say that MC's character background wasn't super relevant to the story... I sense that the author wanted to draw more /subtle/ parallels to his past experiences and tell a story of "a dying man finding new meaning in a new world", but he's still an outsider.)

And I absolutely adore the depth of ML's character: he looks like a carefree playboy prankster on the surface, only to unleash surprising amounts of badassery and insight. And that moment in the ending when he broke down and revealed everything was just... god, so painful, but so goddamn cathartic at the same time.

Every single side character also had a very unique and fitting role in the story, especially the gaggle of odd kickass kids following MC and ML around. In general the writing was so tight and sleek--every character's ultimate fate made sense for the choices they made and the environment they were in.

Side note: Faraway Wanderers absolutely loves one storytelling element in particular:

    • "Hahahaha character X always does X behavior, what a cute and funny running joke"
~70 chapters later~

    • "Hey remember how you always laughed about character X having that running joke about doing X behavior all the time?"
    • "That's because all along, they had a horribly tragic backstory explaining why they did X behavior"
    • "DO YOU STILL THINK IT'S FUNNY NOW, HUH? DO YOU????" ;____;
... Yeah, rereading Priest's novels is a delightfully painful experience.

I will note, however, that the main villains definitely fit very well into the plot but do not come across as sympathetic in the slightest. The morality overall is mostly Gray (for our protagonists) and Black (for the antagonists), so the tone is generally dark despite the comedy on the surface.

Overall:

I said this about Liu Yao before and I'll say it again--Priest's novels are some of the best-written Danmei I've ever read. I only ever want to read her works once, but that "once" is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

While reading Faraway Wanderers, I slapped my knee red from laughing so hard. My teeth hurt from being clenched so tight during the dramatic climax. And yes, I bawled like a goddamn baby at the heartwrenching scenes.

~~~~~~~~

So, does true "redemption" actually exist? There is no easy answer to the question posed by Faraway Wanderers. A good person may be forced into a single horrible situation just once, and end up condemned to the shadows for a lifetime. Sometimes, life is nothing more than trying to make the best out of the horrible hand you're given.

How optimistic and cheerful, right? :) :) :) :')

But despite its realistic pessimism, in the end, Faraway Wanderers chooses to believe in hope, no matter how small the hope may be. It declares that even those trapped in the deepest darkness deserve that hope. Even the person who appears to be the greatest sinner deserves the chance to try and do a single good thing for once.

All humans make mistakes, some big, some small. Just like what the MC and ML experience, life may beat us down with its injustice. But no matter what our past may be, we always have a choice in the present: a choice to act for compassion, for goodness, and yes, for love. <<less
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Attica
Attica rated it
Pulling Together a Villain Reformation Strategy
January 15, 2019
Status: Completed
(Disclaimer: I am the translator for this novel so far.)

A noble, cool, and elegant "villain". An utterly shameless and more than a little psycho "male protagonist". Throw in Transmigration, a System, and Resurrection too–it all sounds a little cliche, right?

Yet shockingly enough, this "villain" and "male protagonist"... are also the most heartwarming, funny, and loyal childhood friends I have ever seen. Their hilarious banter in every single scene together is the biggest reason why I picked this novel up for translation.

... more>> 1. Plot

At its heart, Pulling Together A Villain Reformation Strategy is about two best friends from childhood trying to figure out how to navigate a gap between them—a gap that appeared because of the secrets each one is hiding from the other. One of those secrets is indeed the existence of a Transmigration System with its own dark side. Each character that the two encounter carries a different piece of the overarching puzzle, and the two must work together to resolve prior misunderstandings and conflicts.

For a story whose primary focus is adventure and mystery solving, is the execution perfect? No, not by any means. Sometimes it does feel like the author skipped straight from "step 1" to "step 4" of the overarching conspiracy, and left out some details that would have been important along the way. Some characters receive too little screen time relative to the importance of their role in the story. Some characters' motivations are hinted at but not fully developed. Sometimes there will be an outline of a fascinating plot point that appears, but the story doesn't follow that plot point through to fulfill its maximum potential.

However, I will say that the execution is by no means awful, and the author's unique ideas still manage to shine. Above all, this novel is very much more about the journey than the destination. You're not really reading this for the plot as much as you are for the...

2. Characters

To be specific, two characters and the dynamic between them far and away blow everyone else in this book (heck, in this genre) out of the water.

First, we have our beloved MC Jiang Xunyi—you can consider him a little bit like a cross between a Kuudere and a Tsundere lolll. I really enjoyed how his strengths and flaws intertwine with one another. On one hand, he is unyieldingly determined and competitive, self-confident and brutally honest, brilliant at deduction and adept at reading (most) emotional situations, yet still bearing a soft heart deep down. On the other hand, he can sometimes be too stubborn, narrow-minded, cold, arrogant, bad-tempered, and oblivious to a certain someone's affections. He can be vicious and ruthless to his enemies as well as very insulting towards Yun Xie, but he still doesn't hurt innocents and he very much treasures his family and friends (especially Yun Xie, despite those aforementioned constant insults). Every action that he takes makes perfect sense with his personality. He's effectively the typical "cold talented sharp-tongued rival" character (think Silver from Pokémon hahahahahaha) turned into a MC, which is great fun!

Then we have our ML Yun Xie, Jiang Xunyi's childhood friend with a secret crush on him. Holding the position of "protagonist" for the world Jiang Xunyi is in, Yun Xie is a similarly multifaceted character who can change faces faster than a mask switcher in Peking Opera. He's a playful trickster who loves to tease, joke, flirt, and pretend laziness to make Jiang Xunyi do all the work. But when it comes time to get serious, he can be even more merciless and cruel than Jiang Xunyi. And at heart, he's a boy in love who has made mistakes and suffered because of that love but continues to chase after it with all his might.

Literally the best part of this novel is the childhood friend dynamic between these two. Every scene they have together is such immense fun, with bickering, badassery, teamwork, shamelessness, and genuine friendship galore. When they do get together, the wonderful brilliant spark between them is preserved, and ends up evolving into an even more heartwarming dynamic. And fortunately, there are many many many scenes with these two characters.

But there is a downside: because JXY and YX get so much space for themselves, the side characters do not get that much screen time and development. Some receive more attention than others, but don't expect any significant character development on this end. Certain villains in particular are rather flat, without much depth besides "I'm a greedy/ambitious d*ck." However, this isn't all bad: the side characters fulfill their various roles perfectly well. (In the case of those flat villains, they do their jobs perfectly well as "assholes who are /just/ realistic enough that you could imagine similarly assholish people in real life". You get to enjoy watching them get face-slapped without growing tired of it being overemphasized or happening too often).

And personally speaking, I'll take the trade of "delicious ample main character development at the cost of overshadowing side characters" every day.

Overall:

Pulling Together a Villain Reformation Strategy is the best childhood friend romance I've ever seen. It made me laugh at Yun Xie's and Jiang Xunyi's frequent antics. It made me cheer whenever these two Dual Jades get to show off their awesome synergy. It warmed my heart with its sweet romance. And do not worry, that final extra will stab you in the heart with its simultaneous bitterness and sweetness. <<less
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