This book ruined my life for a week in the best way possible

You’re welcome for letting you know it exists

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Art credit: STARember

Heaven Official’s Blessing is now one of my favorite books of all time. Like, it’s on par with Harry Potter, and I don’t just throw around Harry Potter comparisons. 

So why did it ruin my life for a week? Because I read it all day long, taking advantage of quarantine, instead of doing my homework. Like, on the last day of this torture, I woke up at 4am because sleep is a waste of time and read for six hours straight until I finished. #yolo #noregrets

Heaven Official’s Blessing is a Chinese novel by Mo Xiang Tongxiu. Its title in Chinese pinyin (Chinese words written out phonetically in the English alphabet) is Tian Guan Ci Fu, so a lot of English speaking readers refer to it as TGCF, which is what I’m going to do throughout this review because (1) I’m lazy and (2) I think “Heaven Official’s Blessing” sounds lame and undersells it. Likewise, the author’s name is often said as just “MXTX”. 

The main character of TGCF is Xie Lian (Keep in mind that Chinese names put the surname first, and it’s kinda rude to not say the full name, so don’t call him just “Lian”.), and he is an absolute angel. Actually, no, he’s a god. Literally. TGCF takes place in an ancient Chinese fantasy world with gods, ghosts, and cultivators, who are people that “cultivate” spiritual energy to do magic stuff, aiming to ascend to godhood. 

Xie Lian starts out as the crown prince of the kingdom of Xianle and becomes an amazing cultivator, ascending to godhood when he’s only 17. His goal is to “save the common people”, so when catastrophe strikes Xianle, he breaks the rules of heaven by coming down and trying to keep his kingdom from ruin. When he inevitably fails, having broken the rules and losing almost all of his followers, which are the source of his power, Xie Lian is banished from heaven. But that doesn’t mean he can’t ascend again, and he does a few years later, only to be banished again after only five minutes in heaven. Still immortal, he spends the next 800 years roaming the earth until he ascends for a third time. At this point, everyone in heaven either hates him or thinks he’s ridiculous, but after 800 years of being looked down on, Xie Lian doesn’t mind. He just wants to try his best. He’s a good boy. 

The king of the gods, Jun Wu, favors Xie Lian and gives him a mission in the mortal realm that, if successful, will gain Xie Lian the merits (god money) he sorely needs. This mission is the first of several little adventures, and while on these adventures, Xie Lian meets the ghost king Hua Cheng.

SPOILER: I love Hua Cheng. He’s fantastic.

ANOTHER SPOILER: Xie Lian loves Hua Cheng, too. They be gay. If you have a problem with that, you won’t have a problem once you read TGCF and find out how adorable they are together. 

Unfortunately, all the gods that aren’t Xie Lian do not love Hua Cheng. He’s a ghost king (That doesn’t mean he’s transparent though. He has a body. Ghosts in this book are just dead people that haven’t moved on and take many different forms.), and gods and ghosts don’t get along. The gods are especially afraid of Hua Cheng because he is very powerful and defiant. He once challenged over 30 gods to fight him and defeated them all, burning their temples afterwards and forcing them back to the mortal world. He commands swarms of deadly silver wraith butterflies and carries the cursed saber E-ming. Only two other ghosts come close to him in power, and some say he could face Jun Wu himself. 

But around Xie Lian, he’s sweet and considerate, doing adorable things like covering Xie Lian’s ears when there are loud noises and complimenting Xie Lian’s horrendous cooking. Hua Cheng and Xie Lian grow closer as they work together doing things like sneaking through demon lairs, exploring ancient kingdoms, and exposing the dark secrets of the gods.

MXTX is a master at plotting. TGCF’s plot is extremely complex and intricate, and there are no holes! At all! Well, as far as I know. Sometimes, it seems that all of the little adventures are just extraneous scenes put in solely for character development, but at the end, you can see how they were all interconnected. When there’s about to be a twist, you can feel it building up without knowing what it’s gonna be. And MXTX keeps everything moving constantly; there’s never a dull moment. You know how English teachers tell you to “show, not tell”? MXTX really gets this. She “shows” by making things happen that show what her characters are made of. She doesn’t do the boring kind of showing that gets you a page-long description of a flowing brook (coughanneofgreengablescough). I never found myself thinking, “Ok can we be done with this scene?” Which is really impressive because I have a short attention span, and this thing is over 2000 pages long (it’s split into five parts, don’t freak out). 

And oh my goodness the CHARACTERS. They’re all so real and deep and human. Even the not-humans. Even the most disgusting villain. MXTX puts so much effort into every single character. Like, normally, I only really cry about the main couple, but I honestly cried more about a side character death than I did about the saddest Hualian scene. MXTX also creates a huge variety of characters and uses tropes I’ve never seen before, and every single character gets some sort of satisfying ending after expert development. 

MXTX is really creative with the plot and characters but also with violence. There are some really cool fights and weapons… and really “cool” ways to get hurt. Described in detail. Beware of gore. The translators put warnings at the beginnings of particularly disturbing chapters.

One of the main reasons I like this book so much is how equal Xie Lian and Hua Cheng are. In a lot of books, the author will put a lot of energy into making the love interest attractive and wonderful, which is a good thing, and MXTX does very well with Hua Cheng, but then they won’t give the main character as much attention. The main character looks weak in comparison. I’ll often be like, “I get why you fell in love with them, but why did they fall in love with you?” This isn’t the case with Hua Cheng and Xie Lian. There isn’t really a dominant person in their relationship. For most of the book, Hua Cheng is the most spiritually powerful of the two, but Xie Lian is still really smart and strong and experienced in addition to being a wonderful and selfless person. If Xie Lian is in a tough situation and Hua Cheng shows up to help, Xie Lian doesn’t think, “Oh yay now I can actually survive,” he’s just like, “Oh yay this will go faster now.” They make each other stronger. They truly deserve each other.

TGCF hasn’t officially been published in English, so you have to read it online. I read the first 24 chapters on this website, and I got the rest of it from this other website that for some reason only has chapters 21 through 244. The first website has links to each chapter for you to read them on the webpage, and the second website has links to Google Docs files that you can read offline, though of course you can’t edit them. Each Google Docs file has ten chapters in it, and there’s a table of contents at the beginning of each file so that you don’t have to scroll forever if you take a break.*

The whole not-officially-published situation is nice because it’s free, but it’s less nice in that there are a lot of grammatical errors. This makes the story a little confusing at some points, but it’s not a big deal. I’m a huge grammar nazi, and I still love this book with all of my heart. If the grammar didn’t hinder my love of TGCF, it definitely won’t hinder yours. I kind of don’t want it to be officially edited because that might ruin its charm. The translators can get away with some funny little things that wouldn’t slide in a published English book, like having three paragraphs of just “…”.

There are a few Chinese things that don’t make sense in English, like idioms or terms of respect that the average American wouldn’t know, but the translators made footnotes to explain these things. There are also “MXTX Author Notes” every once in a while at the end of chapters that clarify plot points. These footnotes give the translation a very chill feeling that I really enjoyed. 

Besides these little translation issues, I have absolutely no problems with TGCF. It’s SO AMAZING.

And if you read it and like it as much as I do, MXTX has written two other books: Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation (abbreviated MDZS for the pinyin Mo Dao Zu Shi) and Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System (SVSSS). MDZS has a donghua (Chinese animation like anime) of the same name and a live action drama adaptation called The Untamed that you can find on Netflix (10/10 recommend, and it’ll give you an idea of what the clothes and settings in TGCF are like.). The novels MDZS and SVSSS, like TGCF, are accessible online. I’ve read SVSSS, and though it’s very entertaining, compared to TGCF, it’s less addictive and shorter, and the main couple is… not healthy. TGCF is way better.

I promise that if you read TGCF, you won’t regret it. It’s an endlessly entertaining, deeply emotional, perfectly plotted, edge-of-your-seat book. There’s no other book I’d recommend more to solve quarantine boredom.

*Update: The link to the TGCF Doc originally published in this article no longer works. Click here to reach a different site where you can access the Doc as well as PDF, EPUB, and MOBI files of the English translation. There’s also a link to the original Chinese book. I’ve looked at the PDF and the Doc, and they both have the entire book as well as some extra chapters.