Heaven Official’s Blessing by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu (MXTX) comes long awaited by fans looking forward to an official translation. Translated from Mandarin and edited by Suika and Pengie, Heaven Official’s Blessing was originally published online before subsequently being released in print. Now in print in English, this dramatic and heartbreaking story has a lot to share with readers.
It is a fantastical story revolving around the gods, ghosts, and the Mortal Realm that their existence depends on. While supernatural in nature, Heaven Official’s Blessing is also very much so about the human condition – including the more negative aspects of life. Be prepared for death and sorrow and for the moderately graphic depictions that accompany them. But also be prepared for comradery, a budding romance, and all the positives too. Heaven Official’s Blessing has it all.
The protagonist, Xie Lian, once the crown prince of a prosperous kingdom, has ascended to godhood for the third time – 800 years after his mortal life has ended. During his mortal life, he was known for his beauty, strength, and purity. Even as a god, he is a kind and simple individual. However, as a god he is also poor and known by several unsavory nicknames. The gods aren’t happy and he has debts to pay caused by his third ascension.
In order to pay back his debts, he returns to the Mortal Realm to hunt down ghosts and other spirits who prey on the living. He is aided by two young warriors who work under different gods. There is much bickering, but the three end up making a good team.
Yet Xie Lian continues to come across when he descends to the Mortal Realm to make a name for himself. It is then that he meets the young and charming San Lang. He connects instantly to the bright young man and they are soon travelling together.
Interest in Empathy
MXTX has created a compelling character with not only Xie Lian. He was once a human, but at a very young age ascended as a god – a position he has already failed to keep twice. He is a god, but for basically 800 years, he has had to live as a mortal. This works in contrast to the other heavenly officials who are introduced in this volume of the series. Yet this difference isn’t shown in their very human emotions. Instead, Xie Lian’s ability to feel empathy is what really separates him from the other gods.
Perhaps it may sound boring for a protagonist to be so pure and understanding, but it is exactly what makes his character so interesting. It is rare to meet someone who can show as much empathy as Xie Lian. Instead of making him boring, this makes him refreshing and curious. Despite everything that has happened to him, he is still so pure. How could that possibly be? Perhaps it is something we will find out in future volumes.
Without knowing Mandarin, it is obviously hard to comment with precision on this topic. However, there are things that can be noticed by monolingual people or those who are fluent in other languages. Translated by Suika and edited by Pengie, the case of Heaven Official’s Blessing is an interesting one – both are originally the fan translator and editor of the series. Whether this is a good or bad thing is certainly up to debate.
However, what remains true either way is that Heaven Official’s Blessing is a fantasy story. This makes it dense with terminology that is difficult to translate. Mandarin also contains relationship markers that aren’t necessarily compatible with English. Some of this is dealt with by the extensive glossary that is provided at the end of the book. Yet there are spots that raise some questions. Whether this affects your reading experience will depend on your knowledge of Chinese culture and history and your reading preferences. This book definitely leans towards a foreignizing approach and keeps a lot of elements foreign to English. That’s not a bad thing. It is preference based though.
The story of Heaven Official’s Blessing is interesting and engaging. While there are some writing or editorial choices that raise questions, MXTX’s character-building power is undeniable. While some plot points are obvious from the start, others will keep you on your toes and surprise you. Heaven Official’s Blessing really offers something for readers across various genres – from boy’s love to historical fantasy. It’s a great introduction to Chinese novels too. Hopefully Volume 2 brings just as much to the table.