The Last Ship in Suzhou
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 dice in its favor.
But it does not learn, it does not change.
Who would dare approach the gates?
Ripped from the comfort of our world, David and Alice must face the demons of the past and enemies of their own making. To defy the heavens is to change the world, and nothing ever changes. Except when it does.
Xianxia, done in a different way.
[participant in the Royal Road Writathon challenge]
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I saw this story while randomly clicking through the list of Challenge entries, and this one line got me interested enough to risk a new story: Xianxia, done in a different way.
At first i was sceptical. Plenty of stories boast that they arent a generic litrpg/xianxia/wuxia and that they do things different.
The first few chapters were a bit difficult to go through since it takes a while for the idea to drop. But eventually i understood that what they have been doing for the last couple chapters was the cultivation of this story. After that i was hooked.
The other great thing about this author is the great detail he puts into elements. They arent just random chinese names, items, or songs. They all have a reason to be there. Even given the references at the end of the story for people who are interested.
The grammar in this story is great, at the time that i read it i didnt find any spelling or grammar errors. However i think the author sometimes uses translated Chinese sayings that end up not making sense or needing a couple read overs to truely understand what was said.
The two main characters are written great. They arent your standard Xianxia MC's and seem to have personalities. These personalities will end up giving chance for great moments because they didnt instantly adapt to their world and react to things in a way "normal" people would never react.
I believe this could end up becoming one of the benchmarks of Xianxia if the author keeps this up and the story continues long enough.
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 life, brought to life 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.
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.
This is a good story. Just be prepared for some things. The first few chapters are very slow, the narration is quite discursive, so you may be wondering what the organization of the NYC public library system or a mediocre community piano recital have to do with Xianxia. Weather through this, however, and once you make it past the Great Interlude Expanse, an interesting world and story starts to develop.
I haven't read much Xianxia, so I can't really comment on what is original and what is cliche. Characters are definitely a bit larger than life, and there's a good bit of courting death and taking offense at not bowing deep enough and the like, so it is definitely in that mode per se, but generally in good fun and not taken to the point that your eyes start rolling like bowling balls. The isekai-element tempers this, with our main character David remaining grounded despite whatever is happening around him.
What this story has in droves is texture. The author has done their homework, and they know far more about Chinese literature and history and religion than me (which is essentially zilch), but even if you don't get the little references it gives the world depth, making it a place that you want to learn more about and so you don't mind visiting it for a chapter, even if the plot so far boils down to going from point A to point B as slowly as possible.
What to like: A creative, "realistic," Xianxia with interesting characters that you want to follow, exploring a world you want to learn about.
What it lacks: a comprehensible power system, conventional pacing. Check back in 10-20 chapters.
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. But...you 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.
This is less of a review and more of a recommendation due to the current length of the story. The Last Ship in Suzhou seems like it wont be falling into the common traps that litter most western xianxia and wuxia, where they pilfer the aesthetic while stealing none of the substance. This story looks to be taking a more quality approach and I can't help but love it for that.
Update: With the story in the twenties of chapters, I can finally say that I believe that the Last Ship in Suzhou will live up to the promise that was made in the first few chapters. At its current trajectory, it can only get better. The story reminds me why I love the idea of a western author tackling the genre. Namely, grammar and spelling. Gone is my desire to read through translated titles. I want more and I need and in fact I demand more because I'm so excited to see where the journey takes our too protagonists.
Grammar: almost completely impeccable. Any mistakes that manage to go live are picked up very quickly.
Characters: Every character so far especially the leads have been interesting.
Story: clear, but with some neat twists and turns.
Style: Dense. Who doesn't love to dig into what they read.
I hate Isekai stories. The characters are bland and boring, the "cheat" powers are plain and pitiful, and the protagonist as well as his love interest tend to be dumber than people that enjoy Isekai stories.
This story is a rare exception, the lead up and descriptiveness are a breath of fresh air compared to the usual "oh no that truck came out of nowhere and brought me into a world of catgirls". When I read about David exploring the library, it felt like I myself was wandering through a ruined library that had been struck by disaster.
The banter and interaction between Alice and David is top tier. It feels like they're close friends, but not so close that the relationship feels unreal. It helps that the dialogue is witty and snappy in a way that hooks you in from the start. Even the small instances of dialogue, when David and Alice are reassuring the boy getting casigated by his mother, or when he's asking Mr.Watterson not to kick them out into the rain, it's enjoyable and flows like a normal conversation you could hear in real life. It's a rare pleasure to enjoy every instance of dialogue and not feel like it's just there to fill space to pad word count.
10/10 I would reccomend (I'd say 5/5 but I don't have a good rhyme for that).
I've read a lot of xianxia and a lot of isekai's but I haven't read an isekai into a xianxia world that's like this before. Usually, they're full of tropes, boring, and too quickly OP, but this one blows them all out of the water. The last Ship in Suzhou has wonderful writting, has an engaging plot and is really enjoyable. It takes a few chapters to get to the isekai part though, so keep that in mind and don't give up too soon on it, you'll regret missing out.
The grammar and prose are brilliant, the writing style straight forward but eloquent. The world-building is very promising so far. It's delving more into what cultivation is than you usually see from xianxia's on here. It's more artful a description of Qi than I've ever seen. Seeing how David and Alice deal with people from this world has been fun.
The two main characters are interesting, Chinese-Americans that know the culture they've been isekai'd into, even if they're still blindsided by being in a xianxia world. Also, I think they will talk about the culture and arts more in this, and that's pretty refreshing to see.
Alice and David are both well-written, three-dimensional characters, you can tell that the author has thought out their character development. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the world and how they'll explore it.
So far in the story, every new chapter is better than the last, and it's been great seeing it ramp up. It's worth reading and keeping an eye on. The author definitely knows what they're doing.
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.