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

1st Anniversary
Word Count (12)
20 Review Upvotes
Top List #80
Royal Writathon April 2021 winner
Fledgling Reviewer (I)
Table of Contents
98 Chapters
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
53.0 - Delivery ago
54.0 // 54.5 - Instructions // Questions ago
55.0 - Bulletin ago
56.0 - Tea Time ago
57.0 - Feiyan ago
58.0 - Auction (1) ago
59.0 - Auction (2) ago
59.5 - Auction (3) ago
60.0 - Auction (4) ago
Interlude - Sword of Hearts (1) ago
Interlude - Sword of Hearts (2) ago
Interlude - Sword of Hearts (3) ago
Interlude - Sword of Hearts (4) ago
Interlude - Sword of Hearts (5) ago
61.0 // 61.5 - The Sun Still Rises ago
62.0 - Inquiries ago
63.0 - Lessons from Daoists ago
63.5 - Waiting ago
64.0 - Cadence ago
64.5 - Office Hours ago
65.0 - Break Through the Clouds ago
65.5 - The Peak Master's Study ago
66.0 - Ascendancy ago
Interlude - Times Change (1) ago
Interlude - Times Change (2) ago
Interlude - Times Change (3) ago
67.0 - Daoist Nan ago
68.0 - The Road to Huzhou ago
69.0 - Public Transportation ago
69.5 - Tianbei Blues ago
70.0 - Official Business ago
70.5 - The Line of the Bells ago
71.0 - Song Mountain Sect ago
71.5 - The Voice of the World ago

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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.


Interesting, complex, spiritual, and not for me.

Reviewed at: 10.0 // 10.5 - Blood and Iron

The Last Ship in Suzhou is an isekai in a classical Eastern setting with an exploration of the cultural-philosphical landscape.

This novel is technically complex and evidently planned, with prose that is grammatically accurate and precise. Thought and time has evidently been lavished on it, and the Eastern themes are well researched and demonstrate a thorough understanding and passion.

However, for me it missed that spark of life that elevates a novel from a collection of words to an immersive world.

This is because it was hard for me to invest in the story: the elements of tantalising mystery build an unsettling mood but aren't given enough head to drive the plot, the characters are interesting and 'real' but we're distanced from them by their levels of narrated complexity and jumping introspective thoughts, and the philosophy and history is interesting but not enough to be entertaining outside of its own merit.

I've read novels of this type before, and while I've never disliked them I have often wished I were reading something else. I wish The Last Ship in Suzhou well, but it's not for me.


TLDR: The emotional drive is too abstract and the mystery too broad to hook me in through the layers of admittedly well-researched philosophical and historical setting.

Sendero Blue

The author is clearly writing this story out of passion, and it is both impressive and inspiring to see how fluidly they interweave their familiarity with philosophy, history and religion into the tale.

It is also incredibly obnoxious.

I know that there are many who will disagree with me, and I want to be clear that I am not making a judgement about the objective strengths of the story. I just want you to know what you're getting into when you pick it up.

Every single sentence is written as either deeply contemplative, allegorical or both. The book is devoid of simplicity. Everything has some kind of deep meaning or connection. Which, in my opinion, is the mark of an intelligent amateur. The prose is so dreadfully dense that reading it reminds me of time spent proofreading essays from philosophy undergraduates - not a fond memory.

I had hoped that the author would tire of such density after the first few chapters, but they clearly do not. It's funny - they apologize for the density of the interlude chapter, and yet that interlude chapter is the only good one in the entire early portion of the book. It is the only chapter in which the author's dense writing style actually fits.

In short, if you read the first chapter or two and found it to be a very good story, you will presumably continue to think it so. At least if the other reviews are any indication.

If, however, you found yourself impatiently waiting for the story to begin, do not waste any more time on this work. You'd be better served by reading Kierkegaard. It's just as much of a slog, but at least you can brag about it to your hipster friends.


Fantastic story, fantastic depth

Reviewed at: Interlude - Times Change (3)

If you haven't read The Last Ship in Suzhou, please do so, you're in for a treat!

First of all, the writing in general is very tidy and well done, I've spotted few grammar or spelling mistakes, and since they don't crop with any regularity, it's not an issue. 

The style it's written in is unique, not only well written, but the way that the story is told is a piece of art. It might be a little less straight forward than you're used to, but should not be an issue if your english is above high school level. I am aware that the stars are capped at 5, but I would give a 7/5 in this category.

The story is compelling, very vivid and all told, beautifully crafterd. Everything comes together nicely and has a lot of internal consistency. This fact makes reading a nice experience, as there is no trouble keeping the suspension of disbelief

The main characters are really fleshed out, since there is a lot of philosophy going on, not only do we get the characters history, but their thoughts as well. Nicely done! Side characters are fleshed out, but not to the same degree, as there is a lot of them, and they change quickly (specially so in the first chapters).

Last but not least, the worldbuilding is... Amazing and Beautiful. You feel the mysticism that the story portraits, in every verse, in every introduction to a song, and every scripture. Really draws you in.

I would say this is one of the best works out there, but it is not a light read. Be aware that this requires you to actually pay atention to enjoy. This is not The Simpsons.


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!


So far I have been very impressed with this novel, which has breathes fresh life into many classic xianxia tropes. The initial exploration of the characters has given me something I didn't know i wanted in this genre. I hope the author doesn't take any criticism of their novel not having super power MCs to heart, they should just continue to allow their characters to grow organically.


A new and beautiful take on xianxia

Reviewed at: 61.0 // 61.5 - The Sun Still Rises

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. 

edit: I really hope the rest of the story gets written though. 


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.


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.


In short: read it, it's very good

Additions: Well I think Lungs took my original review, printed it out, looked at the parts regarding characters and threw it straight into his trashcan. 

My point regarding characters, while true at the time, did not consider several elements of the story. Especially regarding the reality that David and Alice found themselves in, and their implied speculations whether it's real or not. Lungs has continually made the characters reflective, and while still in the early phases, there is significant character development, and how their new world functions is still being shown to them.

Regarding style, grammar and story I feel the same as in the original review.

Original review for context: I sincerely hope the author does not drop the story or becomes scared that the readers would not like a certain direction that the story takes. For what I've read up till now has been really good, and hopefully the story will get seen through to the very end.

Not to say that it's perfect, there are sentences that has to be read twice to be understood, and sometimes there are jumps in action that made me reread a couple of sentences. But the core of the story is very well written, and the take on cultivation is unique, and "realistic" in so far that they're two kids that get dropped in a strange world. 

The take and incorporation of chinese philosophy/religion is well done, and though I only have a peripheral understanding of it. I would say it worked well as I understood the main points. 

One thing I would point out is I struggled to understand the motivation for Alice to act the way that she did in the latest chapters (11 - 14). It seems to be very illogical and monumentally stupid to believe that she is strong in this new world, and the way she acted could've (maybe should've) gotten them killed. It pays off of course, but the caution of exploring a new world was not at all present.

I think my point is that she seems to be too arrogant, especially considering her recent experiences with qi deviation, her character should maybe have learned just a bit from those mistakes.

The same to some degree could be applied to the behaviour of David.

Nevertheless I will gladly read on and follow the story!