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dancebaby
dancebaby rated it
The Rebirth of an Ill-Fated Consort
July 23, 2019
Status: Completed
It's the middle of the night. I JUST finished this novel, and came here to gush!

I read this author's works a bit out of order, starting with Malicious Empress, followed by Di Daughter, then lastly this one. Honestly she ranks as one of my favorite authors. No one writes historical plotting / scheming quite the same! I love that she respects the intelligence of the reader and her stories are always tightly written - always moving along quickly and thrillingly.

Originally I hesitated diving into this due to some reviews that... more>> mentioned the below points, but I ended up being very pleasantly surprised:

    1. A draggy last arc. It ended up being all good. Admittedly, for all her strengths I've noticed this author is not the best at writing endings. However, if I have to pick, the ending here was my favorite out of all 3 works. Way less contrived than the others and kept my interest all the way to the very end.
    1. Less romantic vs. Malicious Empress. NOT SO! This actually surprised me quite a bit. I thought the romance here was even more romantic and evident than Malicious Empress! Romance fans - here's a PSA for you. The relationship gets established relatively early on, giving us readers plenty of sweet and cute romantic scenes ;)
    1. More brutal / bloody vs. Malicious Empress. Well, this I have to agree with - the author really pulled all the stops and didn't hesitate to write some shocking scenes in this one. Seems like she toned it down in her later works to not trigger any sensitive readers. Even so, it's not too bad (the writing moves along quickly) and just adds imagery to the story. I tend to avoid gratuitous violence / bloodiness like the plague, and yet wasn't too bothered.
Something about the past life ex (that MC seeks revenge upon) which I thought was interesting, and no one's mentioned in reviews yet. (Somewhat huge spoiler, beware!)

Spoiler

I feel like I've missed something, but somehow I never thought the ex was THAT evil towards the MC. Sure, he was not an angel or pure kind soul by any means, but he also didn't directly kill the MC. At most he was indifferent, uncaring and ungrateful, and used our MC's love for his own gain - he was a bad person, but not evil evil, you know - the kind that are super maliciously evil. That made it more difficult for me to understand the writing of the author which framed him a bit as the "ultimate evil enemy" that needed to be defeated. At the very very end, he also redeems himself somewhat which made it harder to hate him thoroughly and feel satisfied by his ending. IMO, the sister who on her own cruelly killed MC in the most degrading and inhumane way possible deserved a bit more of a struggle, but she was wiped out pretty quickly early on (and with ease).

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Malicious Empress has held the #1 spot in my heart for so long I didn't think anything could meet that standard, but unexpectedly Rebirth has managed to become a solid tie. One of my all time favorites - a perfect balance between relentless cold revenge and sweet sweet romance.

Also shoutout to the translators who have done an amazing job with the translations to date - really incredible translation quality. Thanks for sharing with us grateful readers! <<less
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dancebaby
dancebaby rated it
The Cry of the Phoenix Which Reached the Ninth Heaven
March 8, 2019
Status: Completed
I was initially skeptical about starting this novel because of some of the plot points mentioned by the reviewers (e.g mediocre male lead, sleeping with ex, etc). However I'm so glad I gave this a try! Honestly please don't let those details turn you off - give it a try first. I was trying to find a novel just as entertaining as "Malicious Empress" (set a heck of a bar as the first cnovel I read) and this has been the closest one I've found. At times I daresay even... more>> surpassing it.

Pros

- Strong, smart, sassy female lead. Love her comebacks and slap downs (seriously, so much of the dialogue made me laugh out loud, not something that happens often!)

- An array of swoon worthy 2nd male leads you'll love (hello 2nd lead syndrome several times over)

- the romance with the male lead is pretty angst free

- the plot is twisty, schemey and oh such fun. Since the female lead doesn't reincarnate back in time, but continues in time, she isn't all knowing and arcs are filled with page turning cliff hangers (and often a sense of genuine crisis for our gal)

- villains you love to hate and can hold their own against the good guys (sometimes a little too well...)

(Slight) Cons and why they don't really matter

- it's true that the male lead is kind of so so and often pales in comparison to the other 2nd male leads. There's other characters who are more handsome, smarter, powerful etc etc... but, the male lead's redeeming factors are that he is the most devoted to the main lead, and perhaps the most courageous of the bunch. I thought this would really su** but as a huge romantic, it ended up being just fine. The romance is at times funny, at times sad, at times touching. Many times, you will feel your heart move

- Want to address the "sleeping with the ex" part which some people seem to take extreme issue with. Its less scandalous than it sounds - she's not in a relationship with anyone else so it's not "cheating", also it's just a minor detail really and easy to ignore if it bothers you. It's just a side effect of her needing to take revenge from within the palace right under her ex's nose

- last 50-100 chapters or so get a little fantastical but still 5/5 in entertainment value

Kudos and a huge thanks to the translator for the high quality translation! Fell in such love that I braved the chinese version for remaining 500+ untranslated chapters and it was absolutely worth it. <<less
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dancebaby
dancebaby rated it
Di Daughter’s Rebirth: Sheng Shi Wang Fei
March 8, 2019
Status: c53
After “Malicious Empress”, I started this novel with high hopes, but so far the pacing has been very slow (with rather drawn out dialogues) up to the currently translated ~50 chaps or so. Example: As of chap 53, she is still age 5... So far all of the “conflicts” have been with 5-8 year olds...

The English translation is super high quality and very readable - many thanks to the translator for the hard work!!!
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dancebaby
dancebaby rated it
Marriage of the Di Daughter
May 28, 2019
Status: Completed
Malicious Empress brought me to this novel and, like it's predecessor, this one doesn't disappoint in terms of plotting / schemes / face slapping. Plots actually make sense and the fast pacing makes for a fun, page turning read. 5/5 for this part.

I was, however, quite disappointed with the romance - bland and not at all well developed in my opinion. I give it a 2/5. I couldn't help but compare it with the perfect progression in Malicious Empress - although it was slow, we had hints starting from... more>> early on and there was incredible chemistry / sparks in every interaction. The romance here paled in comparison and was non-existent or flat for most of the novel. Seemed like the author put things on the back burner, suddenly remembered the romance at the very end and realized she needed to cram in a lot of ground all at once...

Major spoiler!!!

Spoiler

200+ chapters in, out of 240, we get the first kiss, confession, marriage proposal all together in the same scene at once. This scene was sweetly written but just terribly sudden and rushed, and I wish the author did more to let the romance and tension build from the very beginning. Until this point the MC didn't know the male lead liked her and to be honest, I could barely tell either. Sure, the ML helped her out a lot but it always seemed awfully platonic.

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Also mild annoyance with the ending - the author seems to like to use a similar troupe in all her novels for the last few chapters...

Major spoiler again!!!

Spoiler

of some sort of "forced separation" between the main leads for the last few chapters. In malicious empress it was the coma, here it's one of the leads "going missing" - both times I thought it was too contrived and just lazy writing especially in comparison to the exquisite and well thought out plots for the rest of the novel.

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Overall still an enjoyable read and despite some minor gripes, love this author's works. <<less
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dancebaby
dancebaby
Lost You Forever
March 13, 2019
Status: Completed
I came across this novel by accident and started it with no expectations. I was quickly sucked in and couldn't put it down. Be prepared for a ridiculous roller coaster in terms of ups and downs and relentless pacing. The world building is incredible and the writing is poetic, beautiful and moving. My first Tong Hua novel and finally I understand her well-deserved hype and fame. The quality and richness of the story surpassed anything else I've come across so far in the genre. One of the male leads, Xiang... more>> Liu, is probably one of my most favorite characters of all time... in the beginning I was shocked and confused by him, but overtime he grew on me so so much even though his interactions with the MC were more limited than the rest.

For the first half, I assumed with zero doubt in my mind this would catapult to the top of my list of best novels and I was prepared to reread it over and over again. Then I reached the ending, technically a happily ever after, but I was so heartbroken and so emotionally drained because it was truly not the ending I wanted!!! (TRULY SO UPSET!!! Don't even know how to begin to get over this) The story was going in that direction but I ignored all the signs, hoping the author would find a way to realistically write it differently... it's left me frustrated and quite disappointed actually, but obviously it's subjective what the "ideal" ending is. Personally my heart hurt so much at the end - admittedly, only the most powerful writing has the ability to have this sort of impact (but doesn't mean I'm happy about it haha). For more logical readers, the ending might be more satisfactory as it does come full circle for the most part.

I'm not sure I can bring myself to read it again after such a cruel stab to the heart but I don't regret reading this. Although the ending kind of ruined it for me, I really did love the earlier chapters. In my opinion, book 1 was the absolute best. Overall it was an enchanting and enthralling journey and I would still recommend this to all lovers of romance. <<less
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dancebaby
dancebaby rated it
Adore Trick of Beauty
April 21, 2019
Status: c500
First off, a huge thank you to the hard work of the translator who picked up this novel to share with us readers! After reading the first ~30 translated chapters, I was absolutely hooked and decided to read the raws (a very slow and unideal undertaking for novels I just can't put down). Struggled my way to chapter 500/699 and have so many torn emotions now that I'm in the final third of the novel. I rated this a 5/5 at first because the premise was so promising, but now... more>> I increasingly find myself having gripes with the execution of the characters and the plot and have revised to 3/5. Averages to 4/5.

A direct translation for the title is actually "Beauty Scheme" or perhaps "Scheme of a Beauty", and this is a nod to the fact that the main heroine is beautiful beyond compare to anyone else in the novel. And that she has schemes. Not really sure why plot wise, the heroine needs to be portrayed as the "most" beautiful woman in the entire world (just plain unrealistic), while the writer repeatedly reassures us that the male leads like her not only because of her beauty but because of her uniqueness and smarts etc. Anyway, just go with it.

The premise:

Not super spoiler-y in the context of the whole novel (just gives you the set-up of the story), but does spoil the first few chaps. Some details go beyond the currently translated ~30 chapters.

Spoiler

Our female lead, Nie Wushuang (NWS), is happily married in what she believes to be a love match. After 3 years of marital bliss, suddenly her gentle, handsome, accomplished prime minister husband turns on her almost overnight, kicking her out of their home, aborting their child, and is revealed to have a direct hand in the execution of her whole family as traitorous criminals. Broken physically and emotionally and now a wanted criminal, she runs to escape from being captured. By chance she meets Xiao Fengqing (XFQ), our male lead, who is a prince in a neighboring allied country, and seeks his protection. She essentially agrees to submit her entire self (body and soul), the only thing she has left to give, to his control in exchange for his promise to help her fulfill her bloodthirsty quest for revenge.

Our XFQ is very ambitious and makes it no secret that he wants the throne, which is currently occupied by his older brother, emperor Xiao Fengming (XFM). NWS catches XFM's eye, so XFQ "grooms" her and sends her to XFM's side as his planted agent. XFM takes NWS into the palace to join his imperial harem as a lowly concubine. The story follows NWS' path from the bottom of the food chain to the top, her increasingly torn loyalties and need to pick a side between these two men, while being forever plagued by her tragic past and unending need for revenge.

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The good:

One thing I deeply appreciate is that the author doesn't hesitate to write messy, tangled relationships and ambiguous moralities. In most novels you tend to have the main characters always be kind and good, never crossing into that grey area of being evil or wrong or even a bit flawed. Here all the main characters have their flaws, sometimes glaringly so. The interactions of the female leads with the male leads are a highlight, with plenty of charged undertones and scenes filled with juicy tension. No one is written with the purpose of being completely likable. Characters aren't 100% devoted to each other, and don't put down everything for the sake of love and have their own (often selfish) motivations to follow.

Overview of the male leads and relationship with the heroine (huge spoilers) :

Spoiler

The male lead, XFQ, and the second male lead, XFM, are both pretty compelling characters.

XFQ is the underdog - hiding his abilities, obediently working under his brother, biding his time in the dark. His ambition is ruthless and selfish. He loves his brother, XFM, who is half a father to him and who saved his life once. But he also hates XFM for "stealing" all that should have been his, hates that XFM can stand upright in the light while he has been pushed into the shadows powerlessly. Towards the heroine, XFM is possessive, forceful and sharp. But his relationship with the heroine is honest - they know each others' true and flawed selves and ultimate motivations. He is willing to help the heroine achieve bloody and selfish revenge. He has his secrets, as does the heroine, but between them there are no barriers (unlike XFM, see below).

XFM is the light - he is magnanimous, a natural ruler, considerate of the people and his kingdom. He is gentle and wise, a shoulder for the heroine to lean on, and endlessly understanding and doting. His gentle and continuous love heals the heroine's broken heart and she falls in love with him despite herself. She and XFM are "together" for most of the novel and he takes up way more screen time than XFQ. The problem is there's always a little distance between them, like an impenetrable veil, because as emperor his priority will always be the people and his kingdom. He keeps his government matters off-limits from the heroine (he doesn't want her to know or interfere) and keeps his empire's wellbeing in mind above the heroine's personal blood thirst (e.g., he offers her ex-husband a position in his kingdom since the ex-husband's talent can be a boon for the country, irregardless of the wrongs he did to the heroine). He's not willing to create a war or speed up a war just because the heroine wills it, and rightfully so IMO. No matter how loving the emperor is to the heroine, this is something she ultimately can't accept. She feels like she is an imposter in the light, when her real place is in the darkness because she can't escape her past and she can't escape the shadow of her original intent when she first entered the palace.

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The bad:

I hate to say this. While the author is great at relationships and characterizations, unfortunately the plot is so flimsy it'll come crashing down if you sneeze. There are so many scenes that are just plain confusing and I'm scratching my head like, so the point of that was...??? Or, the heck is the heroine thinking/doing...??? A few examples here but it's very spoiler-y, read at your own risk.

Spoiler

A continuation of what I mentioned in the premise. Okay, so our heroine NWS wants revenge. Our male lead XFQ wants the throne and sends NWS to XFM's side so she can be his spy / inside woman while he plots his way to power. So far so good. I love a good set-up.

Our NWS gets put into the palace. Then, our dear author and male lead seem to have completely forgotten why she was put in there in the first place. In 500 chapters, except for one minor example I can think of in one chapter, she basically does nothing of use to the male lead the whole time. It's really just her trying to survive the schemes of the harem while the male lead somewhat supports her in the background. Things get angsty as NWS starts to fall in love with the dashing, gentle, benevolent and doting emperor XFM and XFQ starts to learn his own heart and regrets sending her into the palace. XFQ needs to keep warning NWS not to betray him for XFM, but really there's no need since even before her feelings kicked in she wasn't of that much help to him anyway.

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The ugly:

Spoiler

Other gripes where things didn't make any sense:

1. Qin is the enemy country of Qi, NWS' home country. Qin attacks Qi, and Qi seeks help from Ying (NWS' new country) because Qi and Ying are technically allied countries. When Ying sends backup, NWS' only surviving family member, her older brother, is sent to war as one of the generals. He gets trapped by enemy troops. Since XFQ is also at battle, NWS decides to risk her life to sneak out of the palace to "help" her brother by meeting XFQ - it's a dangerous journey and certain death if it's found out that she's lied to the emperor to be with his brother (implied illicit affair). She hides in XFQ's battle tent for a few days to do nothing but wait nervously for battle news each day. And her one contribution is drawing a map with a path no one else knew about which turns the tide. Girl, is it me or could you have just passed a message?

2. Lots of things just "happen" without being explained. For instance, a consort from Qi commits suicide and XFM suspects it's NWS' doing, since it would trigger war between Qi and Ying. NWS wants Ying to attack Qi, which would lead to the downfall of Qi's emperor who executed her family (hence fulfilling her revenge). XFM accuses NWS of having a hand in the "suicide" and puts her under house arrest for 3 days. NWS' maid begs her to tell her XFM it's all a misunderstanding, that NWS had nothing to do with the consort's suicide, so NWS and XFM can mend their loving relationship. NWS is casually like, oh that was me actually - surprise! The maid is super shocked and confused. Me too, honey. Zero background on when she planned it, nada explanation on how she pulled it off, no emotional insight - nothing.

3. I'm all for questionable behavior when characters need to stay true to their goals or loyalties, etc. But I'm not a fan of viciousness "just because" - and towards the later chapters, I find myself asking does the female lead really need to be written so vicious and cruel? After #2 above, it was honestly kind of hard to keep going, but okay maybe the heroine HAD to do commit murder to trigger war, no other options. Okay, fine. Then I read chapter 500. There's a young girl who wanted to join XFM's harem but failed to get XFM's attention. In jealousy and retaliation the girl attempts to drown NWS while NWS is taking a bath in her personal hot spring bath. NWS manages to survive the attack and orders her servants to drown this girl in the bath so she can experience what she just experienced. The servants beg her to send the girl for official punishment instead but she insists on returning eye for an eye. So the girl proceeds to get drowned in her bath as she watches on emotionlessly. Um... really author? Was that really necessary... way too coldblooded for me.

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Phew! Longest review I've ever written, mostly because I'm totally bought into the romance and just wish everything else could have lived up to my expectations. This novel is by all means good entertainment and there are elements I still love about it which is why I got so far and will probably keep reading. I just wish I didn't have to scratch my head so often at where the writing is going. <<less
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