One word that's perfect to describe ED is FILLER. It is perhaps the most blatant example of author trying to squeeze page/word count I've ever seen in my life. For the first 200~ chapters it's not SO bad, but afterwards it becomes ABSOLUTELY insane. The best example I can give are 600-700 chapters. So little happens here, that you can't wrap the fact that it took 100 chapters to tell it around your head.
I don't mind (for the most part, at least) when authors stuff their chapters with pointless sh*t just to increase word count. That's why basically anyone who enjoys xianxia learns to just skip things at one point. However, I do mind when you can skip 3-4 chapters in a row without missing a damn thing. ED is FILLER on steroids. And it's perhaps the main thing that simply destroys any chance of finding a good, cohesive story.
Because of this insane FILLAGE, the amazing world the author has crafted - with some hella interesting backstory - just becomes a chore to read about. I truly want to give a sh*t about these past Emperors and whatnots, but I simply can't when a single sentence about them is buried underneath 12 paragraphs describing some random item from that time that doesn't freaking matter. If the author toned down with FILLAGE and replaced it with more backstory about this world, I guarantee this would have been one of the most popular WN ever. However, he did not. Not at all.
To me, the quality of the WN novel dropped beyond any redemption when he entered Medicine-whatever world. It absolutely crapped on whatever was happening for the past 500~ chapters, and basically said "f**k" to everything it was building up to that point. Still, xianxias have tendency to do this, so whatever, I would have stuffed it, but everything becomes so BOOOOOORING. It's basically first 500~ chapters, except without anything that made the first 500~ interesting and actually fun to read despite all the filler sh*t. Chapters upon chapters go by without ANYTHING happening. Ever since he came into the world, MC has never ONCE fought properly against anyone. It's just pointless chase after skirts, bickering with children like he's a child himself, more chasing after skirts, and threatening to massacre something or someone, but NEVER actually doing it. Sure, he kills a fool or two here and there, but so what? He never kills them himself. I could count on my f**king fingers just how many characters he's killed with his own hands in the odd 200~ chapters I've read.
Imagine if there's build-up... and then more of build-up... and then more... and more... and the build-up just never ends. That's what ED becomes.
Even if first 500~ chapters was filled with FILLER GALORE, at least things happened. MC progressed. He fought. He cultivated. He was a badass. However, I'm fairly certain I don't even know what his f**king realm is anymore, because it's never mentioned. He never trains. He just keeps pulling OP items out of his ass and lets them do the work. It's boring, tactless, and quite frankly pointless.
Speaking of MC, ugh... I like arrogant characters as much as the next guy, but holy sh*t. You can't actively hope Li wins, because he's literally turned into a villain of the entire story. I can already imagine 99% of all existences eventually ganging up on him because he's become insufferable. At least, before leaving Mortal-whatever world, when he'd act arrogant and sh*t on others, he'd beat them with his own two hands. Now? He either lets some OP tree do the work, or just pulls a holier-than-thou OP item from "ancient ancient" times and lets it do all the work.
I won't even bother with mentioning all the skirt chasing. At first, it was just a gimmick, and hell, it was kind of fun seeing him flirt normally with chicks. Now? It's just basic teen wish-fulfillment. Every time he meets a woman, author emphasizes like 91231 f**king times that he doesn't want to f**k her. WE GET IT. WE f**kING GET IT.
Honestly, it's sad. ED has one of the most interesting worlds I've had a chance of reading about in odd 100~ WN novels that I'm reading/read, and it's just wasted. Author often manages to weave in stories from the past into present in an amazing way, then a chapter later sh*ts all over it with pointless side characters. Every 10 chapters or so, you'll find one that seems just so out of place you'll be wondering if you're at the right place.
Another thing that gets beyond annoying towards latter parts is vague dialogue. Oh. My. God. Nothing is ever named. NOTHING. It's always "this" and "that" and "something" and "place". There's just so many "things" and "stuffs" in the last 200 chapters I've read that I honestly don't even give a sh*t anymore. He's already got himself an insane arsenal of OP items that I'm pretty sure he'd become Immortal Emperor if he never leaves his house anymore. He's so beyond ANYONE else within his generation, it's literally POINTLESS to introduce anyone else his age. Just remove cultivators as his opponents, because he can probably beat EVERYONE back to their grave. Have him fight those Immortal Demons or whatever (oh, yeah, what the hell happened with that? it looks like our dear author forgot the reason our MC wanted to get stronger in the first place. Now it's all about cliche being the strongest ever).
I'll qualify ED as a guilty pleasure. It's not a well-written WN. Hell, it's actually pretty horrendous. It has terrible characters, obnoxious FILLAGE, MC is the same in CH1 and CH700 - LITERALLY NOTHING changes about him, everyone else except for him is basically pointless, and the only thing ED has got going for itself is basically the world and the backstory of the world. If it weren't for those two things, I honestly wouldn't give two sh*ts about this. Still, it's fun to read. When Li ACTUALLY FIGHTS, it's pretty amazing. To this day I remember his battle at burial grounds (before he cheated his way through OP items, of course), but it's just pointless now.
"Damn brat, how dare you?!!!"
"Ha, heavens are my bitch, I'll screw everyone, I'm the mightiest!!!"
"Then fight me you lil' cunt, I'll show you!"
"Ha, why do that when I have this uber-duber OP item that can do it instead! Ha, die!"
2.5/5. 3/5 'cuz guilty pleasure.
So, Jasmine - the girl he rescues at the very beginning that's super-op - has finally cleansed her poison and can use her powers however she wants. Meaning, she's unequaled in the world MC's living. Meanwhile, larger-than-MC plot is revolving in the background, and his identity is exposed to the 'big-baddies' of the world and they're planning to do something (probably expose him publicly or something like that) about it during the gathering that will happen soon.
There are two routes this can take, and both suck ass: one route is that he's exposed, but in turn exposes them and reveals the whole truth of the matter. They attack him, Jasmine shows up and cleans everything up nice and proper.
Second route: Jasmine will suddenly decide she has to go someplace else to resolve something, leaving MC alone to battle against whatever.
Mind you, even if Jasmine doesn't help him, he's almost impossible to kill due to his treasures. Regardless of what happens during the gathering, story is beset to suck simply because of a retarded matter of Jasmine having cured her poison. Even if we - as readers - knew the whole time that MC simply can't die because Jasmine will always save him (and it's not as though I give too much sh*t about his dependent companions to care), so it effectively nullifies any tension. Nobody in this current world can rival him. Nothing can endanger him. Instead of going to this BS conference that has nothing to do with him (as far as he knows), he could be traveling the world and looking for the two remaining 'seeds of the Evil God' because he can go anywhere he wants now. Rather, I don't know why Jasmine - who always tried to push him to become stronger faster - doesn't point this out.
In addition, with the hints we've gotten so far, nothing about this story will change even once he leaves this world. Going by the current speed, he should probably 'ascend' in about 200-300 more chapters. And the same cycle of repeated plotlines will continue. I guarantee that - eventually - Jasmine's dad will find her and capture her for that whatever ritual to make himself stronger, and MC will show up just in the nick of time to save her, and it will be a sort of payoff for her teaching him all those years.
I don't care much for grand, unpredictable stories (as much as I'd like to see them), but this is simply barren, far too simple. You can practically predict everything that's going to happen as long as there's even a whiff of a hint. When the Golden Crow talked to Jasmine about that 'thing' or whatever that will maybe occur, which is why everyone's feeding MC inheritances like it's nothing, I later on immediately connected it to that Evil Wheel thing. Following that, MC's sword is most-likely that holy sword thingy because she was 'adopted' during the Era of Gods or whatever out of nowhere.
I may be wrong, but I doubt it. Every bit of foreshadowing that happened was never there to mislead readers, but basically to tell them what will happen in the future. That's not interesting.
Anyway, I'm done.
First off: MMO that expensive to play wouldn't even have 10 f**king players, let alone 10 million. When you see the numbers flaunted about (it terms of cost), you can literally shave off one 0 and it'd still be expensive. MMO would flop harder than Amy Shoemaker's new comedy show, and would be buried in the dust within a week. f**k, it'd probably be massacred with the announcement of prices.
Second off: the entire buying/selling items process. Look, I won't debate whether (in the future) the ENTIRE STRUCTURE of how MMO's are designed (end-game oriented) will be completely different and will focus on leveling, but I'll f**king guarantee that NEVER IN THE WORLD will a leveling be sold for 100$. NEVER. Nor would a Skill Book. NOR WOULD f**kING ANYTHING. The numbers are just insane. Sure, make the MMO in your story P2W, I don't care, but make it so I don't grunt every time I see numbers. Instead of take sh*t out of his ass, author could have simply made the items drop and be done with it. But no. Remember, 1g in the game = 10$ in real life. I'm pretty sure author has no idea how neither the economy nor MMO's work from just that.
Third: This MMO is sh*t from grounds up. The entire concept of the game is based on the fact that newcomers WILL NEVER catch up to front runners. That is bullsh*t. Even in the grindfest like Black Desert, if you were to start today, given enough time and effort you'd be able to compete with the topguns. However, in Warlord, unless you're MC with godlike knowledge, it's impossible. No MMO would EVER survive off of its initial playbase. Imagine if WoW did this thing. They'd never have made it past Burning Crusade.
Fourth: Every single design choice is insulting to every player. Warlord is based off of the idea that 'you can invest money and get money returns', but that's BS. First, that 30 exclusive bullsh*t is just so dumb I'm not even going to comment on it. Second, it feels like the worst F2P game ever made that costs literally thousands upon thousands of $ to play. You can buy power. You can buy f**king everything in the game. Even the WORST P2W cash-grabs in the past 10 years weren't that bad. So f**k off with this sh*t.
Fifth: Guild & raid system. What is this sh*t with 'being in queue' for raids? Are you insane? Weekly locking nearly f**king killed raiding scene in WoW, and you think people would put up with queue bullsh*t? And it's not just raids, it's even with dungeons. This isn't a f**king MMORPG. And wtf is with the guild system? 30 top guilds are so overpowered they can't be caught? Why? It's only because game said so. It's because of internally broken design.
Sixth: No level cap. This is the same issue I have with LMS: No level cap. It's absolute horsesh*t. Again, MAYBE sometime in the future MMORPG will come where leveling is the GOD of the game, but that's not the current market. Besides, leveling is boring. It was boring in LMS, it's boring here. There are only a few highlight moments. I don't know why they employ this 'oh, levels go on and on' bullsh*t, but stop it.
Seventh: Titles. This is broken. This has nothing to do with flawed design: this is outright something no game designer would ever do. Best Titles are locked behind the idea of 'the first'. And the Best Titles are exclusive. We're not talking about sh*t like +2 Damage. We're talking about % increase. For instance, as of c153, our MC has somewhere around 15-25% bonus on ALL his stats. And no one else besides a few other player can EVER get that. f**k.
TL;DR: don't read this for MMO system. It's terrible. It's not even an MMO. Read it if you enjoy power-trip fantasies. Necromancer is a fine spin on the formula, and it's utilized quite decently, but it's better if you just read it as a fantasy rather than litRPG.
While I praised author's ability for build-up and creating suspense, in this novel at least, it's a double-edged sword. When he does it well, he does it really well. However, when he doesn't, everything, from pace to enjoyment, just collapses faster than you could imagine. While things that happen seemed to have been pre-planned, it appears to me more that the author simply jotted down a few main points (k this char meets MC here, they battle for this, this faction reacts this way, etc.), and then decided to write around those points without actually having planned how to properly write about them.
Building tension is a hallmark of horror stories; they live and thrive on it. However, when writing action stories - especially ones involving supernatural elements - tension becomes a tool to use with great care. Again, author has pretty decent grasp on how to build it, but has absolutely no clue as to how to pace it. The only way I sucked some enjoyment out of this novel was by practically skipping more than quarter of it. While that may seem dishonest and makes my review seem a bit skewed, I do have my reasons.
First, pointless chapters where MC upgrades or whatever. If you've ever read xianxia, you'll obviously be skipping them because it's basically the same thing. Anyway, even if you skip it, you'll be constantly reminded what each and exact realm does, so you don't have to worry about being in the dark. These chapters are more frequent than you think, and I don't even mention paragraphs weaved in nearly every 5-6 chapters that refer to the realms and just repeat the same sh*t author already described before.
Second, chapters featuring nothing. And I don't mean no plot progression where characters talk with each other. I mean nothing. It's just bunch of words, referencing some history (again), with absolutely no tie-in to what is going on at the present time. While these chapters aren't as commonplace as cultivation ones, they are marked as some of the most blatant page count attempts I've seen.
As an example, at one point of the story, we're told of the history behind MC's sect. Great, some backstory never hurts. We learn of these major two figures that propped his sect up, and how they did it, and why they are so renowned. But wait. Then we hear the exact same story, again, with author trying to vaguely connect it with present times. But wait. Here it is again. This time, you're slightly annoyed, so you just skip it because it's the same sh*t. Oho but wait, what do we have here? An entire chapter dedicated to the backstory we've heard before, again?
I know that xianxia, as a genre, thrives on repetition, as authors have to drill some details into reader's minds. Much of it has to do with cultivation, but also with endless stream of side characters, and sometimes backstory. But, author here goes far beyond repetition, as he clearly just takes a chapter to bait readers into expecting the main story to actually restart.
The author is a competent writer. As I've stated before, characters in HSSB are much better developed than in majority of other xianxia. Even if there are your generic spoiled princes and whatnot, of those characters that stay, most are written well enough. In addition, he's really good at building up tension, but has absolutely no clue as to how to pace it and properly release it. This isn't a horror story. No reader will enter this world expecting 12 chapters of build-up that could have been done in about 2. By the time the release of tension comes, you don't go "wow, that was epic!", but rather "oh for f**ks sake, finally!". So, again, and I STRONGLY IMPLORE THIS, unless you can comfortably skip literal chapters and countless paragraphs, HSSB will be absolute chore to read.
One more knack against the author is how he purposefully conceals information from the viewer than the MC already knows. Although the type of narration is omnipotent, we spend most of our time with MC, and author simply hides things from us that should be easily explained mostly to just bolster that 'look how smart my non-MC who's totally MC character is'. It's cheap, because we can't operate on the same level as MC as we don't have the same information he has, so when he suddenly reveals something that should shock us and make us go "wow, that's really clever! I never would have thought of that!", we don't because we never stood a chance in the first place. Also, weaving mysteries in the background isn't author's strong suite either. He just presents a mystery and then leaves it blank for readers, while making MC's thoughts and dialogue extremely vague making it so we can't even infer anything that would help us decipher whatever the f**k MC would.
All in all, HSSB has some really great moments, and when it's at it best, it eclipses majority of other novels. However, it's so rarely at its best that it's simply not worth mentioning. In addition, besides the gimmick of 'totally not MC' character, author can't pace out tension, dragging on things for far too long whereas the climax of the story arc simply isn't as satisfying as it could have been.
Thanks for reading.
If you are confused, here's how it goes: MC enters a bigger world or whatever. He immediately offends half the 'powers' there while 'befriending' the other half. In the end, arc becomes the major 'war' between these two sides where MC obviously saves everyone. Both arcs have exactly the same villain, who does exactly the same things, says exactly the same sh*t, and gets beaten exactly the same.
Overall, Spirit Realm isn't the worse novel of the bunch, but it's just far too inconsistent with what it wants to be. Couple that with your plot-thickens armored MC, substandard villains and pointless side characters, and you've got yourself sub-par xianxia.