We’re nearing the end of Wei Wuxian’s story. In his first life, he was the infamous Yling Laozu; in his second, he is the maniac cutsleeve Mo Xanyu; but no matter what others have called him, Wei Wuxian has only ever been himself. In his first life, Lan Wangji was ever in his orbit, watching him, judging him, loving him from a distance. Now with his rebirth, Lan Wangji is at his side. And yet, there are still questions to be answered, both about the dismembered body he and Lan Wangji have been slowly putting back together and about who is pulling the strings. Someone out there wants the answers to these questions badly enough to bring the world’s most dangerous necromancer back to life, but who?
This is the (almost) last book in the Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation series. Everything has been leading up to this point, all the foreshadowing, all the questions have lead to this: The reveal of the Yling Laozu! The series began with the cultivation world all but celebrating his death, pleased to see him gone and the world restored to its natural balance. The rich in their towers, the poor in their huts; the righteous clans bringing forth justice and the common folk bowing their heads in thanks as beautiful, elegant cultivators slew monsters for the farmers and merchants — both for the fame, and for the wealth.
Wei Wuxian was once part of that world, the son of a servant who had the innate ability to be a cultivator, sitting faithfully behind Jiang Cheng’s elbow, raised with the young sect heir as an almost and yet not-quite brother. Wei Wuxian was and is a genius and a prodigy, always quick to learn and just as quick to question, pushing at the borders orthodoxy imposed on society. Why couldn’t things be different? Why couldn’t people be different? The Sunshot Campaign not only took away his home, it took away everything. And what little he had left he gave away, but still it wasn’t enough. People feared his power, and in that fearing, hated. Sect leaders, such as Jin Guanshan, wanted either his obedience and obeisance or his Yin Tiger Tally (which granted him his power), or both. And when Wei Wuxian refused — publicly, loudly, aggressively — he gave the Jin sect an opening. And they used it.
While Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is a story about class and society, about the distinction between what is moral and what is right, it is at its heart a love story. Lan Wangji is a man who grew up with 3000 rules carved into a stone wall, rules such as no laughing, no running, sit in such a way, eat in such a way, obey in such a way. Do not be too sad or too happy, do not lie or be greedy, do not have pleasure without restraint, and so Lan Wangji learned, bone deep, restraint and obedience. And then Wei Wuxian entered his life to show him justice. Wei Wuxian brought color and joy, enthusiasm and exploration, and Lan Wangji fell in love. And then Wei Wuxian died.
For 13 years, Lan Wangji lived knowing he had loved Wei Wuxian but had not been there for him at the end. He had held back, had shown restraint in his love … and lost everything. And now Wei Wuxian is back, alive and with him. But the Wei Wuxian of now is someone who has seen the world cry for his blood, has seen hatred in the eyes of those he thought of as his family, has caused death and pain through his own actions. The Wei Wuxian who is here, now, at Lan Wangji’s side, is a man who has learned restraint.
Watching Lan Wangji give everything to Wei Wuxian, denying him nothing, isn’t the act of a man so blind in love he can’t say no. It’s a man trying to give Wei Wuxian back the security and confidence the world took from him. When Lan Wangji takes the cup of wine — drinking is forbidden by his sect, and one cup goes straight to his head — it isn’t because he’s letting Wei Wuxian get away with mocking him. It’s showing him that he trusts him. He knows Wei Wuxian won’t hurt him, won’t betray him. What he doesn’t know is if Wei Wuxian loves him in a romantic way. But Lan Wangji has never been good with words, so all he has to give are his actions. His support. His refusal to leave Wei Wuxian’s side.
Wei Wuxian is a complex character, one who turned his back on his sect not to betray them, but to protect them. In his efforts to save what remained of the small Dafan Wen sect who had helped he and Jiang Cheng in the aftermath of the slaughter of Lotus Pier, he had to make a choice. To be at Jiang Cheng’s side was to bring him down with him, so he chose instead to leave. To abandon the man he thought of as a brother and, instead, to save the lives of the remnant members of the sect who had killed Jiang Cheng’s parents and his sect. And Wei Wuxian did it because he thought it was the right thing to do.
Again and again Wei Wuxian has put others above himself, has smiled so that his pain doesn’t cause others discomfort, and stood between bullies and their victims regardless of sect. Because the Wen sect fell from power, because their depredations had been so horrific, it’s seen as only right and just that anyone with the name Wen who is left alive is something to be beaten and killed with impunity. Wei Wuxian, who by rights should hate them just as much as everyone else for having the surname Wen, sees instead a sister mourning her brother, a grandmother protecting her grandson; men and women who had no choice in what side of the war they were on and are now helpless to defend themselves.
Wei Wuxian’s actions have always been more honest than his words. He and Lan Wangji are alike in that, so well matched in temperament and intellect, both of them wanting to do good in the world. It’s what makes them such a good couple — though it should be noted that while Lan Wangji is drunk in the ‘spicy’ scenes of this book, he isn’t unaware. He knows how alcohol will affect him and still chooses to drink, using it as a way to express his honest emotions to Wei Wuxian without having to use his words. Wei Wuxian is aware of this, Lan Wangji is aware of this, and both of them are aware that each other is aware.
I love this story, I love these characters, and I’m so glad to have an English translation so that the rest of the world gets a chance to enjoy them. Please do keep in mind, as you read this, that this is a Chinese story translated to English. Many thanks should be given to the translation team for all of their hard work.