Chaos of Beauty
by Duo Duo Wu
Genre: Historical, Drama, Romance, Intelligent Female Lead, Intelligent Male Lead, Intelligent Secondary Characters, Politics, Beautiful Men, Beautiful Women
This is an extremely well-written novel following many different characters. At its heart, it can be labeled a tragedy although technically it has a happy ending. Being beautiful can be quite a burden to bear, and while that may make some of us roll our eyes, it can never be truer for the female protagonist.
Synopsis: Yao Ying and Yui Gui Wan possess the kind of spellbinding beauty that mesmerizes men and women alike. Ying is like the sun, a 'startling beauty' who puts on a strong front, can seem conceited but underneath it, all is very soft. In contrast, Yui Gui Wan (and the protagonist) is like the moon, with 'peerless elegance' and is more carefree and easygoing. Both give the appearance of strength: Ying is more direct while Gui Wan is more likely to let things roll off her, always smiling, never revealing how she really feels. In the beginning of the novel, both draw an auspicious omen which will impact the story later. It is the kind of omen that predicts a woman will have the greatness of an empress but can suffer a tragic end. One keeps it, one tosses hers away. Ying becomes the favored Imperial Consort to the emperor, while Gui Wan becomes the wife of the Prime Minister.
On her wedding night, Gui Wan is met by the Prime Minister who gently explains to her that he will be a doting husband; he will spoil her, give her whatever she wants but he will never love her. Then he leaves to visit Consort Ying... (Guess who has a heart). Gui Wan never expects anything from others, and she shrugs this off and decides she will be happy and not let this bother her. She does her utmost to live her life on her terms, but it seems she is fated to become entangled in palace intrigue in spite of her every effort to avoid it. She is so likable (I would count her a good friend if I met her) but not in an annoying way. You can't help but like her, even if you don't want to. But this is a fatal combination with her beauty, and she draws the interest of men, all who love her in different ways, all who walk very different paths and all who have unique relationships with her. Don't get me wrong, this is at its heart a love story between two people, but the impact this woman has on others is interesting.
Comments: What I liked most about this novel is the female lead's quiet strength, her ability to smile even when she did not want to, and the fact there are really no annoying women-hating-women kind of acts. If anything, it showcases care and respect between women even if they are destined to not be friends/allies. Very well written. A carefully crafted drama of people bravely facing their fates no matter how tragic.
Three Lives, Three Worlds, The Pillow Book
by Tang Qi Gong Zi
Genre: Xianxia, Romance, Drama
Although many of us harbor feelings of anger at the author for her actions regarding this novel's prequel, nevertheless, I still think the Pillow Book deserves to be included, if only because it is a beautifully written novel that contains my all time favorite couple: Dong Hua and Feng Jiu.
Synopsis: Bai Feng Jiu is best known for her icy reserve and being the youngest Queen of the fox tribe. For those intimately acquainted with her, she is known for her impudent and beguiling personality, not her intelligence (she has a lot of heart). Rumors say she once married a mortal and returned changed, donning mourning clothing and insisting that she was a widow who would not marry again. Dong Hua is known as the ancient genius, the most powerful god of existence, an expert on Buddhist Sutras, incapable of feeling and noticing very little. Never say virtue. He inspires fear in others. Over the past 2,000 years, they have brushed past one another. If not fated to be together, they would not meet. But Dong Hua has never feared or felt anything; the prehistoric hero who united the heavens and was born from nothing, not even fate could inspire fear in him. This novel explores a theme of seemingly impossible chance and changing fate. It follows the main characters through three lives together, much like its prequel, and makes us wonder if the end justifies the means; after all, can love be forced to exist when there is no fate?
Comments: I liked this more than its prequel. I find the leads to be an unlikely but perfect pairing, and I especially enjoy the dialogue as the male lead is extremely witty. My only complaint is that the novel is not longer (although you may disagree since it is nearly 900 pages long if you combine the two volumes).
Falling Dreams of Fang Hua
by Ye Guxie
Genre: Romance, Historical, Melodrama, Fantasy, Historical, Tragedy, Comedy
Synopsis: The story essentially follows an orphan who is adopted by a beautiful stranger, who is not human but a beast ‘Fang Hua’. The novel begins as a comedy as her guardian is an extremely gifted medicine maker but is utterly ignorant when it comes to understanding humans. In fact, he is convinced that she is a boy to the point that when she enters puberty he is worried that she has caught some kind of illness. The novel becomes serious later as outside forces destroy their quiet life. The novel technically has a happy ending but it is detailed in a footnote at the end of the novel’s last chapter. It has multiple arcs but is not very long.
Comments: This novel is actually quite funny, and it was easy for me to overlook the controversial relationship (between a foster parent and woman who was once his foster child) because the male lead is extremely innocent and oblivious. Because of the controversial relationship, there are very little romantic scenes. My only complaint is the happy-ending-footnote. This novel is very popular on the web.
Eight Treasures Trousseau
by Yue Xia Die Ying
Genres: Romance, Time Travel, Drama
Synopsis: This novel follows Xian Junwang, our female lead, and Yi’an Marquis House. The entire city feels pity for the young master because Xian is said to be extremely hideous, and thus never goes out. In reality, she is extremely beautiful and is deeply loved by her family. She is also an actress from the present who traveled through time and lives in this body. But that is not the focus of the story. The female lead is an extremely lazy daughter who enjoys being waited on but is at the same time gracious and polite. She just wants an easy life with no difficulties and is loved by her family (a rarity in the novel universe, where the female character seems to be loathed by her family). She doesn’t really encounter difficulties until she meets the young lord. He is polite, caring, supportive (happy to have an attractive wife). They are mutually supportive/in love as they navigate both married and political life.
Comments: I have not finished the novel (108 chapters) but I found the writing to be refreshing. The internet is flooded with time travel novels, with over-the-top strong female leads who are either assassins or cops that are sort of smug, in your face defiant (like trying to prove something). This girl just wants to live an easy life but she isn’t annoying or weak. She’s smart.
Heavy Sweetness Ash Like Frost
by Dian Xian
Genre: Xanxia, Comedy, Romance, Tragedy
Synopsis (from novelupdates.com): In the prehistoric times, the 200,000 years of Tian Yuan, the flower deity Zi Fen dies after giving birth to a daughter. Before she passed, she fed her daughter the Unfeeling Pill, ordered her subordinates to keep the girl’s birth story a secret and to imprison her within Shui Jing for ten thousand years. The girl’s name is Jin Mi.
Four thousand years later, the Heavenly Emperor’s second son, the Phoenix Fire Deity was entrapped by someone and mistakenly entered Shui Jing. He was saved by the ignorant Jin Mi. After living together for a hundred years, the Fire Deity gradually developed feelings for Jin Mi. Who would have thought that he would be attracted to Jin Mi?
In between the Heavenly World and the Devil World, there is an immeasurably deep River of Forgetfulness, where the war between the Fire Deity and Night Deity finally erupts.
Comments: I’ll be honest: I liked this novel in the beginning but I eventually dropped it. However, I included it because I could easily see it being made into a drama. Maybe I will pick it up again. Honestly, I am not sure if this has already been adapted or is in the process of being adapted. This novel is extremely popular on the web.
The Demon King/The Parting of Orchid and Cang
by Jiu Lu Fei Jang
Genre: Romance, Dark Humor, Cunning Male Lead, Innocent Female Lead, Character Growth, Dumb-to-Smart Female Lead, Sharing Bodies, Xianxia, Historical
Synopsis: The Evil Demon King is resurrected but through a series of comical (and unfortunate) events he winds up sharing his body with a girl, Little Orchid. The Demon King is as powerful and ruthless as Little Orchid is weak and innocent. Sharing a body, she refuses to vacate until he can provide a new body for her. Until then, she can use one-half of the body, he the other. What follows is an interesting series of events as Little Orchid steadily grows, becoming more capable and a good negotiator as she must compromise with the (very evil) demon king. In addition to this, the demons following him steadily become convinced he is extremely mad because he constantly talks to himself. This novel is still being translated and is more of a dark comedy and I assume the romance comes later.
Comments: I included this as an honorable mention because the story may be difficult to execute in a drama. I would be interested to see if someone could do it though.