Member Reviews

2.5/5 stars

<i>Thank you to NetGalley and Del Rey for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!</i>

This is one of those books where I totally see what the author’s intention was, but unfortunately, she didn’t pull it off. I didn’t empathize with Ruying at all because I could see right through Antony. Maybe I’m just tired of women falling for mediocre (and in this case, horrible) men! I was not surprised at all with the ending, and it was annoying to be in Ruying’s head when literally everyone else was telling her that she was wrong and I agreed with them. She trusts Antony way too fast and the pacing for this book is off - there are random time jumps and I’m just supposed to believe that Ruying and Antony have grown so much closer in this time.

Was this review helpful?

Ruying is blessed with a deadly power that makes her an unwilling asset to the conquerors of her world. But can she trust the prince with the vision for a better world for both of their people? Or will the secrets he keeps be what unleashes her upon them all?

4 stars rounded up from 3.5

I was hooked for the first third of this story…it was fast paced and hard to put down. I found the ending third of the story was the strongest part of the entire book…it was so good and so wonderfully written. However, I was disappointed with the middle part of the book. The time hop was not it for me…I would’ve loved to see more of the character and relationship development happen on page especially since I found the story intriguing and the writing beautiful.

Was this review helpful?

oh I am SO mad about the ending not wrapping up enough. I have to read two more of these for a conclusion ??????????

2.5, rounded up. okay let me be brief as a briefcase (while still making absolutely zero sense ❤️), because this book was not.

Let’s start there, actually. The writing was SO fucking flowery that it feels like an affront to flowers to even call it that. It’s like that sickly sweet perfume-y floralness that tries really hard to smell like flowers and misses the mark entirely. Or like artificial grape flavoring, I dunno.

Antony not only has a terrible name, but he also has the personality of stale bread. And Ruying has the personality of a pineapple pizza handmade by a caveman that (obviously) doesn’t know what pizza is.

The use of “science” and the whole “magic vs. science” thing REALLY pissed me off. CALL IT TECHNOLOGY. TECH, EVEN, IF YOU WANT TO BE FANCY. Or Pangu could’ve called it science and Rome could say technology, to show the differences in technological development between the two. It was just so infuriatingly dumb how they were all like “we can do This and This and This because ✨ science ✨” no. ew. That’s something I would say, NOT something an entire civilization of techbros would say. Where’s the mansplaining??????? Unrealistic.

Complaining aside, I did really love the “plot twist”, if you can call it that. I saw it coming, but I was in denial because so many books have the perfect setup for this particular twist and then they just brush it under the fucking rug. But not this book !! so yay, gold star for you

Now I just have to hope that the author doesn’t pull an “oopsie daisy actually that was all a miscommunication” and undo the whole thing.

(thanks to netgalley for the arc !!)

Was this review helpful?

I wanted to fall in love with this book so badly. The cover is gorgeous, and I've been wanting to read a Chinese inspired fantasy for a while now. I thought this would be the perfect one for me to fall into, but it just didn't live up to my expectations.

Let's be clear: I definitely do not hate this book. No matter how many times it got repetitive, or had a trope I'm not exactly fond of, I still remain hopeful for this author.

Molly X. Chang's writing is beautiful. She paints a scenery of flowing silks and half moon archways in a way that is romantic yet still does not lean into purple prose. I thought the world was gorgeous, and it felt very real, like I could easily step into the pages and exist.

The magic system is interesting, as magic is fading out of existence, and our main character has a dangerous power she is hiding from the public.

I did not like the colonized/colonizer tensions. At times, it was redundant, with the FMC describing over and over how the Roman's brutalized her people. I understand a character going through such an existence would be angry and bitter, but I think we could have understood that without being told at every turn. The author needs to trust the audience a bit more, as most of us would easily be able to connect the dots.

The story took quite a while to pick up, probably because there was so much unnecessary world building in the beginning. It took about 20% for things to get going. Unfortunately, I didn't find the plot very gripping, for the reasons stated above.

Ruying was fine as a FMC, though I wished she'd have the opportunity to be more balanced. I didn't care for Antony or Baihu, feeling as though both of them have vast amounts of blood on their hands, and neither of them were exactly redeemable. I didn't like any of their dynamics, with poor Ruying being under their control for various reasons.

The plot, again, was just fine, if a bit generic despite the unique setting. It did not keep me on the edge of my seat like I hoped, and I'm not sure if I'd be willing to give the second one a chance

Was this review helpful?

I could not get into this. I did not like the relationship between the FMC and MMC. It just felt like a bad “I can fix him” trope.

Was this review helpful?

This review may contain spoilers

I wasn't sure how I'd feel about this one given what as been said about it, but after sitting down and finishing it in a night, I can confidently say that barring a few nitpicks, I greatly enjoyed reading it. Ruying is a young woman trying to navigate a sister with an addiction, an elderly grandmother, people who want to use her powers and make choices for her, and an impending war that could destroy her home, her family, and perhaps eventually, her entire world. She is constantly in a state of flux trying to remain good, realizing she can't if she wants her family and herself to live, and beating herself up about her choices. While I sometimes found myself frustrated with her decisions and internal monologue, I don't see that as a bad thing given what's taking place around her.

As for the "colonizer romance" aspect of it. That doesn't exist. There is no romance here. There is infatuation from Ruying and she does wobble on her feelings for Antony, but I would be surprised if she didn't. Antony is a master manipulator. Not only is it in the subtext but more than one character says it outright. Of course Ruying is going to be manipulated and question herself about the person who has positioned himself as her captor but also her savior.

The magic of the world feels a little underdeveloped but given that this is the first entry into a trilogy (?), I imagine more will come to light in future books. I am very interested in the blending of magic and science and I hope with further glimpses at the world that it becomes less clunky. Also very interested in Rome as it sounds like a potential future Earth, but did Earth rebrand as Rome? Is it just a name? I hope we get more lore about that.

All in all, a solid first entry into a series and I can't wait to pick up the next book.

Was this review helpful?

A take on Chinese history with magic and technology bridging the gap for an all new colonization story. I felt the pain in this one and as always a fan of love triangles.

Was this review helpful?

What a romp this was! I’m very curious at
how the love triangle will be playing out. Overall this was just about of fun.
If this is the authors debut I’m excited to see what comes next. 3.5 stars!

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

- 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).

Was this review helpful?

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

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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?

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

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.

Was this review helpful?

⭐️⭐️⭐️
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.

Was this review helpful?