Cover Image: To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods

To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods

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Member Reviews

Well. Glancing quickly through other reviews, it seems this book was incredibly divisive. For me, it was just...fine.

Ruying of Pangu is a girl blessed by Death, able to drain the lifeforce of those around her if she desires. Of course, she keeps this ability under close control after inadvertently killing a close friend as a child. Now an adult, she simply wants to do what she can to protect her family. Meanwhile, her world has been invaded after a portal in the sky opened and unleashed the scientific and military might of the Romans. Wait, like actually the Romans from our own world? Apparently so! Did the Roman Empire never fall in this version of Earth? Did their descendants rebuild the Empire and conquer modern day countries? How far into Earth's future is this? Who knows! The author simply never explains it!

One of the princes of the Romans, Antony, irrevocably alters Ruying's life when she's captured and imprisoned. To save the lives of her family, they enter a bargain together where she uses her powers of Death magic to become Antony's personal assassin. Do you actually get to see this happen? Not really! Almost all of the assassinations are off-screen, the action referenced in later internal musings. At one point there's literally a six month timeskip, after which Ruying thinks to herself along the lines of "I can't believe I've killed over forty people for him". HUH! What happened to showing, not telling...

Of course, Ruying and Antony grow closer throughout their time eliminating political targets in the name of building a peace between Pangu and Rome. They're both attractive and codependent, so you can see where this is going. However, what I really enjoyed is that Ruying is a fairly unreliable narrator, and we only very rarely get glimpses of Antony's POV. He's manipulative and controlling, but it's never fully clear how aware she is of this (until the end of the book). At times I really enjoyed their banter and how they'd both obfuscate. What became frustrating was when others would try to open her eyes and she'd just say "I don't care, I don't want to know", etc, BUT was completely shocked at the end reveal of the things he'd done. Why are you so floored now!! You already knew he was hiding things from you!! Come on...

Anyway. I feel truly mid about this book overall. There were certainly some intriguing aspects, and I enjoyed the setting of Pangu, the magic involved, and the bits of history mentioned. I just can't get past the amount of content that was never explained or simply not shown. I definitely don't feel strongly enough about this book to pick up the sequel.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc.

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- I had very high hopes for TO GAZE UPON WICKED GODS. It met some of them - an inventive magic system and a great world full of hard choices and morally gray characters. Plus, the staccato style of the writing kept everything moving at a breakneck pace.
- Where it fell short for me was characterization. Ruying has practically only one personality trait, a drive to protect her family. And we know this because she states it every other page, along with other basic facts of the story, over and over again.
- There is also a six month time jump in the middle of the book. During that span, we miss what sounds like some heart pounding action, and also the entirety of the budding relationship between Ruying and her colonizer captor. We’re simply told that she’s drawn to him, but we skipped the parts where she learned more about him and built trust.
- The trust part in particular is was very difficult for me to swallow. It’s glaringly obvious that he does not have the good intentions he professes, and yet Ruying is ready to follow him to the ends of the earth (and therefore, the end of her people and her country).

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I felt like I was tricked into picking this book for how insanely mad I was after finishing it. I remember seeing an arrow trope post by the author saying it has a love triangle and "he is a traitor but could never betray the woman he loved" That said traitor isn't in more than 3 chapters and there is no love triangle. Instead, there is a colonizer romance.

I loved the idea of the FMC turning evil to protect her family, we all love a badass woman who would break rules and walk through hell to save her loved ones. But siding with them out of desperation and falling in love with them are two very different things.

If you want to write an 'I can fix him' romance maybe write a dark romance with mafias and not colonizers.

I have read comments like Antony is making me feel things and sorry to say but nothing has ever disgusted me more than this.

How does one go on having inner monologues about feeling guilty about killing innocent people and then say with a straight face "Frankly I don't care" when someone tries explaining to her what her prince is doing?

After 70% of the story I wanted to roll my eyes every time Ru said My People.

“And if you die, it will mean war too. I'll start it myself.” Be fr man, your family is already committing genocide, you are referenced as a soldier from one of the worst units to exist in human history

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I unfortunately DNFed this book. I could tell from the first few chapters this book is heavy on the internal dialogue, making it very repetitive. Many people don't mind this writing style, but it's not for me. The story seems very interesting though.

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Let's just start off with the elephant in the room. Is this a colonizer romance? I want to state that my least favorite element of To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods was the romance. As a tentative fan of enemies to lovers, I am used to difficulties with loyalty, the lies we are told, and the lines between love, betrayal, and kingdom. But mixed with colonization, there is a delicate line to draw. And, for the most part, To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods plays with the line more than I was comfortable with.

I also cannot speak to the historical accuracy. To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods is a story that explores the sacrifices one has to make to survive. For the safety of our loved ones, even if it means betraying them and our home. But it's also about what happens when we realize that their momentary safety is only worth the words given. And that these are fleeting and hollow. This theme has to be my favorite even if there were moments where you want to sort of shake Ruying.

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Unfortunately I could not get into this book, I do think it was well written and deserving of the attention it is getting, however it just wasn’t for me.

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This felt very much in tune with what’s happening in our world today. Ruling is a young impressionable girl with only a grandmothers wise sayings to follow. She is very impressionable by the men in her life. As she goes through many challenges she begins to grow but still needs work. It seems like there will a sequel?

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Thanks to Random House/Ballantine/Del Rey, NetGalley, and Molly X. Chang for the opportunity to read this lovely book. I was quite surprised by how lovely the world building was and I loved the female protagonist Ruying. She had such an incredible power but had such a complicated character and strength of spirit. She was so concerned about trying to save her family that she sometimes failed to see the world as flawed but when she finally did she didn’t hesitate to do what needed done. My heart broke a bit when she realized that the man she was falling for might not have the best intentions for everyone. He and his people were more interested in living a life of decadence but she still had hope that he would change. Even after all she saw she still kept believing in him.
I was not crazy about how the book ended. I’m hopeful that there will be a second book making this a duology which I hope will put all the loose ends into a finished story. The book was good but I think it’s got to do better with book two to tie up everything.

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To Gaze Upon Wicked creates a fantasy world where magic is dying, and war is imminent.
Ruying has power over death. She lives in a world where magic is fading and those with magic are in serious danger. The Romans descended from the heavens before she was born, they had weapons and “Science” of things no one in Er-Lang has ever seen. These invaders are still there, and they are plucking those with spell powers collecting them as weapons. Ruying can pull the qi out of people ending their lives and tries to stay low and not cause scenes to keep her grandmother and opian-addicted sister safe. When Ruying’s gift is discovered by an enemy prince, he offers her an impossible deal: If she becomes his private assassin her family will never starve or suffer harm again. Ruying chooses to protect her family. The only issue is that all magic takes life from the caster. How much life force does it take her to kill and how long will she live? Prince Antony also promises that he isn’t like the other Romans; he wants to spare her world. But can she trust him and the feeling she begins to experience?

Molly X. Chang creates a fantasy/sci-fi world where Roman and the magical Asian culture meet. She balances magic with science without having them co-exist. The science-focused Romans have destroyed their world and have opened a portal to Pangu. The people with magic are used as tools by the Romans. Colonialism with its side effects of greed and disregard for the native culture is explored.
There is some romance but only just. I was unhappy with the choice for Ruying, but the end of the book may just lead her to the person I wanted her with. This is the first in a series, so the love factor could be removed. I could have used a few extra pages at the end to give us a little peek at what is going on when meet the characters again. That would have made me more excited and given a little more closure to the end of the book.
I enjoyed this book. It was inventive and kept me on my toes. I never knew, other than Ruying, who to trust. I’m ready for the next book.

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Unfortunately I could only make it about 30% of the way before putting this down.
I found it very boring and I didn't really like the MC and since at least to that point it was mainly inner dialog it was hard to get through.
I did read some spoilers and it sounds like a decent concept but this writing style just isn't for me.

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dnf @ 13%

thank you(?) to netgalley and del rey for gifting me this arc; all opinions are my own

i’m sorry, i don’t think i can get past her thinking the colonizer man has a beautiful smile and based on his description that took like half a page, this is the main guy, “Instead, he smiled. A wide, beautiful smile that touched his enraptured eyes, and held me there for a second longer than I knew was safe.”

the cover is divinely gorgeous, and it’s really a shame.. i was hesitant to pick this book up after i heard the controversies. honestly, i fell asleep when i picked it up earlier today and i don’t know, i feel like the concepts are good with having Death magic, but the colonizer romance and seeing him as a “good guy” is a very big turn off.

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⭐️⭐️⭐️
I’ll be honest, this wasn’t my favorite book but it also wasn’t my least favorite I’ve ever read.

I understand some people have strong opinions about what this book may or may not depict. I, however, believe this author has every right to explore this storyline in the way she chooses.

I thought the storyline was interesting and kept me reading to see if Ruying would find the path she was meant to take. A woman who struggles with the role she played in her people’s suffering while also doing it to protect those she loved. It is a terribly complex dance between right and wrong and the author did a great job at showing how easy it is to toe the line of betrayal in the name of someone you love.

The issue I had with this book is that there was a lot of internal dialogue and not enough dialogue between characters. Because of this, at times it felt very repetitive to the point where I found myself skipping pages because it felt like I heard it all before. I hope that in the next book the author really expands on relationship building between the characters more. I’m okay with this book not having as much romance in it because I don’t think that was the direction the author really wanted to take here.

I look forward to seeing what Molly Chang does next with Ruying’s story.

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Ruying is forced to become the enemy's assassin after her unique magical ability is discovered. Though she is reluctant to do their bidding, she has no other choice once her family's safety is threatened. As she grows closer to the Roman prince she works for with each assignment given, she has to determine whether the means truly justifies the promise of peace.

I've been looking forward to this one for a while. Asian fantasies have been at the top of my list and there was also the teased enemies-to-lovers I couldn't resist. It was initially difficult to get into but I finally finished it a few days ago.

While the story is an interesting one, it was filled with explanations as opposed to actual doing. I wanted in on the action, experiencing these moments alongside Ruying, but only got snippets. Although the writing style was not a good fit for me, there were descriptions throughout that I liked.

With it being the first book in a series, it is very much a beginning. As Ruying struggles with what she is doing for the enemy, there is a focus on trying to learn why Rome has invaded. The book remains largely in this exposition stage, building toward the climax but never quite getting there. I was disappointed with the ending.

I like the story well enough and will probably pick up the next book to find out what happens. I just don't think it will be one of my most anticipated reads. (3.5 stars rounded to 4 stars)

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I really wanted to like this book but at almost 60% I just couldn’t continue. I didn’t like any of the characters, the book was 75% inner dialogue and the rest actual things happening, I was bored, and found myself just trying to slug through it. I found this book to be affecting my mood anytime I read it and I wasn’t looking forward to picking it up. Im calling it quits with the hopeful thought that it will find the readers it’s meant for.

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2 stars

Thank you Netgalley and publisher.

I thought there'd be more romance in this book? That was disappointing. Also, the world building...why is it so...sparse? I like to have a more in depth explanation of the world I'm diving into and I felt like there wasn't much so I didn't connect with the story and characters much. I felt like the MC was written younger than she was portrayed in the story so it felt quite juvenile.

If there is a second, I'll probably be skipping it.

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I understand why people are mad at this book and calling it a colonizer romance, but hear me out for a second. (Also beware FULL BOOK SPOILERS lie ahead).

Ruying is a coward. We know this. Everyone around her tells her this. She says it. So when she’s offered a (bad) deal that will protect her family, she takes it. And because she’s a coward, she doesn’t use the opportunity to get information or find weaknesses that will help her people. When the prince is nice to her, she chooses to believe him, to follow him, because it is less scary than the truth. When the rebellion tries to get her to help them, she refuses. Not because she doesn’t want to help her people but because she’s scared. And eventually she falls for the prince because now he’s the one keeping her safe, taking arrows for her, keeping his brother from hurting her, etc. She’s even ignoring the fact that he’s forced her to be his assassin (even though she didn’t want to kill anyone and it’s literally killing her) and is keeping things from her all because he’s offered her a semblance of safety. Girl falls for the first guy to show her kindness is a trope many of us have seen before.

The book isn’t telling you that the colonizers are good for the empire. A large part of the story is about the devastation opian has caused in the community. We see the fear and anger the people have toward the Romans. Her friend and her sister are telling her she’s an idiot for trusting the prince and she’s a traitor to their people. We’re being shown that no one agrees with the decisions Ruying makes. No one is supportive, encouraging, or even acceptive. It is Ruying alone who is siding with the colonizers BECAUSE SHE IS A COWARD. She’s just a girl who has shitty options and makes bad decisions.
When she’s forced to see the truth at the end, she finally makes a good decision.
So I don’t think this book is about romanticizing colonization. I don’t even think it’s about a girl falling for a colonizer. It’s about a scared girl in a scary world trying to survive. And we should see where book 2 goes before condemning this one. With the way this book ended, it felt like Ruying was finally opening her eyes and ready to make the hard decisions.
I could be entirely wrong and MXC might double down on the romance in the next book but I’m really hopeful that’s not the case.

I disliked the main character for majority of the book. I wish the character arc happened sooner so I could appreciate her growth more but I think this was a solid debut. I will be picking up the sequel whenever it comes out since it has the potential to make or break this book.
Thanks NetGalley and Del Rey for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I had to sit with this for a little bit. Unfortunately the writing was not strong, there were repetitive descriptions and I feel like the MC was written younger than her age (19 I think? But she acts a lot younger.)

But the romance in this was a cringe. The prince captured this girl, forces her to be an assassin for him to keep her family safe, and then they…fall in love but his people are taking over her country and killing all of her people and he somehow convinces her that he’s the good guy? Like…girl noooo.

Like even after she finds out his scientists were experimenting on her best friend that he promised to let go, she goes to see him in the hospital was like internally like “I think I still like him.” Nooooooooo. Girl stop.

There was also a random chapter from his POV and I think it’s the only one which was weird.

Not sure I’ll be reading this sequel.

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Set in a realm where an entire country was overtaken by another in a single day, Yang Ruying has to make difficult choices in order to take care of her sick family members. Science versus magic is the foundation of the continuous struggle as Xianling citizens try to use their Gifts to survive and fight back.

This book shows the difficulty of choosing between the easy path of surrender, or the hard path of rebellion.
Of making tough choices for the right reasons, to protect the ones you love, even if it goes against your morals. The back and forth in Ruying’s head as she tries to save her family while also sticking to her principles was really interesting to read, especially as she came to know Antony as a person. The relationships with her best friend Taohua, her sister Meiya, and her former friend Baihu all illustrate the different considerations Ruying has with anything she does, and really makes the war seem realistic.

The ending felt incomplete, and nothing really felt resolved since there wasn’t really a battle between Ruying and Antony, or even a real determination of where her loyalties now lie. It felt like just a lot of setup for the next book, which kind of disappointed me since this book doesn’t feel like it can stand alone. However, I am excited to read the next book when it comes out!

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This was interesting, partially because it wasn't just one country subjugating another with their superior power (in this case much higher tech capable of mass destruction) it was different worlds entirely. or different realities? I wish there had been more about how Rome was able to create the portal from their world to Ruying's magic rich one. When you can fight magic versus science who would be the winner? There are many shades of grey as multiple parties fight to protect their world from being exploited in order to replenish the world where Rome came from while Antony (one of Rome's princes) insists that he only wants peace between the two worlds. I felt for Ruying, who only wants to protect her family and world, being pulled two directions by Antony and Baihu. Many lies are told and truths dug up in this first book and everyone wants Ruying on their side. She does have a pretty cool magic gift.

I was not really a fan of the tried forced romance, Ruying has a hard enough time without needing to add romantic attractions. But it was an interesting book and I do want to find out how Ruying plans to end the subjugation of her world. Though I wouldn't mind maybe a trip to the Rome side of the portal to see their world.

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<i> thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the ARC in exchange for my honest review </i>

(It's hard to write this review and not spoil anything as I like to write spoiler-free reviews!)

This book was interesting - was it a stand out fantasy? Nah, but the way the story developed for the ending to set up for book two really made this worth it. I did enjoy the read, and while I enjoy a 1st person POV, I wish this was a 3rd person POV as we didn't get a ton of perspective on the world. Most 1st POV I read the narrator slowly reveals more about the world and characters, however this one really didn't. I was confused for awhile on the portal aspect of the world and didn't fully understand it until I read a review where someone explained it more. I appreciated the Chinese proverbs thrown in, but I felt like they were over-used and began to lose their charm in the story.

I never felt fully connected to any characters, but I did experience their emotions. What made this book a 4-star vs. in the 3-star range was the ending! The action was fantastic and the reveal of what is going to happen for book two made me super excited I know this isn't a super dark fantasy, but there were elements that I wished were explored to push it a little over the edge of comfortability.

Ruying has been manipulated her entire life: family, friends, and now this prince who is clearly abusing his position of power to promise her things in exchange for her magic, and as a reader I never believed anything he was saying.


I will say - the limited marketing I have seen for this book (after I received the ARC last year) makes this book out to be something it really isn't; which is a shame. We need to move away from trope-focused marketing

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