Heart of Cultivation
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Jian was a prodigy, at least until he discovered that his path of cultivation had hit a dead end almost as soon as it began. That was all years ago, though. He has long since resigned himself to his fate and prepared himself for a dull, ordinary, but happy life. Stunted cultivation or no, he's clever enough to carve out his own comfortable niche.
Unfortunately, not all of the matters from his past have been settled. When a reckless mistake threatens to cost him everything, Jian will have to prove that he's desperate enough to rise to the occasion. Or that he's capable of avoiding the consequences.
This is an affectionate reconstruction of the xianxia genre. I will be deploying the tropes from the genre that I enjoy in a framework that I think makes sense. The story updates on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and sometimes other days.
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This story takes a more nuanced look at the xianxia genre and the hero's journey that is typically portrayed in web novels. The story grabs you with a familiar but interesting hook that lures the reader in and leaves you wanting for more. The style and quality of the story are comparable to published works as the author really takes their time in building up the world surrounding the characters.
The characterization is where this story truly shines however as the motivations of each character are well established and the author has done their research on the cultural background of the tropes that are intrinsic to xianxia. When they give the reasoning behind the character actions that might seem nonsensical to a western reader but is actually common in eastern writing, it becomes clear that this story is a gem in the rough.
Updated review from chapter 13 to chapter 26, rating decreased from 4 to 3
Its a xianxia reconstruction, it means it takes clichés and reforms them into a more reasonable scenario, and because there are such common elements i won't mark them as spoilers:
-MC goes from genius to cripple, but his family doesnt shun him and tried to give him support, the clan as a whole is another story, a few mock him but most dont care at all
-The fiancee breaks off the engagement, but its clear she was forced by her sect
-They agree for a dual three years later, but its clear both sides are just buying time, the MC to resume cultivation and the girl to keep the engagement, be it as a tool to fend off other suitors or because she actually likes the MC and wants him to cultivate again, its not clear
-MC has an object that can make his cultivation advance, but its self-crafted and not some heaven-defying perless treasure, its more like a proper technology progression
The problem is, the story takes too much time exploring events completely cliché to the genre
The story happens in a feudal chinesse-like world, MC belongs to a big clan, there are mountains teeming with demonic beasts where people goes to gather herbs and hunt, the currency are spirit stones, there are crafters, there are alchemists, there are arrogant sects
it was fine at the first 10 chapters to set the tone of a reconstruction, but its chapter 26 and the story is still describing stuff typical to all xianxias instead of developing the original stuff, namely the heart of cultivation
Imagine a superhero movie where the MC spends a lot of time designing his suit and coming up with a name, then he goes and fights street thugs
Ok, not so bad, but after another 50 minutes the superhero is still fighting street thugs and there is no archenemy in sight, then the movie ends and there were no more enemies than thugs all the time
Thats how it feels, MC is so busy focused on cliché elements, and there is no story progression besides the same basic stuff we have seen so much in other xianxias, it becomes so frustrating because the MC has the plot device right in his hands but does nothing with it
At this point it doesnt feel like a reconstruction anymore, its like a higher quality version of a cliché story
There is no point on having smart characters if the plot develops the same as it would with dumb ones
Previous review ahead:
So far the set up is very solid, the characters behave like actual people and despite the xianxia world of might makes right people still care a lot about being reasonable and to uphold principles, personal, familiar and social
I am only missing some action because no real fight has happened so far and its necessary to give the story that sense of constant progression xianxias and LitRPGs are know for, because that can help carry a story even if its bland, but when its as promising as this one the effect would be magnified a lot
The thing is, it feels refreshing after the abundance of dumb xianxias but i dont know how much it would have compared to a good xianxia (like Warlock Of The Magus World) if this was my first read of the genre, thats why im hoping for some real action anytime soon
And the cheat power has only been presented but it looks like a fresh take, not only because its new but because its self made, i hope the author goes that way
Having read the other reviews raving about how realistic/good this story was, I was expecting a fresh take on the xanxia formula. I was very soon dissapointed as this story cannot be more generic.
I have read hundreds, literal hundreds, of xianxia story and not only is the story very generic (I can literally list dozens of stories based on a similar fiance engagement plot done better) but the MC is an irrational coward.
Very slight spoilers ahead:
So when the MC finds out he can't cultivate beyound body cultivation, what does he do? Does he preservere forward with iron will, forging his physical body to be stronger each and every day? Does he continue to train his martial arts in the slightest hope that one day he'll be enlightened? Nope, he does some research and finds out no one else has gotten out of his situation so he gives up and decides to just live a plain and comfortable life as an artificer. Oh and instead of explaining his situation to what is effectively his little sister/love interest, he's too much of a coward to even open her last letters and instead cuts off communication with her.
The allure, at least to me, of xianxia stories is the will of the cultivator or at least the character of the MC. Here we see neither. We have a weak willed MC who decides to quit because of the odds against him, which would have been okay had he been able to stick with that decision. Instead he destroys any progress he had towards that goal of living a comfortable life from a few simple words that made him upset. Words from his fiance that were both true and his fault considering how he was too much of a coward to continue writing to her. He doesn't even have an excuse for us readers for why he's such a mediocre person.
I do not think that this story deserves the 0.5 stars in character and story but the stellar score that it currently has hurts my soul as an avid user of royal road who relies on such scores as a very picky reader. If the scores adjust in the future I will come back and put my scores back to 2.5 and 2 stars for story and character respectively.
I read this story on the spacebattles forum. This story is essentially a reconstruction of xianxia with a lot of the usual cliches but played out in a much more realistic manner. The protagonist loses his status as a genius and has a cultivation block, but his family and clan still love him and look out for him. The romantic rival is jealous and occasionally an asshole about it but not a villain or even an antagonist, and he's come to like the protagonist a little more. The female lead, from what little we've seen so far, has rejected him, but is not so shallow as to do it only because he failed to succeed in cultivation, but rather because he gave up on their relationship and stopped writing back to her as she outstripped him in cultivation. The protagonist himself relies on wits rather than getting an easy power boost deus ex machina handed to him in the first chapter, and isn't a murderous asshole looking to kill everyone who slighted him once he finally gets real power.
The pace is slow to start, but the characters are all likable and the prose is on par with published fiction. I gave this story a 4/5 on story for that reason and a 5/5 on every other category. If you're not a patient kind of person then I recommend waiting a few months for the story to make some more progress so you can binge it all at once but if you are patient then I recommend it without reservation. It's like reading a long, slow-paced book like The Lord of the Rings books - it's slow, but it's still quite enjoyable since every step in the story is amazingly well-executed. Unfortunately the typical xianxia fan is used to fast-paced stories with sloppy writing and overpowered, rapid progression of the main character's abilities so this story might struggle to find an audience. The kind of person who'd enjoy this story is someone who likes a published original English novel-like writing style and also enjoys xianxia storylines/tropes. That's probably a niche within a niche though.
What I said, Itks a pretty standard xianxia except that the characters arn't frustrating to the 9 hells and the first action taken to deal with a problem isn't borderline sociopathic (that would be the second or third option). The writing is solid and reflects and understanding of the English language which is nice as well. Basically if you l8ke xianxia but are tired of most of them being crap give this a go; there's a good chance you'll like it.
So the setting is a tried and true one, small town in a Chinese Empire, with a mc who is a member of the local ruling clan but he struggles in cultivation, is engaged to a girl who he hasn't seen in years and who comes back to break off the engagement without care for the agreement in the first place.
but this basic setting doesn't define the story. Our mc isn't oppressed by his powerful relatives, bullied by the stronger, or letting himself be limited by his cultivation. He accepts his weakness and looks for alternatives, becoming an artificer and formation artist, looking for ways around his cultivation problem by crafting an artificial heart to do for him what he can't himself. He learns to fight off those a bit stronger than himself and doesn't boast. He doesn't get caught up on defending the honor of his family or himself to strangers, only when it really matters. this world might follow "might makes right," but it also aknowedges that might isn't everything.
Even the explorations into unknown are sensible, rather than hnting for dangerous creatures, they are simply after herbs, and rather than plundering the earth of all the treasures, they leave enough to replenish
Well, the writings been pretty decent so far. However, this premise has been done before, pretty much exactly, so as far as I'm concerned you're fighting an uphill battle.
Pretty much your standard Xianxia, made somewhat worse by the fact many of the more overarching plot lines are very noticeably based off existing Intellectual property.
Which by itself, while regretable, is not necesarily an indictment given the way the genre is usually handled.
However, what is somewhat more damning in my opinion is that it's done so unnecessarily. Some of the more obvious cliches (like the Fiance Duel) are included almost as an afterthought, even though there was already ample material to provide motvation and tension to drive the plot forward without them.
Please don't court disappointment and make me cough a liter of blood. I don't want to be an arrogant young reader, but don't you know who I am? If this dares turn out to be worthless trash, I'll cut my expectations into ten thousand pieces and retire all worldly xianxia desires, this time for much longer than it takes for a stick of incense to burn. Not even heaven and earth combined can convince me to pick up another peerless jade beauty. Wait sorry xianxia made me mentally retarded for a second and mix up my lines, please forgive me and give a brother some face. Anyway, I will kowtow if this doesn't fall off a cliff and cripple my faith. That would be immoral. There's no medicine for regret.
Xianxia memes aside, looking good so far jacobk, keep the good shit coming.
A good read till now. The only hope i have that it will stay slow paced and dosent do the same as nearly every xanxia/wuxia, too many and too fast power ups in combination with long time skips. Till now the characters are realistic, the grammar is good and most importantly its fun to read.