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Book Review: Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, by Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù

I purchased a copy of Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù’s Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation. And while I academically understand that Chinese names aren’t ordered the same English names are, which means my process of alphabetizing by last name, comma, first name is possibly inaccurate, I and 100% counting Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù as my X author for in my author alphabet challenge this year! And look at me getting it read in FEBRUARY and I’m probably going to read more than one! That never happens. X is almost always the hardest and last letter I manage.
grandmaster of demonic cultivation
Wei Wuxian was once one of the most powerful men of his generation, a talented and clever young cultivator who harnessed martial arts and spirituality into powerful abilities. But when the horrors of war led him to seek more power through demonic cultivation, the world’s respect for his abilities turned to fear, and his death was celebrated throughout the land.

Years later, he awakens in the body of an aggrieved young man who sacrifices his soul so that Wei Wuxian can exact revenge on his behalf. Though granted a second life, Wei Wuxian is not free from his first, nor the mysteries that appear before him now. Yet this time, he’ll face it all with the righteous and esteemed Lan Wangji at his side, another powerful cultivator whose unwavering dedication and shared memories of their past will help shine a light on the dark truths that surround them.

my review
Honestly, this isn’t so much a review as just documenting my thoughts about reading this first volume of Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation. Because there isn’t any way to separate out my the untamed posterexperience with it and my love of The Untamed. I was 100% predisposed to enjoy this, for sentimentality’s sake, if nothing else. I 100% wish I had read the book first (since the show follows the book so closely), but if I’d not seen and loved the show, I almost certainly wouldn’t have thought to pick up the book. And I kind of think I might not have loved the book as much if I’d not already fallen in love with the characters. Chicken meet egg, yeah?

I also decided I wasn’t going to try and write a real review because I don’t know how to separate out what can be attributed to the original writer/writing and what is the fault or accomplishment of the translator. I definitely thought some of the colloquialisms and informal language (like “duh”, and “you messin’ with me”) felt out of place. But I also quite enjoyed reading the story. There’s a pretty good review from a professional translator on Goodreads that I found really informative on this point though. And it isn’t the only review I’ve seen saying the translation isn’t all that great. But I am in no position to comment on such things myself.

Lastly, I just don’t know what standard to assess danmei by. I understand poetry, short stories, and long form fiction all have different literary expectations. So, there isn’t any reason to think danmei don’t as well, and I don’t know them. So, I don’t feel qualified to judge them.

So, rather than pretend any of the above isn’t true, I’m just going to say I love these characters. And as meandering and unfocused as the story may be sometimes, I’ll read about Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangi watching paint dry if that’s what is on offer. For those who enjoyed The Untamed, this book gets just about as far as the drunk Lan Wangi scene and it’s every bit as cute as you’d expect.

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Book Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess, by Sue Lynn Tan

I accepted a copy of Sue Lynn Tan‘s Daughter of the Moon Goddess for review, through Turn the Page Tours. Find further author information and the schedule for the rest of the tour here.
daughter of the moon goddess cover

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

my review First off, look at that cover! I chose to read this book 100% based on the beautiful cover. I’m just sayin’ it’s gorgeous.

I enjoyed the story a lot too. I liked the mythos, the characters, and the emotional turmoil as people tried to do the right thing in difficult situations. I thought the writing lyrical and the descriptions arresting.

I did think Xingyin suffered a little bit from ‘special girl’ syndrome. She was strong, loyal, honorable, and willing to fight for herself and her own betterment. I liked her a lot. But so did almost every powerful male of comparable age. At least that’s what it felt like. With almost no resources she managed to get herself into circles of power and then, once there, attract the most powerful men. I also thought the book longer than need be.

But, all in all, I’d call this one a winner. I look forward to getting to read more of the series.

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Other Reviews:

Review: Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Book Review | Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan




An Excess Male

Book Review of An Excess Male, by Maggie Shen King

I borrowed a copy of Maggie Shen King‘s An Excess Male from my local library.

Description from Goodreads:
Under the One Child Policy, everyone plotted to have a son. Now 40 million of them can’t find wives. China’s One Child Policy and its cultural preference for male heirs have created a society overrun by 40 million unmarriageable men. By the year 2030, more than twenty-five percent of men in their late thirties will not have a family of their own.

An Excess Male is one such leftover man’s quest for love and family under a State that seeks to glorify its past mistakes and impose order through authoritarian measures, reinvigorated Communist ideals, and social engineering. Wei-guo holds fast to the belief that as long as he continues to improve himself, his small business, and in turn, his country, his chance at love will come. He finally saves up the dowry required to enter matchmaking talks at the lowest rung as a third husband—the maximum allowed by law. Only a single family—one harboring an illegal spouse—shows interest, yet with May-ling and her two husbands, Wei-guo feels seen, heard, and connected to like never before. But everyone and everything—walls, streetlights, garbage cans—are listening, and men, excess or not, are dispensable to the State. Wei-guo must reach a new understanding of patriotism and test the limits of his love and his resolve in order to save himself and this family he has come to hold dear.

Spoilery Review:
I wavered between a four and five star on this book. It isn’t easy to read at times and my first words on finishing the book were a wail of, “XXX doesn’t get his happy ending.” It’s almost worse than that honestly, because a gay man in a family is replaced by a straight man and the family is functionally improved. It is definitely only the straight characters who get their simple happy ending, and that very much bothered me. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that I think there are more layers to it than just that.

Yes, if I took the very Scarlet O’hara-like everything will be better tomorrow passage at the end to just be a glib wrap up, then this book would fall in my estimation. Instead, however, I choose to read it to suggest that XXX is actually working with a person he could have a discreet, mutually meaningful relationship with, to bring about real social change in society that will enable him to openly rejoin his family. And this I see as a happy, if delayed ending. It’s certainly the happiest ending the book could allow in the society as presented. I think it’s important to remember that, despite involving love and family, this is not a romance novel. Tragic? Yes. But also hopeful.

A book isn’t just it’s ending, of course, and I found this one to also have a believable example of an autistic adult, poly relationships, positively represented gay men (there are mysteriously no lesbians or bisexuals, though you’d think the the latter would be ideal in such a society), beautiful writing and complex emotions. Also, I thought all the different types of love shown were wonderful. Though love was also demonstrated to be brittle and painful when not similarly reciprocated, no matter how hard the characters tried. And they REALLY tried.

All in all, An Excess Male made me think and feel and I truly enjoyed it.