The Last Ship in Suzhou

The Last Ship in Suzhou

by lungs
Editor: Pineapple Hugs

Warning This fiction contains:
  • Gore
  • Profanity

Ripped from the comfort of our world, David and Alice must face the demons of the past and enemies of their own making. The dictates of Fate and Karma push the universe to behave in a certain way and cultivation is an act of defiance. To defy the heavens is to change the world, and nothing ever changes. Except when it does.

Xianxia and isekai, done in a different way.

Everything has happened before and every instrument sounds the same.
Grudges held for generations, with no sure source of blame.
From this world seed would the skies cast a die.
But it doesn't change, it doesn't learn why.

Who would dare to challenge the lie?

[participant in the Royal Road Writathon challenge]

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and the clouds roll by

20 Review Upvotes
Word Count (11)
Top List #80
Royal Writathon April 2021 winner
Fledgling Reviewer (I)
Table of Contents
Chapter Name Release Date
1.0 - Talent ago
2.0 - The Storm ago
3.0 - The Lightning ago
4.0 - Embrace ago
5.0 - The First Song ago
Interlude - A Romance from the Three Kingdoms ago
6.0 - Exactly Where Are We? ago
7.0 - People Lived Here ago
8.0 - The Scripture ago
9.0 - Silkworm ago
9.5 - The Weaver ago
10.0 // 10.5 - Blood and Iron ago
11.0 - The Villagers ago
12.0 - Falling Leaves ago
13.0 - Audacity ago
14.0 - Advice ago
15.0 - Down by the River ago
16.0 - Sailing ago
17.0 - The River by Night ago
17.5 - Light ago
18.0 - Sorghum Wine ago
19.0 - Cups ago
20.0 - Pear Blossom ago
Interlude - Except for One Thing ago
21.0 - The Inn ago
22.0 // 22.5 - Stitches and Sutras ago
23.0 - Iron and Wen ago
24.0 - Flowing Water ago
25.0 - Core Formation Ceremony (1) ago
26.0 - Core Formation Ceremony (2) ago
27.0 - Core Formation Ceremony (3) ago
28.0 - Core Formation Ceremony (4) ago
29.0 - A Tree Bowed in Prayer ago
30.0 - The Rain ago
Interlude - The Inconsistency Principle ago
31.0 - To Come and Go ago
31.5 - Distant Travels ago
32.0 - Dongjing ago
33.0 - Sunset in the Eastern Capital ago
34.0 - Courting Death ago
35.0 - Northwest ago
36.0 - The Linking Stone ago
Interlude - Despite All My Rage (1) ago
Interlude - Despite All My Rage (2) ago
Interlude - Despite All My Rage (3) ago
37.0 - Emergence ago
38.0 - Bei'an ago
38.5 - Skybound ago
39.0 - The Ascending Sky ago
40.0 - Morning Procession ago
41.0 - Due Today ago
41.5 - The Admissions Office ago
42.0 - Seventeen ago
43.0 - Feng Shui ago
44.0 - The Three Peak Masters ago
45.0 - If You Should Pass Suzhou By ago
Interlude - Tricksters and Fools ago
46.0 - The Yi People ago
47.0 - Changes ago
48.0 - The Skyforge ago
49.0 - Walking Through Tianbei ago
50.0 // 50.5 - Summons ago
51.0 - About Tonight ago
52.0 - The Lantern Lighting ago

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Fantastic quality, if not without very minor flaws

Reviewed at: Interlude - The Inconsistency Principle

The story is quite slow and ponderous (a fact that the author noted themselves quite early on), the setting is fairly stock-standard xianxia (although there a few interesting differences sprinkled in here and there), the dialogue occasionally feels a bit wooden (there's a lot of sneering going around) and sometimes you get too many names thrown at you to keep track of all at once. This is not why the story has five stars.

The story has five stars because the two main characters are actually characters with depth and feelings and emotions that need to be inferred instead of getting shoved down the reader's gullet. The story has five stars because the prose is some of (if not the best) I have seen on this site. It feels like the author has tried to emulated Terry Pratchett somewhat and occasionally falters, but the way the story passes through 'nothing' moments honestly makes me marvel at the creativity behind the jokes. This story also has five stars because of how much work the author puts into parts of the story most readers (myself included) probably won't notice or be even able to appreciate. I do like a lot of the names, however. 

Xianxia is xianxia is xianxia, but here the setting is secondary to the journey that the author takes us on, and that is why this is worth five stars and a anyone's book!


A new and beautiful take on xianxia

Reviewed at: 30.0 - The Rain

An absolutely wonderful, new and unique writing style in a xianxia novel. The prose is beautiful, the story fun and interesting. It holds on to many of the classic tropes and yet is in a completely new flavor and feel. It can be both profound and funny, tense and uplifting. I really can’t wait to see where it goes. My new favorite series. 


Groundbreaking quality in a well-trodden genre

Reviewed at: 47.0 - Changes

It's a good time to be a xianxia fan on Royalroad. 

Lungs has a flair for prose that leaves the rest of us in quiet envy. There is an economy of phrase where he implies a tremendous amount of depth in even innocuous descriptions, betraying the vast amounts of knowledge and research that go into his setting. The viscerality of reality, brought to life through words in a way you didn't know you were missing from other works.

The grammar is impeccable, and there's really not much else to say about that.

The characters are paradoxically exactly the kind of person you've met before but such that you couldn't pick out the people it reminds you of. David and Alice are clearly well crafted characters whose growth trajectory can almost be seen from chapter one. Their interactions are fun, funny, and adorable.

The story has a level of meticulous word-by-word care applied that you only see in authors like Patrick Rothfuss. It's the sort of thing you can reread multiple times and find new depth and nuance on every reread, even when you think you know what you're looking for.

David and Alice's adventure is something I'm anxious to see more of, and I could not recommend this more to anyone who has an appreciation for literature as an art form.


This story is one of the best pieces of literature I have ever read.

I've been very interested in xianxia and similar concepts for the past year, but I haven't found much to read as I can't force myself to slog through bad translation, caricatures of characters, and repetitive plot.

This story is different. The depth and obvious care with which each sentence is written gives a dense masterpiece with so many connections and implications that I regularly re-read each chapter multiple times and still miss something.

The focus on our protagonists David and Alice fleshes them out as interesting people who nail the balance between being characters we want to see succeed, yet still having realistic flaws. Their lack of knowledge provides an easy transition into exposition of the world and creates mystery that feels unforced, while the use of them as narrators humanizes them when they are occasionally wrong and unreliable.

The pace is fairly slow, but there's no dead space. Every word either moves the plot forward or builds the characters and setting, and the lack of rushing leads to those descriptions feeling vivid and complete.

Even if the setting checks many of the standard boxes for the genre, the people in story react naturally and the world is written to make sense. There's no unsustainable one-sided battles, deus ex machina power-ups, or characters forced to conform to the shape of the plot. Even the situations that significantly favor David and Alice feel believeable and earned.

Finally, lungs weaves in Chinese culture with remarkable dexterity. The focus on music and poems adds yet another layer, and even with minimal knowledge of ancient China I can deeply appreciate the beauty and breadth with which it's represented.

This whole review might seem a little over the top, but it's all accurate - I would honestly consider this one of the best stories I've ever encountered. Seriously consider giving this story a shot. It might not wow you as much as it has me, but I can promise it won't disappoint.


A cultural, spiritual depiction of cultivation

Reviewed at: Interlude - Tricksters and Fools

This is one of the only stories that attempts to describe cultivation properly, as a growth of understanding the self.  As such the author focuses on the characters' (David and Alice's) natures, their contradictions, their self-comprehension of these, and how they are changing and developing their selves in response.

This is carried out by letting David and Alice loose in a world with many established cultivation traditions, ranging from shallow martial arts schools to genuine spiritual practices.  This feels very natural, leads to great conversations with side characters, and makes the setting feel more like a world than a stage.

The dialogue is mostly sharp, distinctly characterised, and natural.  Sometimes emotions seem to ramp up or down too quickly, which is often used for humour but occasionally jars me. The worst culprits here are Li and Chang, who can go from rage to calm or vice-versa within a sentence.

The author enjoys quite a deliberate style, which highlights and allows the eccentricities of the setting, and keeps the tone from getting too heavy.  The transition to a more serious tone for conveying moments of enlightenment is handled very well by keeping the same semi-poetic voice.  Despite the somewhat abstracted narratorial voice the characters remain present and typically rather charming; David and Alice's relationship is particularly well dealt with.

Over all an incredible work I was overjoyed to find on this site.  As the above review makes clear the author is trying to do a lot of very complicated things at once, and amazingly keeps pulling it off.  Obviously looking forward to following it to the end.


This is how Xianxia should be written

Reviewed at: 29.0 - A Tree Bowed in Prayer

This story neatly sidesteps xianxia tropes and hits them from more mature and historically significant angles. Accurate allusions to daoism abound in the Lungs' presentation of the 'Song'. I cannot praise the presentation or immersiveness of the setting enough. 

The dialog, and presentation exude quality. Each sentence feels crafted , purposeful and significant.

I firmly believe this is the best written Xianxia on RR at the time of this review.


Joy of Life is in us All

Reviewed at: 23.0 - Iron and Wen

I really liked this story. 

I've read alot of cultivator storys on many a site : wuxiaworld, webnovel, etc. 

If you like a tale that grows on you. Give this a read. In some ways it does remind me of Beware of Chicken. (the more modern think vs older world think conflicts) There were some funny moments, mixed with some super serious series of consecutive events. 

Overall I think the writer pacing is well done, NOT OP off the bat. know it will get there. Our MC's are NOT complete idiots and plot does and will power them up. Something to look forward to. After all, what's a good cultivator story if the protags don't get more powerful. They WILL be splitting mountains and pulling down stars some day...


When you start reading this, those first few "prologue" chapters are going to feel pretty dense. Maybe there's a better way to do it, but having gotten past it myself, I promise the pay-off is great.

This story looks at the Xianxia genre from the ground up, actively exploring what it means to be a cultivator. Sure, there's some power fantasy in here, but it's done properly.


You have (probably) not read anything like this

Reviewed at: 6.0 - Exactly Where Are We?

You would be hard pressed to find another story this well written on Royal Road. The prose is exemplary, bordering on poetic. Every sentence is well crafted and has weight behind it. Even if you are unafmiliar with the context, setting, or genre it is clear that there is well written and meaningful subtext here that deserves time to develope.


If you are a fan of the genre or china, this is an absolute recommendation. A very promising story.


The most enjoyable cultivation story I ever read

Reviewed at: 39.0 - The Ascending Sky

You generally expect xianxia stories to be about protagoniss that meditate, grow stronger, find cultivation resources to meditate more efficiently, rinse, repeat. This cycle sounds boring and so most xianxia stories focus on the conflicts the protagonist experiences on their path to greatness. Pissed off young masters and old monsters, sometimes bandit kings and beasts are par for the course in such novels.

If you're into that, then you still haven't had enough of the classic tropes to fully appreciate this story.

This story features reasonable protagonists, that don't go pissing off, challenging, facing, beating those they can, and running away from the rest.  This story features vaguely philosophical discussions about cultivation, making it seem like all these immortals are actually trying to understand the Dao and aren't just arrogant assholes with too much power. It is slow-paced because of all these discussions, and the protagonists aren't just thrown from one fight into the next. It's a refreshing take on cultivation stories.

Of course, like in many Isekai novels, the protagonists in this one are stronger than the natives. Unlike many Isekai novels, protagonists aren't stronger because they have superior abilities or cultivation techniques or because they evolved on a "death world", but because they are much smarter and more knowledgeable than the average cultivator. Cultivation speed here isn't linked to some stars or certain special techniques, but rather to the cultivator's understanding of the Dao principles. In other words, protagonists are better than others because they are smarter, not because they are more lucky.