Note: This review contains what some consider spoilers for the story, so please take that into account when reading the review.
The Kiln has been broken, unleashing demons and foul spirits into the world. Without the barrier to keep them contained, the world is now at risk of being devoured by these hungry monsters. But the demons aren’t the only thing let loose; White No-Face, the half-smiling, half crying being who unleashed the human faces plague on Xianle, who tortured Xie Lian 800 years ago, has returned.
What does any of this have to do with the Prince of Wuyong who, like Xie Lian, was born under a cursed star? Why are their lives, their fates so similar? Those questions will have to wait until Xie Lian can save the humans trapped in the Royal City. With the help of beggars and the broken Wind Master, cultivators and — of course — Hua Cheng, Xie Lian comes up with a plan, a plan that, for a time actually works!
The tangle of fate that surrounds Xie Lian grows even more knotted as unhappy truths are revealed. White No-Face is revealed to be none other than Jun Wu himself, the Heavenly Emperor, the ruler of the Heavenly Realm! With nowhere to hide and no need to hold back, Jun Wu declares war on the heavenly officials, and on Xie Lian!
The seventh installment of the Heaven Official’s Blessing series lands like a boulder and rolls right into an avalanche of action scenes, confessions, and revelations. So many little mysteries and secrets are brought to light as the story of Jun Wu, the Prince of Wyuong, is told and the horrors he has enacted on the world are revealed; events that seemed like mere side stories are revealed to have greater weight and purpose as everything comes together for the giant battle between Jun Wu and everyone else in a set piece involving a giant statue powered by the fear and anger of gods against the city of heaven itself, powered by the strongest immortal — Jun Wu.
There is so much to enjoy with this book. Xie Lian is by turns clever and creative, compassionate and coldly furious as he watches Jun Wu torture his friends simply because he can. All of this notwithstanding the torture he enacted upon Xie Lian 800 years ago. Jun Wu wanted to turn Xie Lian into a proper heir, someone who would face as much pain and suffering as he had and make the same choices Jun Wu did, thousands of years ago when the Kingdom of Wuyong was destroyed — proving that the choices Jun Wu made were the right ones, no matter how terrible they were. But Xie Lian isn’t Jun Wu. Again and again, he puts other people before himself, trying to save everyone he can rather than sacrificing them for his own good. The story is so well put together with the balance of the foils of Jun Wu and Xie Lian that I read the book in one sitting.
However, there’s an issue with this book, for me and that’s Hua Cheng. Hua Cheng isn’t actually a character. He’s a deus ex machina (in a book about gods) who seems to exist for one purpose: To give the main character a love interest. He has no personality beyond being devoted, no goals beyond being beside Xie Lian, and doesn’t really do anything on his own. If Xie Lian has questions, Hua Cheng answers them. If Xie Lian needs to get from point A to point B, Hua Cheng is his driver. He’s as selfless as a mannequin, as lovely as a dream, and as complex as a picture.
Fortunately, for all that he’s the love interest, he’s not actually that much of a main character, and doesn’t actually take up much of the book, leaving the best parts — the plot, the world building and the magic battles — to shine.