“Heaven Official’s Blessing”
Eight hundred years ago, Xie Lian was the Crown Prince of the Xian Le kingdom; one who was beloved by his citizens and the darling of the world. Unsurprisingly, he ascended to the Heavens at a very young age. Now, eight hundred years later, Xie Lian ascends to the Heavens for the third time as the laughing stock of all three realms. On his first task as a god, he meets a mysterious demon who rules the ghosts and terrifies the Heavens……yet unbeknownst to Xie Lian, this demon king has been paying attention to him for a very, very long time.
Love exists and its name is HuaLian.
No really though. I picked this one up because a) I enjoyed the author’s other work Mo Dao Zu Shi and b) because I’d heard the main couple was super cute. I was not expecting to be hit by the world’s most perfect power couple of all times. Every interaction the two had left me screaming into my phone because they’re so adorable? And patient with each other? And communicate when they have conflicts? And they’ve seen each other at their absolute worsts? And actually behave like the 800-year-old immortal beings they are? True perfection.
Heaven Official’s Blessing or Tiān Guān Cì Fú (TGCF) is a hard novel to describe, largely because of its webnovel format. The quickest way to summarize it would be Crown Prince of Xian Le, Xie Lian, twice disgraced martial god, the trash-picking god and god of misfortune, ascends for his third time, then promptly returns to the human world to pick up trash and play heavenly NCIS. Upon moving in, he gets married, adopts two angry teenagers, and proceeds to piss off every other heavenly official. Occasionally, he vacations in the Ghost City, domain of his definitely-not Demon King husband Hua Cheng. Interspersed with this plotline is the story of the Fall of Xian Le and the 800 years of suffering Xie Lian experiences between then and the present timeline. I promise it’s not as confusing as it sounds, there’s just a lot of content to summarize.
TGCF’s biggest strength is the weight of the emotional connection readers make the characters. We’re first introduced to a sunny and cheerful Xie Lian, very happy-go-lucky in attitude, despite his current way of living (dilapidated old temple) and verbal abuse suffered from the other officials. While it clear that there’s a darker underside to his past than he lets on, we only get glimpses of the tragedies that happen. Hua Cheng, similarly, is introduced is a suave, trickster figure. We hear that heavenly officials are terrified of him, but getting the full story of those events and his similarly tragic background takes a long time. Each backstory has layers upon layers and it’s an absolute delight to take those layers apart, even if it means I’m sobbing into a pillow at 3AM. 800 years of suffering takes a long time to write.
Webnovels are lovely because of the extra time we get to spend with these characters, and thus extra time to flesh out background characters as well. I particularly enjoyed the duos Feng Xin and Mu Qing, powerful martial gods and Xie Lian’s old guards in Xian Le, and Shi QingXuan and He Xuan, the genderfluid Wind and Earth Masters. Shi QingXuan and He Xuan’s arc I thought was particularly well crafted and hard-hitting.
Beyond the characters, TGCF examines the idea of corruption in ideals. When we first meet the Heavenly Court, we are greeted with all its splendor and gold, with powerful officials overseeing and taking care of their worshippers on Earth. As the story progressed, however, we slowly see the greed of those power officials, and the corruption amongst its various members. A secondary theme explores power, and how sometimes, having power alone simply isn’t enough. Since many of these characters are the most powerful beings, it makes plot points hit so much harder.
For those interested in reading this, I should comment that this novel has been passed between multiple translators, with overlap. Chapters 1-24 were done by one group, 25-36 a different group (though I hear they plan to keep going) and 21-to the end by a third group. Because a lot of xianxia terms don’t have great 1-to-1 translations, proper nouns and titles tend to change with the translator, though they usually do a good job of letting the reader know what changed in the translator notes. I don’t know if the third group started with a machine translation (ie, proofread Google Translate), but ch21 and on are translated very literally, so the English doesn’t always flow very well. While it was nice as someone currently learning Chinese, I imagine the average reader might struggle a little.
This is paired with what I can only describe as odd slang choices (some ghosts turn Scottish halfway through, the term ‘glomp’ and ‘jeebus’ are used), so reader beware. This is a LONG webnovel (241 chapters, 2050 pages, 1.2M wordcount), so I really do have to commend the translators for outputting this so quickly.
Overall, I rate this book a 5/5. It had everything I wanted, from an absolute beast of a power couple in HuaLian to immersive Xianxia worldbuilding to emotional gut punches that left me sobbing late into the night. Addictive enough to read in just two days.
Read the original Chinese version here. The fully translated novel can be found here, and the extras here. The gorgeous manhua can be read here and make sure to check out the trailer for the donghua here.
r/Fantasy 2020 Bingo Squares
- Novel Translated from its Original Language (Chinese) (hard mode)
- Novel Featuring Necromancy
- Novel Featuring a Ghost (hard mode)
- Self-Published SFF Novel
- Big Dumb Object
- Romantic Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
- Magical Pet
- Format: Graphic Novel
- Novel Featuring Politics