a) M*gic the gathering: One of his abilities is from the card game system of OP magic that nobody else has any clue exists and yet where cards appear all over the place in people's pocket's and out of thin air. I think it's a great concept... for a novel that actually focuses on that. As a system of magic, it just has no relation to the setting, other characters or the mythology (yeah, he tries to create deep hidden conspiracy theory type explanations, but it's pretty lame).
My biggest issue of all is that he could have done everything the cards do without the card system.
b) Ring of the ancients: so yeah, it's great you got an heirloom from your grandfather, it's great it gives you a magic spell, some stats and I'm even fine with it having a backstory and ancient spirits with sword skillz. Why did the author have to make it materialise an ancient spirit that wasn't even supposed to be in the item...? If you're going to make an OP item for your MC, don't make it more OP than it would normally be just to make your readers facepalm please.
c) Lionheart sword evolves into Gigasword: Again, he puts a neat backstory to an item, makes a nice scene where he gets the approval of some ancient king who wielded it... then a few chapters later decides it wasn't good enough, so he says it's only 1/4 of the sword that was actually an even better sword that belonged to an even more ancient king. Now he'll be 10 times more powerful!
Some of these images include his disguises: a highland knight and then later on as a Viscount from the South of Ailuin, his NPC identity as related to his grandfather, some of the other misunderstandings are even more interesting: as a dragon when the dragon loli helps him out with Makalov, him being a sun knight when he uses charge or the misunderstandings as him being the Dragon of Darkness by the witch and later undeads.
I quite enjoyed nine cauldrons. I was not able to get into other of IET's novels, but I should try again, perhaps.
The story itself is quite generic, so I can't give a stunning review in terms of a gripping plot or deep personalities or even original setting. It suffers of a common xianxia fault, which is a kind divorce of the MC from the world. The first arc (about 200 chapters) sticks to his hometown and local forces, but ever since the Da Yan Mountain arc, or even before that with the short arc on the fire fruit, the author starts going on these quests around the world, and there is neither proper description of his trials and daily life, or the sights he sees, nor is there a social context - enemies and allies, objectives to accomplish. So it grows harder and harder to turn the pages.
He does go back to his hometown, but it feels like the author lots touch with it a bit. He is so focused on getting to the point, setting up his Xing Yi Men and showing that he lives happily ever after (with a few intense battle sequences here and there) that he just resorts to time skips (both big and small) and informing the reader of stuff the MC apparently did that prepared him for stuff, but that the author was too lazy to write about. The biggest regret I have here is that his children become really shallow characters. They both seem lovely and interesting, but there's just not enough time given to them, the author was impatient by the end.
That being said, his cultivation system is good. I like that the MC focuses on his spear technique, and develops his own moves, slowly throughout the story. The author later in the novel reveals a lot about the 2 predominant schools and sets the MC on course to create another, and I quite like how he describes the process and the differences between these 3 daos.
I also quite like certain impressions the author here and there leaves on me. Sometimes this is a quick description of the weather to set the mood, sometimes the way he describes the MC's insight into a technique, sometimes in the unexpected decision one of his character's arrives at, or the introduction of music or art or other details that add to some of his arcs and ambiences.
I also enjoyed the romance.
The MC actually fails at protecting his first love in the new world. This is significant in Chinese literature considering most just end up with a girl and remain faithful for evermore. There was room here for the author to explore some other emotions, like the regrets and will to avenge, as well as the happier side of getting together with another girl. The plot with Li Jun is slightly insipid though. Our MC is so concerned about his previous life's lover that he denies he has any feelings for her for too long. Fortunately, he changes his mind and they have a sweet, if not all that exciting, marriage and family life. I do quite enjoy the scenes with his family when he returns to Jiang Ning Jun.
For example, he gets a bit wacky with his song ideas, the hehe or the tree with the epic music. Some of it comes off as a bit forced and strictly speaking, I prefer the delivery of the more vanilla top management or god of music. Still, this is definitely more creative in some ways and the writing style of the author keeps the series grounded and not too unbelievable. Another spark of creativity is the pressure through praise tactics of his competitors, which I quite enjoyed.
For those who have read the series, I do like Rachel Rose and Alan's kitchen etc, but cooking, as well as Minjoon's ability to sense quality and freshness, really start from putting together tastes based on produce. Developing that would have really given Minjoon's creative evolution real legs to stand on and broadened both his and the readers horizons much more than focusing solely on celebrity chef world. I don't think they're mutually exclusive.