Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel

 

Xie Lian was asked to help the Windmaster, Shi Qingxuan, with his curse. The charming, feckless playboy is being haunted by the Reverend of Empty Words, a being that follows him and curses him with dire foretellings of his future. Normally, the Windmaster would be protected by his brother, the Watermaster, but his brother is about to face a divine challenge and can’t be disturbed. So the Windmaster has dragged his best friend, Ming Yi, the Earthmaster to help him convince Xie Lian for advice.

After all, as unlucky as Xie Lian is, as long lived as Xie Lian has been, surely he can do something to help! Against his better judgement, because he does rather like the feckless Windmaster, he agrees. As usual, Hua Cheng, Crimson Rain Sought Flower, the Ghost King, tags along. Unfortunately, the Reverend of Empty Words isn’t wrong in his pronouncements. Shi Qingxaun is cursed, and so is his brother. And there may not be anything Xie Lian can do to help.

Heaven Official’s Blessing is a series that needs to be read in order. Despite being spread out over eight books, this is a single, albeit long, story that has been translated from Chinese to English. As such, there are concepts and cultural elements that may confuse some western readers. However, the story is truly worth the reading and investment, and it’s one I highly recommend giving a try. (It also has a cartoon adaptation that covers the events of the first book!)

Xie Lian was once among the most favored of the Heavenly Officials. And the most entitled and arrogant, thinking he knew best, thinking he was always right. Time, though, all of the long, 800 years of it has taught him that he is not worth more than the beggar on the street, not worth more than the prisoner in the cell, than the infant in the cradle or the farmer in the field. He has known suffering, starvation, privation, and pain. He has also known loneliness, as all of those who stood beside him when he stood upon the clouds now will not look at him.

“There was a period in my own life that wasn’t easy. Back then, I’d always think about how wonderful it would be if someone could still love me for who I was, even if they saw me rolling in the dirt and couldn’t get up. […] To me, the one basking in infinite glory is you; the one fallen from grace is also you. What matters is you, not the state of you.”

Xie Lian is now calmer. More accepting. He knows his limits. He still wants to help, and does where he can, but he’s no longer involved as much in the mortal world — or the immortal. He’ll catch a few ghosts, do a few chores, attend some dinners … but mostly out of politeness. He’s no longer a star in the show; he’s in the audience, watching, enjoying the drama without letting it hurt him. Because he’s been hurt too many, many times.

Even so, Hua Cheng manages to get under his skin. It’s the other man’s endless support, endless presence, his humor and wit and the way he watches everything Xie Lian does. When dealing with the rival Ghost King Black Water Submerging Boats, Hua Cheng has no interest in helping or protecting anyone but Xie Lian. He will happily let any and everyone else die unless Xie Lian makes an appeal for their safety. His devotion is closer to obsession, and his desire for Xie Lian is ramped up to a new height in this book.

First, there was the near drowning. Surely it’s alright to kiss someone if you’re trying to help them breathe? But Xie Lian … well, it’s hard to kiss Hua Cheng and not admit to himself how he felt afterwards. When the two of them are in a coffin, their bodies are pressed tightly together and Xie Lian cannot help but have a reaction. And then there’s the disruption in the ghost world as a new Ghost King is about to be born, leaving Hua Cheng near mad with too much power and nowhere to channel it. So Xie Lian kisses him — not out of lust, but out of compassion — to take as much of Hua Cheng’s spiritual power as he can, to pull it into himself and let Hua Cheng find peace.

And it’s there that Xie Lian realizes that he enjoys it. The kissing, the closeness, the protectiveness. It’s been so long since he’s had anyone by his side, and cultivating as he does, physical intimacy is something he’s never allowed himself. It’s all confusing, frightening and exciting.

“… Gege, please forget that ever happened,” Hua Cheng pleaded softly.

Xie Lian was resolute in his refusal. “No. I will remember this forever.”

“Gege, although I’m happy you’re so happy, is it really that funny,” Hua Cheng asked in a woeful tone.

Xie Lian hugged his belly as he laughed. “Of course! Only since meeting you have I rediscovered how simple it is to be happy […]”

The writing is strong, the pacing is so fast it has a blink and you’ll miss it sort of feel to parts that makes it hold up for a re-read. The characterizations are strong with Xie Lian having a very present voice and decided opinion, but — because this book was written in Chinese and was translated to English — the style isn’t what those more used to western books might be familiar with. However, this twisting and turning story with ghosts and gods, adventures, and mysteries is, at heart, a romance. And it’s one well worth staying for.

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