半路擒君 [Bàn Lù Qín Jūn] by Ling Bao Zi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Ever since the first chapter, this novel screamed “Angst!” to me. I’ve been in the mood for angsty romance lately, so it was fine. This is my second (translated) Chinese novel. I don’t know if it’s due to the translation or not, but the story and the characters make more sense than the last one that I read. This novel is a short and predictable, and actually quite well-written (I think). I’ve anticipated this to be a light read, but what I didn’t expect is to found so many tropes that are typical in many, many Chinese angsty (historical) drama series that I watched during my childhood.
Yes, I’m going to rant about those tropes now. Major spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
Trope #1: One of them gets poisoned and it can be cured/transferred through sexual intercourse
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve only read 2 Chinese novels (in historical setting) and both books have this trope going. In this novel, Yun Zhai was poisoned and Lan Xun/Zhen Yu offered to “do it” with him to transfer the poison. Of course, Lan Xun/Zhen Yu had to suffer the consequences of having disfigured face and failing health. (And of course, Zhen Yu left Yun Zhai, thus begin Yun Zhai’s quest for his long-lost love.)
Trope #2: But of course, the poison can be cured
How do you think they get their happy ending?
Trope #3: Angst! Angst everywhere!
I admit that I enjoy the “misunderstanding/miscommunication” trope, which usually leads to angst. In this novel, every chapter IS angst, especially when it comes to Lan Xun/Zhen Yu’s character. I don’t think there’s a single chapter where Zhen Yu doesn’t cry. With all the melancholy, Zhen Yu could pass up as “damsel in distress”. Considering the tone of the novel, most of the time I was okay with this. But there are times when I just wanted to tell Zhen Yu to “man up!”.
Trope #4: The b*thcy love rival
This one is not exclusive to chinese drama, though. Here, we have Xiao Hong a.k.a. the fake Xiao Lan Xun.
Trope #5: Everyone except the love interest is mean to the main character
Which is perfomed pretty well by the Xiao family (and to my dismay, Xi Ning, for 2/3 of the book).
Trope #6: Confused? Frustrated? Alcohol is the solution
Yun Zhai in denial is not a pretty sight, which leads to…
Trope #7: Drunk sex!
So, okay, their first time (at the beginning of the novel) is done due to Yun Zhai being poisoned. But their second time is obviously drunk sex. When reading this, I wanted to scream “YOU DID WHAT????” to Yun Zhai because he was rough. No weird or nasty play, but it was just…ugh.
Trope #8: Denial, denial, denial
I hate to say this, but I think the way it depicts Yun Zhai in denial after the second time is quite realistic. I’ve read comments where they don’t like the fact that Yun Zhai “cheated” with random women in red light district when trying to distract himself from thinking of Zhen Yu. To me, I think his reaction is natural.
Trope #9: Suicide attempt by banging your head to the nearest pillar/wall
Ooooh, this one is my favorite! Nearing the end, where things unravel and the tension between Yun Zhai and Zhen Yu is at its peak (with Yun Zhai carousing and womanizing IN FRONT of Zhen Yu’s eyes and Zhen Yu was cured but feeling guilty as hell), Zhen Yu did attempt suicide by banging his head to the pillar. At that time, I was like “Awww, maaaaan~! Seriously?” This is so Chinese drama!
To be honest, while reading this book, I was caught between wanting to roll my eyes, wanting to laugh, and feeling nostalgic at the same time. Despite everything I said, I do enjoy reading this book (ooh, the angst from the misunderstanding is nicely done!). Well, at least I’m amused. Three stars.
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