Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel

 

Having survived the fall of the Heavenly Capital, Xie Lian, Hua Cheng, Feng Xin, and Mu Qing are now lost in the labyrinth of Mount Tonglu. With doubt being cast on all sides — why did Mu Qing attack Feng Xin, are they really who they say they are or is one of them White No Face in disguise? Where did Mu Qing get his cursed shackle, and why? — tensions are almost as thick as the deadly lava filling the tunnels. The lost souls of the Kingdom of Wuyong, lost in their own misery and hatred, are eager to pull the souls of living to drown and die with them, which makes crossing the bridge to heaven even more troublesome.

And yet, some good does come of it. Mu Qing, seeing only death in his future, finally admits his most painful truth, and apologizes for past harms. And Jun Wu, the Emperor of Heaven — a Heavenly realm now nothing more than rubble — learns that a hundred thousand empty prayers are worth nothing compared to one sincerely devoted follower.

This is the last installment of the Heaven Official’s Blessing series, wrapping up Xie Lian’s adventures as a Scrap Collecting god, and it ends well. Not all loose ends are tied up, with many friendships still uncertain, many relationships left irrevocably broken, and yet there is always a chance for healing. For all that Feng Xin, Lan Chang, and Cuocuo (his wife and unborn son turned to ghosts through hatred) don’t end up with a happily ever after, the story leaves the three of them them in a place where — with time, with patience and work — there is a chance for them to eventually find their ways to where they can be happy. And being happy doesn’t necessarily mean or need for them to be together.

It’s an important theme in the book, that one’s own happiness is neither owed to nor dependent upon others. Xie Lian spent 800 years alone, and during that time found his own identity, one that wasn’t wrapped in princely vestments or heavenly incense. Feng Xin and Mu Qing each hold tightly to the past, never letting go and never learning to move from old mistakes and past hurts. When they do, though, when they allow themselves to relax that hold and look forward instead of backwards, they find that friendships are both stronger and more welcome than hatred.

Jun Wu couldn’t let go of the past, no more than Hua Cheng. Each made themselves into … a thing. An idea, an ideal; Jun Wu from grief and hatred, Hua Cheng from love and devotion, and each lessened themselves for it. For both, they went from seeing Xie Lian as an ideal himself, a thing he wasn’t and never could be, to seeing him as the flawed, feeling, and thinking person that he actually was. It breaks Jun Wu, but it sets Hua Cheng free. With Xie Lian’s love and acceptance, Hua Cheng is free to not be just a devoted believer, but to be a lover, a friend, a companion and … a person.

Hua Cheng shaped himself to be what he thought Xie Lian needed, which is interesting because for all that he prayed at Xie Lian’s altar, he never really stood for Xie Lian’s beliefs. Xie Lian wants to save the common people, Hua Cheng doesn’t care for them at all. Xie Lian wants to do good, Hua Cheng wants to do Xie Lian. Xie Lian is a light of shining goodness, and Hua Cheng wants nothing more than to sit and stare at him forever and ever and ever. He’s lived 800 years for Xie Lian and Xie Lian alone. His hobbies are thinking about Xie Lian, carving sculptures of Xie Lian, and being with Xie Lian. Kissing him is a bonus, marrying him an honor, and sleeping with him a joy — but if Xie Lian said he was no longer interested in sex, Hua Cheng would be fine with that, so long as he could be beside Xie Lian.

Honestly, through much of the book — all 8 parts of it — I found myself rather disinterested in Hua Cheng. He’s so blandly perfect. He’s strong enough to defeat any evil, smarter and more clever than any scholar, faster than a speeding bullet, and ignores everything and everyone that isn’t Xie Lian. His role is to be in love, and to be the deus ex machina — or is that umbra ex machina, considering he’s the ghost king? — who gives Xie Lian exactly what he needs to win a fight, the information he’s missing to figure out a riddle, or to be a taxi service to get Xie Lian to where he wants to go. However, in the extras — the short stories that serve as extra flavor to the book — especially the Strange Amnesiac Adventures of His Highness The Crown Prince — there’s a more playful and slightly meaner side to Hua Cheng. Knowing Xie Lian has had his memories taken and is now reset to his 17 year old self, he decides to play with him, deliberately allowing him to infer the most sordid meaning from his conversation only to mildly and innocently protest that he meant nothing of the sort! It’s cute, and I enjoyed it. Then there’s the scandalous extra, The Cave of Ten Thousand Gods. In the book it’s revealed that Hua Cheng, over 800 years, filled cave after cave with carvings of Xie Lian, ranging from exquisite statues of him as the Prince of Xianle to martial statues of him when he was a god, to statues of Xie Lian as a broken man. And then there is the statue no one wanted Xie Lian to see … well, when Xie Lian goes to visit the cave again — filled with godly power — the statues react and begin to come alive. Even that one. Especially that one.

Normally, extras in danmei are there for fun; they’re what-if stories, AUs, coffee shop moments where the author can play with the characters and be more frivolous, or put in scenes that didn’t quite make it into the book and can be either skipped or ignored, as they don’t always add to the story itself. Here, however, I think all of the extras for Heaven Official’s Blessing add depth and nuance to Xie Lian and especially to Hua Cheng.

I have loved all three books from this author, from the first fan translations online, to the official English translations, to the many adaptations (comics, cartoons, live action and all). Heaven Official’s Blessing carries on many of same themes of class, morality, justic,e and endurance; of pain and suffering, redemption and love. Because it’s a translation from a Chinese novel written by a Chinese author for Chinese readers, there is a bit of nuance that is simply lost. Cultural influences, tropes, even the way the writing relies more on telling and less on showing — with more focus on a characters thoughts than their emotions. However, the translating team did an amazing job with this book and I found it very easy to read. The glossary in back explains some of the puns, titles, and naming conventions.

I very much enjoyed this book, though I personally think the side characters and their stories and relationships held my attention more than the main couple. The action scenes are well done, the world building is strong, and the plot is well laid out. All in all, just a good story, and one I hope you enjoy as much as I do.