In the Celestial Empire, a land ruled by Immortals and stalked by Spirits and Beasts, a young girl from the slums of an unimportant city is found to have the Talent. In the great Sect of Argent Peak, she will take her first unsteady steps upon the way.
Can she learn to not only survive, but thrive on her journey?
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Forge of Destiny is a Xianxia story unlike any other I've read.
Now it doesn't reinvent the wheel, or does something too original, it has quite a bit of cliches. Not the overused CLICHES, but still, it has some.
Now why do I rate it so highly then? Its because it does some things that most other Xianxias, or even stories in general, fail at.
The first Xianxia story I've read was TODG ( Tales of Demons and Gods), I know, I know, its quality is rather... questionable, specially the Tls.
But one thing it did was introduce me to xiamxia formula, that unsurprisingly 99.99% of other xianxias follow, which consists of MCs gaining increasingly outlandish powerups, and bullshitting their way through increasingly impossible odds.
And every character ever introduced serves either the purpose of being crushed under the titanic weight of the MCs cock, or praising said cock and saying how their small atrofied dicks will never reach a tenth of the MC's. This archetypes usually repeat thenselves through the story, the only difference being that the first ones are just mortals and the latters are Demigods of the 20th strata of heavenly bullshit. But they are the same in the end.
And to tell you the truth I enjoyed those somewhat. Hell I even made a game of guessing what flavor of bullshit OPMC n° 1457 would pull out of their asses.
Most people like me read xianxia because its so predictable, only reading to see if the execution was good or if the author could make something interesting for once.
Forge of Destiny breaks away from that. And my god its refreshing.
The world actually feels... well alive for once, the characters are not mere one sided plot devices. They have motivations and agendas of their own, they are fleshed out and interesting, they aren't left behind and forgotten.
The MC has great part to play into that, Ling Qi is talented, but not world breaking, and that allows the side characters to flourish because they arent suddenly 200 tiers behind with no hopes of catching up due to the exponential empowerment.
And most of all the way its all bundled together is incredible. The MC is relatable, she's smart, although a bit naive, and somehow she acconplishes being dense, without being Dense, which leads to funny ligthearted moments without degrading the story.
Overall the story is among my favorites in the site, it's a Xianxia, but its a xianxia done right in my opinion.
Competently set up cultivation system, a world with deeply set up lore which doesn't meaningfully intersect the plot, and a refreshingly diverse and interesting set of side characters who, despite their strengths relative to other cultivation stories/progression fantasy, aren't engaging enough to sustain the lackluster battles and uninteresting cultivation process.
In essence, the likeable characters and intriguing set up plus lack of cliched tropes pulled me in but at the end of the day the novel never presents a deeper more interesting hook, never shocks you with any surprising twists, and fails to give any interesting pay off in the end.
MASSIVE SPOILERS FOLLOW
So what is so unsatisfying?
Lets take a look first at the characters and their diversity/growth -
Bai Meizhen - the snake princess - From cold, noble heiress, terrifying all others noobs with her overwhelming aura, this bai princess initially helps our mc out of pity/basic courtesy, perhaps even just to nurture a potential talent (she recognizes that any commoner invited into the sect must clearly be talented in order for the government recruiters to bother). Eventually however, she warms up to MC's constant attempts to befriend her, and she eventually comes to trust and like MC romantically, which leads to a romance drama arc as mc is unable to reciprocate her feelings and the 2 eventually talk their feelings out, and eventually come to an understanding. They slowly settle into an awkward friendship, with bai meizhen acting as Mc's mentor/training partner in certain aspects of her cultivation, and the two try to find ways to relate/engage with each other without reopening the wounds from previous relational tension.
As I wrote that, I realize that while this might not be First Law levels of fascinating character building, its still highly competent character writing, with as much depth or more than even the webnovels I consider to be by all time favorites. (like mother of learning, or lord of the mysteries).
As I think about the characters I realize that the problem I have with them isn't the characters themselves, but rather the sheer breadth of them, and how it dilutes the plot. Besides the snake princess, we have -
The quiet nerdy virtuous girl who learns the harsh reality of cultivation politics
The rural bumpkin loner who forges her own path, providing a different perspective on the sect drama and empathizes with the mortals/little guys
The young prince who squandered his youth but now resolves to be more reliable and live up to his full potential so as to not disappoint his friends.
The beautiful, elegant, proud girl who loves the young prince but cannot be with him due to clan politics, who seeks power to elevate herself in order to earn the approval of others and also to break free from the politics of her clan.
The noble heiress who's power lies in her social command and who seeks to create her own faction in the sect. She has a noble vision for herself and her province but also suffers under the almost impossibly high expectations of her insanely powerful mother....
And that's only the allies who are reasonably developed. There is a plethora of other side characters, 3 antagonists with their own fleshed out motivations/background, all vying for mc's attention. The story kept me engaged by bouncing from character to character, spending 2-4 chapters on any small arc before moving on to the next thing. From side quest with one group of characters, to relationship drama to another, to training with another, to exploring with another, to tea time with another.. the story never stops bouncing between characters, and for a while, that's enough.
But it's not enough to make up for the story's other deficiencies..
At the end of the day one of the biggest problems I have with forge of destiny is how meandering the plot is. MC wants to get strong. Strong enough to ensure her own freedom. Strong enough to protect her family and her friends. over the course of the story she needs to confront her own miserable past and overcome the traumas that cause her to act irrationally. There's also many hints and tidbits of the politics of the world at large interjected into the story, which are interesting ish but at the end of the day do not feel integrated deeply into the story at all. they're a convenient excuse for why the snake princess is hated by the noble heiress of that other clan, but that's about it. The larger worldbuilding dictate to us what alliances our characters have, and set the motivations for many of our side characters, but that's it. Mc is too weak to engage with any of the politics and enemies outside the sect, so outside of one confrontation with an enemy barbarian cultivator that somehow snuck into civilized territory, there's no deeper connections.
So in essence - MC grinds for power, goes on little side quests/puzzles, builds her realtionships, and trains some more. The overarching plot is boring as hell. It's only redemption is that the individual mini-arcs are competently written, and some of the challenges/trials the mc must undergo are even really engaging. but these individual arcs aren't deeply tied into the overarching plot of the story, and there is not greater thread of story which pulls you further along. By the end of the first book, the mc decides to become a retainer for a different noble heiress, but I don't feel any chemistry between mc and that princess. I don't care if that princess actually achieves her goals. I don't care for another year of mc grinding her powers.
Last thing with regards to plot - the final tournament arc happened, and it was the most boring, predictable tournament ever. I could tell the moment the tournament bracket was put up exactly who'd win and who'd lose EVERY INDIVIDUAL FIGHT OF THE BRACKET. out of 16 participants, 8 + 4 + 2 + 1 = 15 fights, I predicted exactly who'd win each fight. It was so blatantly obvious. And beause of that - so so boring.
This leads to the second, deeper problem with the story. Forge of Destiny is a cultivation story without interesting cultivation. Mc gets some pills, removes impurities, opens a few meridians, and then moves on to the next level. Her progression through the first realm was fast enough that it managed to feel engaging simply because everything was new and she shot through it so quickly, but in the second realm, there wasn't any interesting breakthroughs from early-middle-peak. Mc just trains, grinds, takes pills, and progression happens in the background. The author does take a tiny bit of effort to introduce some plot to mc's cultivation when she peaks in second realm - she fails breaking through to 3rd realm of physical cultivation and needs a few weeks of repeated tries. that's it. her body is sore, she takes some pills, 5 chapters pass, and she breaks through without drama.
Along these lines- the powers mc acquires are all underwhelming. At first, when she opens her first meridians, learns her flute aoe powers, picks up the bow and learns a movement technique, these power ups at least are sort of engaging since mc goes from powerless to being competent. But everything else past this, beyond these few landmarks that drastically increase her capabilities, every subsequent breakthrough is extremely underwhelming.
She picks up a familiar for example, a godly xuanwu (2 headed turtle snake). Except its a baby. and even reaching the second realm, it can.. shoot fire? act as a meat shield? make grass grow longe around it? In the few fights it participates in, it sort of entangles the enemy's familiar, and they sort of tussle in the background a bit. In the final fight of the tournament for MC, her familiar finally does something big, uses a mutual knockout ability and takes out the enemy's familiar, except the ability itself isn't built up or described in a hype way. Its boring to read, and the conclusion of the fight is still a foregone conclusion. Mc loses the fight anyways, but has the 'dignity' of taking out the enemy's familiar. That's it.
MC picks up a rare resource for forging a flying sword. It is a flying sword and does some damage. She can't control it that well, and it gets easily damaged and knocked away by stronger opponents. That's it.
MC has an arc where she makes these bone puppets from a manual, with help from her nerdy friend. One scout puppet helps find this spirit liquid, which eventually is turned into a pill that can be made once a month to boost mc's cultivation a bit, and another puppet helps her scout an enemy fortress.. and in the climactic last battle she uses several puppets in a formation against her overwhelmingly powerful opponent and it distracts her a little bit. That's about it.
and mc learns various songs, and movement techniques, and they all provide little power boosts that enable mc to curb stomp scrubs a bit harder but which are useless against the truly strong opponents of her year. I found all the fights super underwhelming.
Throughout the whole story I kept finding myself thinking of martial world and a will eternal and other chinese xianxia stories and missing the exciting battles from those.
At the end of the day, after writing everything out, I feel like the problem is that everything is just too reasonable. Everything resolves in such boring predictable ways. She ran away from home and hurt her mother/abandoned her? Well 5 letters and some self reflection later, she realizes that she was wrong/misunderstood her mom and she brings her mother/baby sister to the sect to have them live nearby. MC is participating in a trial? She finishes it, gets some tutoring, a few pills, maybe some secondary art/ability that sort of barely enhances her a tiny bit, and on to the next trial! Mc finds a godly turtle pet? aww hes so cute and weak and theres cute dialogue and character interactions, but that's it. She raises him well, hes loyal, acts as a bit of a meat shield in fights. Every drama that happens, basically think of a wholesome realistic way for it to play out and that's probably what happens. Everything resolves in a few chapters. The most intriguing character is gu xiulan, the childhood friend of the young prince who after realizing she can't be with him, and realizing she's falling behind mc, reaches for a new power which she can barely control and leaves her horribly scarred. But she maintains her confidence/cocky attitude and singlemindedly pursues her goal of power. That's about the only surprising development.
At the end of the day, the story masks its lack of depth in plot by jumping around through the sheer breadth of characters and world. It teases deeper intrigue and a grand world just outside the sect, but we never go there. If I wanted to read a slice of life however, other stories do it with more comedy. The constant jumping around gives a feeling of whiplash, and the sheer number of characters in the end prevent me from becoming too attached to any one of them. It is in the end, a story that falters under the weight of its own ambition. A story with so much flesh and fat of character and worldbuilding stacked up on it that it hides the lack of a deeper plot skeleton to support its unwieldy weight. Forge of destiny is a uniquely flawed masterpiece that I'm sure will be deeply satisfying for some, and while I'll probably return one day to sample its world and characters again, I simply don't feel particularly compelled at the moment to see what happens next.
In a genre filled with adolescent power fantasy and plot that endlessly repeats, Forge of Destiny is a gem, with compelling characterization throughout and consistent worldbuilding.
It's by far the best Xianxia I've ever read, even with the caveat that Chinese works likely suffer from translation woes.
Greatest xianxia ever-actual characters that are not cut outs,no dbz problem of constant escalation,an actual understandable story and an actual non murderhobo non jackass protag
Better than 80% of the stuff on here
To append my earlier statement-I,like most of you,was sick of xianxia.I had even resolved myself to never read it again.Until one day I saw this.I was a bit skeptical at first but found that I actually enjoyed reading this,it was... a breath of fresh air in a stale genre of completly assholish main characters whos only reason to pursue power was a neboulous defined goal of "I will be the greatest thing ever with my super speshul cheat power,look at me im so coool and awsome,girls just throw themselves one me. consequence wats that".
IN this story however ling qi has a goal ,she has a well defined goal other than being facepunch mcgee, there is no constant last minute power ups,other people matter,the society matters and is not just superflous to the plot.I will state this right now,this is most likely the best xianxia you will ever read,everything else just falls flat.
Forge of Destiny is an excellent coming of age story centered around a young former street thief as she grows up in a Xianxia world. She is discovered to have talent and is taken to the sect where she makes learns new power, and makes friends as well as enemies.
The setting is based off of Xianxia world, but the characters feel real. People do not exist just to praise the main character. She is talented, but she has no true "cheat code". There are no cardboard cutouts of characters, every main character is very fleshed out and has a unique personality.
What this reminds me most of all is a more mature version of the early Harry Potter books. I'd reccomend this to anyone with a love of fantasy.
When I first read Forge of Destiny, what absolutely grabbed me was the characters, Ling Qi especially. Seeing her internal conflict, how she gradually changes along with the others around her as the world advances at its own pace really touched me.
The themes of what it means to be free, and how Ling Qi's views develop with time is a intriguing read.
I'm still fairly new to the xianxia genre, but hopefully I'll be able to keep this review fairly unbiased.
I will start with my complaint, since there is only one, and that is that I have no idea where this story is actually going.
After reading up to the most recent chapter, the fiction feels very much like a slice of life novel, well balanced with a couple chapters of action here and there. None of the plot points get dragged out longer than they need to be, and everything progresses at a reasonable pace.
That said, I have no idea which direction the plot is headed. The story frequntly reminds us that Ling Qi, the MC, is destined for nearly a decade of military service. But at the same time, the story goes at such a leasurely pace that it might be several years before we actually see any of that.
Is this an action series with a slow buildup, or kung fu Harry Potter without a Voldemort? I can't tell, and that bothers me. From the title of the fiction and name of the prologue arc, I expected this to be about blacksmithing, and it's not, so I have no idea what to think anymore.
That is, really, my only problem.
The pacing isn't rushed. Most of the characters get some time for development. The worldbuilding is good, and the author doesn't resort to unnecessary exposition to help us understand how the setting works.
There is almost nothing that I can point to and say, "This was done wrong." It is, overall, a good story. I just wish I knew what the story was supposed to be about.
The best adjective for this story is delightful. A relatively light but still poignant read that I can only recommend to everyone.
The main character, Ling Qi, is just a huge loaf of fresh air. I've recently binged a lot of web novels and Ling Qi is just awesome. She manages to be insanely gifted and hard working, unaware of how special she is, yet still prideful and generally happy, for the most part. She's not content, but the novel reads like a story from someone that genuinely enjoys what they're doing. The sense of progress, the difficulties. The dangers. The fights. Ling Qi strives in the sect enviornment. Yet, despite all Ling Qi's success, the story stays true to its cultivation roots and all Ling Qi's success still comes from her work, and her progress is always seen as impressive but not impossible.
Other stories will have the character have inherent advantages, be it knowledge of technology, access to an overpowered element or a snowball mechanic. Ling Qi is just fun and lucky. She cares about her friends, but doesn't care too much about anyone else. She wants to make her life better and has no pretenses on wanting to improve the world. Heck, she barely believes the world can be improved. And that'sa wonderful place to start.
The supporting cast is equally engaging and well developed. The dynamic between the characters is consistent. I could describe them all, but I honestly couldn't know where to start as all characters are both unique and serve a unique purpose.
The style is a huge plus. The story weaves in and out of the narrative present with a brilliant mastery of pacing. What needs to be shown is shown, what needs to be told is told with a consistent and pleasent narrating voice. Reminds me of the style used in the first Talia books in the Herald's of Valdmaar series.
To top it off, this book achieves something that I lack the skill to express eloquently: It manages to include the dark parts. The jealousy, the feelings of inferiority, the desesperation, the maiming, the need for vengeance, while still having an overall mood boosting effect on the reader. One Piece, Stormlight Archive, The Wandering Inn, these are just other examples of works that manage something similar. To portray difficuty, strife and misery without diluting the wonder and joy of fantasy. Yes, I want to cry. But I want to cry with a smile on my lips.
Unfortunately, and this is what docks half a star from this work, the story so far feels a bit... tame in heavy climatic moments. There's some understated resolutions that hurt a lot, but overall there haven't been many hugely personal, Keeping up with the comparison's, this is lacking Robin yelling "I'm gonna live", or the "Erin stands in the front lines with a white flag" type of moments. High stakes situations that really ramp up the emotions and make you want to yell, cry, laugh and scream, all at the same type. Perhaps the reason why delightful is a better description than fucking brilliant. But there's a place for delightful in my life.
I have been following this book for a long time. I read many different fictions on RRL and on other sites, but one of the only fictions I have consistently kept up with (and one of the only fictions to maintain a consistent, swift release rate) has been Forge of Destiny.
The fact that the book maintains a high quality of prose while artfully expanding the world and the depth of characters is a testament to the author's planning and discipline. I've seen complaints that this book is paced too slowly, but I disagree.
In many xianxia books, a lot seems to happen, but nothing relevant actually does (i.e. rinse and repeat arrogant young master encounters). The plot races ahead, the main character breaking through cultivation stages left and right while doing all sorts of shenanigans. But after the book is done, a lot of what happened rings hollow; not much sticks out. Characters are typically archetypes rather than unique individuals.
Forge of Destiny is not like these xianxia novels. I'd say that it's what you might get if you took a cultivation novel and focused not on the destination (i.e. becoming lord of the universe), but the journey: one filled with friendship and struggles and finding oneself.
I'm excited to continue reading just how the cast of characters develop and make their way through the world.
Thank you for all your hard work Yrsillar!
Ling Qi is a product of her background. Raised by a mother forced into prostitution she escaped that fate by running away from home. At least she thought that was what her mother had planned for her.
Circumstances and hindsight have allowed her to re-examine those motivations.
But her background has stunted her social abilities, and she finds herself wary and uncertain as she begins to trod the path of cultivation.
The story is well written, the author takes the time to edit meticulously and I have never noticed a grammatical error that was glaring enough that disrupted the flow of the narrative.
If the author ever writes a side story, I would love to see the focus on Bai Meizhen, her story would be fascinating based on the little we've read about her so far.