Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

Translators: Suika, Pengie
Illustrations: ZeldaCW

 

Twice before, Xie Lian has ascended to godhood. The first time, it was as the beloved of heaven, a prince of flowers renown for his beauty, character, and grace. When his people needed him, Xie Lian defied heaven and returned to the mortal world to help his people … and failed them, instead. Stripped of his godhood, his temples, his followers, and his kingdom, Xie Lian became a laughingstock. The second time he ascended, it was a surprise. Xie Lian was a god for less than the length of a day before being cast out. Now, with the heavens shaking and the roar of thunder so loud, Xie Lian has ascended a third time.

The butt of every joke, given nothing but scorn or pity from the other gods, Xie Lian is hardly welcome. In a world where one’s wealth is counted by their followers, Xie Lian is a pauper. And in debt, as his ascension shook the heavens so badly that grand palaces (and a bell) were destroyed, and someone has to pay for that. Taking pity on him, Ling Wen — a goddess who oversees the organization of heaven and records the prayers — finds a task for him.

Brides have been going missing on Mount Yujun. No matter how many guards watch over them or how grand the processions (or how poor), the women are missing and their attendants are never found. Happily, Xie Lian takes on this challenge, ready to repay the debts he’s owed. Helping him, reluctantly, are two minor officials, each of whom serve a general who used to be among Xie Lian’s retinue when he was powerful, and now will have nothing to do with him. With such help, this should be an easy matter to subdue a rogue ghost, but Xie Lian has never had good luck, and there are more ghosts on the mountain than even heaven knew. And one of them has taken an interest in Xie Lian.

This story, the first book in the Heaven Official’s Blessing series, deals heavily with Chinese mythology. Men and women can rise to be gods through great deeds, living in a grand court in heaven where they oversee the prayers of their worshipers. But for all their power, they are bound by their followers as one god, a powerful general, discovered when a king miscopied a character of his name, turning him from a sun god to a god of, er, “Gigantic Masculinity.” The king was powerful and rich, and now more of his worshipers know him by this name, and more women pray to him for filial sons and handsome lovers. Such is the fate of a god.

Xie Lian is a man of thick skin and a pure heart. When he was a young crown prince he said, “There is nothing wrong with saving people. Why would the heavens condemn me for doing the right thing?” One advisor asked him what he would do if the heavens did condemn him for his actions. Xie Lian’s answer was simple: “Then it is the heavens who are wrong.”

This is the shape of him. A man who wants to save those who cannot save themselves, to help those who need help regardless of how much money they have or what their blood is. If there is a wrong, he will right it, no matter who you are. And it cost him. In the end, it cost him everything. He has lost his home, his people, his friends, and his pride. He begs on the street, he gathers junk, he sleeps outside when it rains, and has endured great suffering, all while being unable to die. He has endured and will continue to endure, and while this could turn him jaded or bitter, it’s instead given him a great sense of humor. Xie Lian is snarky, self-aware, and absolutely unconcerned with anyone’s opinion of him. He’s witty, observant, and compassionate … and yet, he’s no fool.

The three men in his life — at the moment — are the two minor officials, Nan Feng and Fu Yao, each of whom serve the martial gods Feng Xin and Mu Qing, respectively. Both of these generals served Xie Lian while he was the crown prince, and both of them were devoted to him. Now, they wish nothing to do with him, and yet still send two of their juniors to help him in his quest. Nan Feng and Fu Yao hate each other, constantly at odds and bickering, which is a strain on poor Xie Lian’s nerves, but they’re good hearted (he’d like to think) and are useful to have at his side.

And then there is San Lang, the handsome young man with red robes and a ready smile. As he has nowhere to go, nowhere to sleep, and nothing to eat, Xie Lian offers San Lang shelter in the small, rundown hut he’s trying to turn into an alter to himself. And San Lang agrees. There’s something strange about the young man, though, who knows more than he ought, but he passes every test Xie Lian gives him to test his humanity. His unfailing cheer, his quiet confidence, and his friendship — and his equally biting humor — appeal to Xie Lian who has been alone for too long.

This book has a fair bit of gore, with descriptions of violence and death, ghosts and murders. But it’s also funny. The characters are engaging and the storytelling itself is strong with a fast pace. The world opens slowly, each thing explained only as the reader encounters them rather than having pages of exposition. It’s hinted that Xie Lian doesn’t remember everything, with much of his life — especially the painful parts — being things he’d rather not remember, but bits and pieces slowly start to come together. This is the first book in an eight book series, and I am very much enjoying it. The next book will be coming out next month.