Member Reviews

I wanted to like this book so bad, the cover itself is beautiful and enticing (props to the cover artist!) but unfortunately the book itself was a DNF. I pushed through it more than I would have due to the ARC copy I had received but unfortunately I couldn't bring myself to finish - the book felt more like work than a pleasant read.

The first several scenes of this book, for example, is just characters saying two sentences to each other, followed by the MC infodumping to the reader about these two sentences and why they're bad and tragic. We could not have the MC walk into a room to find a man. She had to walk into a room (which was a bad room) and smell the opiates (which were bad and reminded her of her father. thats bad) to go speak to someone (he is bad and tied to her past which is bad). I lost empathy for the MC so quickly - we got her trauma dumping for chapters on chapters before I even had a semblance of who her character was! The dialogue itself was just filled with her and her childhood friend infodumping paragraphs at each other, which feels unnatural - two people who knew each other this long don't talk to each other like that.

All that being said, the idea behind this book is an interesting one! The world building felt a little threadbare, but in the author's defense I could not finish the book so I will not comment on it as it could have been resolved later.

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Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing for this eARC for my honest review! “To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods” releases on April 9th, 2024 (and I cannot wait for it’s sequel)


For a debut young adult fantasy to have such a firm grasp over all its elements, from pacing to writing to character development to worldbuilding, shows a rare mastercraft that truly shines in “To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods.” This book follows the story of Ruying, a girl who is blessed with the magic of Death at her fingertips, yet lives a suffocated life under the weight of her country’s colonizers, the Romans. With her twin sister grappling with addiction and the money stores slowly depleting, it’s easy for her to make a choice with the enemy for her family’s continued survival. But as secrets and hidden agendas are revealed, Ruying begins to question the weight of her choices and how they threaten to spell ruin for her country.

Although Ruying’s largely questionable choices had me setting the book down on multiple occasions, the biggest thing that kept bringing me back was the writing. By the end of the book, it was abundantly clear that the level of writing was the foundation that held all the components of this story together. The poetic and ethereal quality of Ruying’s internal dialogue was very compelling, but stacked with extensively detailed world-building and compounded with a slow pace that gradually exposes readers to different facets of Ruying and her country? I couldn’t help but devour this book in three days.

Yet, the part of this book that I will continue to think about long after its conclusion is the character development of Ruying. She starts the story with next to nothing and is offered the chance to aid her enemy in exchange for the safety of her family. She vows to detach herself from her sins because she’s been told her actions are for the greater good. And when people she trusts criticize her actions and her character, she refuses to yield. On the surface, this is a massively foolish decision, and as we venture deeper into the story her actions become more and more morally questionable. Despite all of this, at her core, every single one of Ruying’s choices are all too human. With the clarity of the dangers of colonialism and imperialism, it’s all too easy to critique the path Ruying has chosen, forgetting that the path to lucidity is paved with mistakes and pitfalls. Don’t get me wrong, I too fell into the mistake of hating Ruying from the start, but by the end, she was by far my favorite character.

I’m so excited for what the second book in this series brings, because if the first book is this good, I have no doubts that the follow-up of “To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods” will also be a masterpiece.

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Buddy read with Zana

YA fantasy is more miss than hit with me nowadays, and while I'm not shocked I hated Fourth Wing, I like to give the genre a little more leeway when it's Asian inspired and written by an Asian author. Zhara disappointed, and I'm not sure this is better or worse.

I don't know why this seems to be a thing nowadays, but Zana started a list called Books with Colonizer Romances. Feel free to add to the list if you've got one that particular offends you. In addition to this, if you want to go on a deep dive into the incels of Reddit, search WMAF relationships.

Anyway. Many of you have problems with Throne of Glass, but Aelin is a damn good assassin. And it's very much on screen. Ruying is an assassin only after the fact, and most of her kills happen off page. Because the worldbuilding is sparse, I didn't realize until far too late that the Romans come from our world, and that they have colonized the world of Pangu.

Falling for your colonizer aside, some edits need to be made pre-publication. More worldbuilding. Less infodumping. Seriously, it comes out of left field.

Take a shot every time Ruying mentions her colonizer's jade green eyes. You'll be dead by the end of this.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher.

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5 Stars. READ THIS BOOK! This is a debut novel!? Molly Chang, you delivered.
Reading the author's note is what really pulled me into the book, and made me want to learn about what her ancestors had to endure in China.

This is how you inform people about historical events, through a stunningly written story about a strong female MC and her determination to protect her family and culture. I loved the magic versus science aspect of the story, the worldbuilding, the traitorous characters, I loved it all.

Thank you NetGalley, Publisher, and Author for the ARC. I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO RUYING'S STORY!

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"To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods" by Molly X. Chang blends tropes of romantic historical fantasy and science fiction elements to explore the parallels of colonialism and environmental resource depletion. While the book occasionally delivers stunning prose, the potential for a truly great novel is squandered on underdeveloped characters and a repetitive, simplistic narrative.

The good: The premise is dripping with potential. Our heroine, Ruying, possesses the unique power of controlling death. She's also a badass because her grandmother has trained her as a skilled fighter. In this alternate universe, a portal connects Ruying's planet to an invading force known as "Rome" (not our historical Rome). This alternate Rome serves as a representation of our very real future here on earth, a scientifically advanced civilization that has destroyed its own planet by depleting its own resources until it is uninhabitable. This is an apt name and a poignant metaphor to represent a civilization brought to ruin by self-indulgence and disregard consequences. And isn't it the same thing really? A sense of entitlement to another country and a people's resources vs continuing to destroy our own planet because we honestly just have such a grandiose sense of our own sense of self-importance? Imperialism and environmental destruction, both, what a deeply western value...

Ruying's planet, a clear stand-in for China, incorporates culture, language, and mythology, so evokes the Opium Wars era. Rome's contol over Ruying's people through an opium-like drug and threats of mass violence mirrors historical atrocities. Ruying finds herself coorced into becoming an assassin for a Roman prince in order to save her sister and grandmother, rationalizing it as the lesser evil

The bad: MY GOOD LORD, Ruying is such an absolutely intolerable character. I made a note to myself at 69% that I desperately wanted to be rooting for her, but given that she had not once made a reasonable or intelligent decision, it was becoming increasingly difficult. I wanted to sympathize over her desire for this slimy male love interest (trying to avoid spoilers here), but the whole time it is so clear how awful he is. This isn't morally gray, this is colonizer, oppressor, evil. Like, it feels like maybe we are supposed to forgive him a little because he wuuuuvs her and um, no thank you. And I am fairly certain if I went through and deleted the amount of time she spent repeating herself about whatever handwringing she was doing about any given thing, the book would be a quarter of the length.

That said, I get the sense that this might be an ACOTAR sort of situation where the first book is trash and full of bad decisions and the second book is where we find an empowered Ruying discovering her revolution. I'll read the sequel to see. Because, while the narrative and characters were stunningly lacking in depth, the concept and prose were pretty spectacular. Ruying will absolutely test your patience, but if you can overcome a shallow TSTL main character for the other elements, it is worth the read.

I think this book is 3.5 stars but I'm rounding up to 4 because the prose is really quite beautiful and it's a short and compelling read. But also, ugh, Ruying.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Del Rey for granting my wish and providing me with this ARC for my (obviously) deeply unbiased review.

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Ruying and Antony would definitely be drama-major kids who are always in competition about who had it worse in life.

Ruying has one goal: to protect her sister and grandmother. When Er-Lang was invaded by Rome decades ago, the Emperor negotiated agreements so Rome would not destroy their land. As time went on, Rome pushed those boundaries and is now on the verge of war with Er-Lang. The Emperor is weak and doesn’t fight back against Rome for fear of retribution. Ruying does her best to keep her head down and stay out of trouble, even with her powers over death threatening to overwhelm her. When a robbery goes wrong and lands Ruying in front of Rome’s princes, Ruying is forced to make a deal with Antony, the youngest son, in exchange for her and her family’s lives. As long as Ruying kills Antony’s enemies in a discreet manner, Antony will protect her family and promise that Er-Lang will have peace when he is ruler. Ruying hesitantly believes his promise that he wants to bring peace and agrees to the deal. But magic comes with a cost, one much steeper than Ruying thought it would be.

It is outright cruel to promise me dark women and then not deliver. In the beginning, the author leaves a note asking readers not to judge Ruying too harshly for the things she does to survive. I ask you, WHAT THINGS? From the beginning, the author emphasizes Ruying’s willingness to do anything for her family to live. This is repeated to us, over and over, but nothing in Ruying’s actions or inner monologue proves this. The opening scene is her meeting up with her childhood friend, Baihu, because she needs help. Baihu has done some truly despicable things to survive in a world where you kill or be killed, and Ruying condemns him for that. He was what I expected from a morally gray character. Ruthless, but with his own moral code he adheres to. She hates him for what she thinks he has done to their people, but she also refuses to help her people. Her sister, Meiya, begs Ruying to fight against the invaders, but Ruying also condemns Meiya for wanting to take action and says it’s “hopeless.” I really couldn’t tell what Ruying wanted, except to be self-righteous and judge everyone’s actions.

Ruying has the power of death on her side yet doesn’t use it. Okay, that’s fine, especially since it is explained that magic has a cost. Yet she describes herself as a ruthless killing machine. In dire situations, she still lets her enemies live even though those actions will come back to bite her. Not very morally gray. We also hear the backstory of how she first killed someone, and it was disappointing, to say the least. She throws herself a pity party, constantly complaining about the strain her powers take on her, but at the same time, we never see how dark and twisted her abilities are. The moment she is put in a position where she has to use her magic, though, she immediately balks at the idea and runs away. I get it, killing someone is a big deal, but she was talking a big game about how she would do anything for her and her sister’s survival. The idea that they are threatening to kill her grandma and sister if she doesn’t do what they ask, and she is still like “I’m a good person! I don’t want to!” was irritating. I do not want this girl in my corner.

The romance. How sweet. It is entirely normal to fall in love with the man who is making you kill people under threat. Happens to all of us! But he has daddy issues, so it's okay. Since when have we decided Stockholm syndrome was cute, or something to portray as loving? Antony has threatened Ruying’s family and close friends if she doesn’t kill his enemies on command, almost like one would order an attack dog around. Despite this, she still fights his orders (putting her family in danger) and when she finally complies, she seeks comfort from him. Girl, STAND UP. He orders her to kill a man and then hugs her and says he’s sorry. Is this not textbook gaslighting? Then we skip six months of Ruying having to kill on his command, and his guard torturing her, only to find out they’ve bonded in these months. They trust each other, and oh my gosh, have feelings. Portray that, if you so choose, but don’t romanticize it. Any man who says he loves you but still threatens all you hold dear DOES NOT LOVE YOU. I have no problem with toxic relationships in books. Make your characters raw, messy, seeking answers in all the wrong places, but don’t pretend it's okay. A great example of a toxic relationship is Rin and Atlas from the Poppy War, or even Rin and Nezha. I genuinely think the author wanted me to fall in love with Ruying and Antony’s relationship, but fortunately, I’m not as gullible as Ruying.

The writing style does this thing where it repeats itself in short choppy sentences.

Like this.

Just repeating myself again.

Go read the first line, it means the same thing.

Honestly, the style isn’t that big of a deal, but it was used so much. When you employ this tactic again and again, it is a waste of paper and time. It was on every single page, and it was always related to survival or some big emotional point that Ruying was trying to get across. It was just too dramatic and over-the-top.

"The only thing I should spend my anxieties on was here and now,
My Family.
Our survival.”

“The end of Er-Lang.
The end of us.
Apocalypse, as Antony had called it.”

“A life on our knees was better than Death.
Better than an Empire in ruins. Better than corpses littering these streets with no one left alive to bury them.”

These are just a few of the many passages I highlighted that followed this pattern. It was so repetitive and left little room for me to form my own opinions or have any kind of emotional impact from truly dire statements.

The actual world didn’t make sense. This takes place in a magical version of China for the majority of our book. Yet, the invaders come from portals in the sky. This place they come from is called Rome, but I couldn’t tell what time period it was in. Er-land is less developed, leaving the impression of ancient China, yet Rome has helicopters, missiles, guns, and such. I don’t understand why the two lands are separated, or why China is in a different world. It’s not really explained, which is very frustrating.

I barely finished this book. It reminded me of an off-brand version of the Poppy War. A super disappointing read, especially with that gorgeous cover.

Thank you NetGalley and RandomHouse Publishing for the advanced copy in exchange for a review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods is the first installment in a series that follows Ruying, a teenager with the ability to pull the qi (life force) from a person and kill them. She is one of many who have magical abilities of various kinds. Her country, Pengu, has been invaded by Romans and their scientific marvels, through a sky portal. So far, Pengu has submitted to colonialization to keep the peace. But politics, rebels, and a potentially sympathetic Roman prince may change the status quo. Can Ruying protect what is left of her family while being forced to commit terrible acts to keep the peace?

In an Author’s note, it’s pointed out that this story is inspired by Manchurian folklore and history, particularly during WWII, and I really enjoyed that aspect of the story. Unfortunately, the execution was lackluster. It’s understandable that the author would need to spend sometime world building at the beginning but there were continuous, repetitious descriptions of how Ruying’s family is poor, her people are oppressed and all addicted to Opian, and how magic can’t stand up to science. This really slows down the pacing in the first 2/3s of the book. It seems like all of the action and plotting happens in the last third of the novel which made that part much more interesting. Despite the time given to explaining in the beginning, there are still a lot of questions remaining about why and how magic works, why, given its fantastic nature, it can’t stand up better to science.

Despite the flaws, I did like the main character and her struggle to understand her own boundaries and morals as well as the political intrigue. And the cover is absolutely stunning.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest review!

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a magical debut full of beautiful prose and complex characters. the world-building was interesting, if at times a little disorienting. going between a more traditional fantasy setting and a more modern and scientific one took some getting used to. (the first time i saw the word "plane" on the page, i was like :o) the plot was compelling and even packed a few gut punches. (taohua's story... iykyk) sometimes felt like the gray morality was being a little too cautious, but i can definitely see the potential there. i can't wait to see where ruying's story goes!

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Part fantasy, part science fiction, To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods was a very enjoyable book. Strangers appeared through a rift in the sky, bringing with them modern science and technology to a world ruled by magic, myth, and tradition. After a devastating one-day war, the world bowed a knee to the invading Romans and accepted peace. Now, decades later, rebellion threatens to tip that balance into war.

Xianlings, those blessed by the gods with magical abilities, are going missing. Ruying is one of them; blessed by the magic of Death, an ability she keeps hidden. She's been struggling for survival, to keep her aging grandmother and opian addicted sister safe. But when she's taken by the Romans, Ruying is offered a deal: serve as Prince Antony's assassin and he'll provide for her family. Is keeping those she loves the most worth turning her back on her people?

I loved this book. The blend of magic and science was unique and intriguing. It really helped establish the line between the Romans and Ruying, in addition to the political social barriers already in place. Ruying's dilemma was so well explored. 'Heroes die, cowards live' was a sentiment often repeated and used as her motivation.

The connection between Ruying and Antony went deeper than I initially expected it would, developing into a forbidden love. While I used to think that forbidden love was one of my least favorite tropes, it's slowly growing on me. It was so well done here in the way Antony both challenged Ruying and accepted her.

To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods is the first in a series and it ended at such a good place. I had goosebumps reading the final chapter. No spoilers as to what happened in those final pages, but I can at least say it was so satisfying. I'm excited for book two.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own.

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If my tears ricochet were a book, this would be it.

From a fantasy point of view, this was fun. It was predictable and conformed to most fantasy star-crossed lover-themed books. However, historically, as the author mentions at the beginning, the book doesn't quite make sense.

The pacing was good, although it dragged during some parts. The story of Ruying's and Antony's worlds separated through a portal wasn't very clear, and the descriptions regarding different cities and walls couldn't materialize in my head. Ruying's character, although strong, felt spineless until the end. Her occasional self-confidence would waver with self-doubting thoughts and questioning of her self-worth. Although, I partially blame it on Antony's manipulation and her conflicting situation. Regardless, she's a likable main character whose actions I support no matter the decision.

Despite its flaws, I consider that I read an arc, and things change before publishing. With that, I gave the book four stars because it's an entertaining and addicting read if stricken from seriousness. I sense a love triangle, but I'm rooting for Antony and Ruying because betrayal always hits the hardest.

The book seems like a promising start to a series or trilogy (depending on the author's plans). It outlines the main story nicely and expertly showcases Ruying's personality. I genuinely have high hopes and can't wait for the second book, not only for the ship but for Ruying's character development - I pray we see.

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I absolutely adore this cover, it’s breathtaking. It’s the first thing I noticed before reading the plot.
Magic and technology collide, power and greed are truly the root of evil.

Ruy is dedicated to her family and regardless of her power, she listens to her grandmother and hides her abilities. She is recruited for her death touch…
She is not your typical hero, she does want to be a good person but she understands the need to survive.

We have magical aspects, mythology, and fantasy. It’s not your typical fantasy book, the writing is more lyrical.

Possible trigger warnings, death of a family, violence, gore, drug addictions

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Thank you to Random House - Ballantine and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods by Molly X. Chang is a fantasy debut based on Chinese history and the author's grandfather's stories of war from Manchuria. The story revolves around Ruying, who lives in a China-inspired world that has been conquered by the Romans. What people don't know is that Ruying has powers that can steal the qi or life-force from anyone. When a Roman prince discovers her powers, she is forced to make a deal. Will she be able to handle being a personal assassin for the enemy?

Here is a gripping excerpt from Chapter 1:

"With deliberate steps, I passed the Fence that carved my city into halves, guarded by Roman soldiers and their white-knuckled grips on the guns that haunted my people's nightmares, ready to shoot me down over perceived slights.
I hated these men. Hated their stern, foreign faces and foreign attires from beyond the shimmering portal high in the indigo sky that now joined our two realms...
To inflict unimaginable pain and suffering, as the Romans had for over two decades now."

Overall, To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods is a fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of R. F. Kuang's Poppy War trilogy or the Netflix adaption of Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone. Although this book is categorized as adult fantasy, I feel like it can fit in and appeal to YA fantasy readers as well. One highlight of this book is that it is #ownvoices by an author of Chinese descent. I loved reading the author's note where she talks about her grandfather's war stories from Manchuria and about the colonization of China by Russia and Japan.

Another highlight of this book is Ruying's very cool death powers. Although they are a burden to her, I enjoyed reading about the descriptions and explanations of the death-magic. It was a cool concept that I haven't read about before. If I had to complain about 1 thing, I would say that there is a lot of telling, not showing, especially in the beginning of the book. But it gets very exciting afterward, and I tore through the rest of the book. If you're intrigued by the excerpt above, or if you're a fan of fantasy books in general, I highly recommend that you check out this book when it comes out in April!

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This book was very intense but so good! The authors note in the beginning is unlike anything I've read before in a YA fantasy and sets a heavy but important tone for the story. This story is unlike anything I've read and I can't wait to see how it continues and how the main character continues to grow. Thank you netgalley for the ARC!

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This book sounded so good and had so much promise, but because of that, I think I ended up disliking it even more? To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods just promised so much good stuff like enemies to lovers, a morally gray and conflicted protagonist, and an examination of the dynamics and oppressive tactics that go into colonization that it ultimately did not deliver on. It also had a blurb from Xiran Jay Zhao, who wrote Iron Widow, one of my favorite books published in 2021.

We follow Ruying, a young woman who lives under the oppressive rule of the Roman empire. Since the Romans suddenly invaded her country years ago, they’ve brought nothing but pain for her people and have abused them and taken the best of them–those with powerful magical gifts–to serve them. The Romans have also funneled a drug called opian (*cough* totally not opium, guys *cough*) to control the Xianlings, something Ruying’s father was addicted to and which currently afflicts her sister, Meiya.

A chance encounter with one of the Roman princes, Antony, leads to her being forced to enlist under him as his personal assassin when she reveals her ability to drain people of their qi to the point of even being able to kill them. At first, Ruying is reluctant and distrustful of Antony and everything he represents. But, as the two grow closer, she begins to see that he might be different from his brothers and have a better future in store for her people if she helps him take the crown…but at what cost?

Not gonna lie, this sounds potentially terrible on a surface level. Any story where the love interest is part of the colonizing force raises a red flag to me (and not in a good way). But it’s all in the execution, really. In particular, I’m thinking of Shelley Parker-Chan, She Who Became the Sun.

However, as I read more and more, the less faith I had that Chang would be able to pull off something similar. Antony is terrible. I really have no words for how despicable he was to me, and not only was he despicable, he was bland while doing it. I think he was supposed to be this big manipulator with a soft side for Ruying as she sneaks her way into his heart unexpectedly, but the way that he pushes her to kill people and how the two only bond over their trauma (with his being, “I once was poor and starving, see, I’m just like you!”) was awful.

I enjoyed Ruying’s moral conflict more since she starts off reluctantly being Antony’s assassin and enjoys the power rush she gets from using her gift at times. However, I don’t feel like Chang’s writing style was strong enough to lend enough originality to this character arc as we’ve gotten so many great morally gray or corrupt female characters in recent years that it’s hard not to compare to, such as R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy War Series. We’re still supposed to root for Ruying throughout this but her relationship with Antony is so weak that it undermines a lot of her conflict.

Every other character, including her sister and other potential love interest, call her out for buying into Antony’s promises and propaganda. I feel like I was in some time loop since this happened so often. Ruying goes back and forth so much between whether Antony is good or not, whether he’s lying to her about what he wants for the future of her people, that I became frustrated and sick of her.

There’s potential for much more interesting and complicated feelings and struggles for Ruying to go through, but Chang focuses on the romance in a way that diminishes this. Then, when even the romance isn’t strong, we’re left with a pretty flimsy plot.

All in all, To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods wasn’t for me and I really wish it was. The book had a promising start and I wish I could just pull all my favorite bits together to make a whole new book about the costs of love and power because this one isn’t hitting the mark.

Thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey Books for an ARC in exchange for my honest review!

This review has been scheduled to be posted on Goodreads, Amazon, and my blog (clearsummers.wordpress.com) on March 25, 2024.

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A fascinating book about two worlds, one centered around science and the other around magic. There are plenty of morally gray characters and a compelling relationship between the main character and the prince who recruits her. More deeply, this is a story about colonialism and the tension that will always exist between conqueror and conquered peoples. Molly Chang has crafted a rich world that promises more intrigue and angst in the books to come!

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This was amazing! Truly one of the best books I've read in a long time. The author created such a vivid world that was so immersive and detailed that it felt like a real place. The world-building was so well done, and the characters were all dynamic and interesting.

I have nothing but praise for this book, and Molly X. Chang deserves all the accolades for their writing. I can't wait to see what else they do!

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This was such an amazing read! I flew through this book in one afternoon because I could not stop! The characters were so unique and gripping that I really adored them. The author did a great job with keeping the plot moving and avoiding any stale moments. I will be recommending this book to everyone I know!

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Moving, lyrical and I'm so excited to get my physical copy. It's plot is fast paced and perfect for a fall read.

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Ruying lives in a world occupied by Romans who conquered her lands after invading from a portal in the heavens. They overpowered the magic of her people with new technology and unparalleled violence. Ruying was born with the power to drain the life force from any mortal she is near, but she fears her power, not only for the destruction it causes, but because it comes at a cost: each time she uses her gift, she is draining her own life force, potentially forcing herself into an early grave. When her magic is revealed in front of a Roman prince, she is given the opportunity to ally with him in order to keep her twin sister and her grandmother safe from the violence that has been a detriment to her people. Ruying must choose between her nation and her family in this epic, high-stakes fantasy.

The premise of this book is very interesting and Chang’s use of language and lore throughout the book was beautiful. I also enjoyed the dynamic between Ruying and Antony and how politically savvy the book is. I did feel like some parts of the book moved really slowly and were kind of repetitive. I also would have loved to see more development in some of the supporting characters.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group-Ballentine for the ARC in exchange for my honest review!

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I did not enjoy "To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods" in the slightest. It's a shame, because so many things about the premise sounded like things that were right up my alley. I love fantasy, I love stories about revolutions and rising up against oppressors, but what was given to the reader here was nothing short of clumsy and repetitive nonsense. Even something as simple as 'opian' being the chosen word for the drug felt so lazy when clearly it's some kind of take on 'opium'. The characters were flat. Nothing about the world interested me. This is the kind of book that either needed to be cooked longer in the oven, or should have been rewritten from scratch.

While I appreciate the scale in which Molly Chang is trying to deal with, it was all overambitious, and ultimately fell completely flat.

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