Monday, January 23, 2023

The Husky and His White Cat Shizun by Rou Bao Bu Chi Rou: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

The Husky and His White Cat Shizun by Rou Bao Bu Chi Rou

The Husky and His White Cat Shizun is Chinese danmei/xianxia fantasy set in a fantasy past of China where disciples of sects follow an ancient path of cultivation to immortality through self-discipline, martial arts, and hidden knowledge.

Mo Ran has risen to the top of the cultivation world as its emperor by basically being the opposite of what is expected of a cultivator: he’s a debauching, bloodthirsty tyrant that everyone fears. The book begins with him facing the consequences of his actions and he kills himself.

Instead of ending up in an underworld to face punishment for his actions, he is reborn as his sixteen-year-old self, with all the memories of his past life intact. He hadn’t been a good person at that age the first time round, and with all the knowledge he has amassed since, he has a good chance of becoming even worse. But he has a couple of things he likes to do differently, mainly to save the love of his life, Shi Mei, a fellow cultivator.

The different choices he makes lead to major events of his life unfurling differently. And at the core isn’t Shi Mei, but his teacher Chu Wanning. He’s the greatest cultivator and the man Mo Ran hated with such vehemence in his first life that as an emperor he kept him alive solely to punish and sexually abuse him. But he was also the person Mo Ran couldn’t live withoutthough he isn’t self-aware enough to understand whyand when he died, Mo Ran had no reason to live either.

With the knowledge of where they ended at, Mo Ran starts to look at their relationship with different eyes. Where he had previously seen only hatred and contempt, gets more nuances. And with the memory of Chu Wanning in his bedhowever involuntarily the other man was therehe realises to his horror that he’s now lusting after the one person he hates.

This was a good book, well-written and compelling. Mo Ran was an excellent, complex MC who is far from a good person, yet he finds himself taking action for other people this time round, especially for his Shizun. His twisted relationship with Chu Wanning gets more depth from the other man’s point of view, and despite Mo Ran’s knowledge of how he treated his Shizun in the past, the way their new relationship unfurls is amazingly sweet. The book ends at a cliff-hanger that guarantees the reader will want to continue with the series.

Based on reviews I read, I went in expecting Marquis de Sade or darkest of grimdark, but this isn’t anywhere near their level of angst, darkness and violence, sexual or otherwise. The main characters have agency throughout the book, there isn’t much violence, but punishments are corporeal and strict, sex (M/M) and sexual abuse are only hinted atthough the latter isn’t repented yet (if ever?)and suicide isn’t glorified. Violence isn’t the focus, love and change are. People with delicate sentiments might still enjoy the growth story and the hint of romance if they aren’t too put off by the other aspects.

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