REVIEW: Phoenix Heavenly Voyage by Feng Nong

Feng Ming was only 19 when he lost his life saving a child from death without hesitation. The grateful father of the rescued child grants Feng Ming a second chance at life. Unknown to Feng Ming, his soul has whisked away to a far away ancient land.

Upon waking up, he finds himself inhabiting the frail body of Thunder Kingdom’s crowned prince who is also graced with the title of the most beautiful man across all the lands. However, his beauty has a price as he attracts the unwanted attention of the minister of affairs, Rong Tian who finds every reason to torment the prince mentally and physically. As Feng Ming starts to get a hold of the conspiracies surrounding him, what will happen when the prince’s true identity is revealed? And what happened to the ‘real’ prince?

Warnings: Mentions of past abuse, dubcon, light D/s

Category: M/M

Phoenix Heavenly Voyage (Feng Yu Jiu Tian) is a Chinese danmei novel series. When Feng Ming is reincarnated into the body of a crowned Prince, he is initially happy with his good luck, but when he finds bruising and whip marks all over his body, and discovers that the Prince had been being abused by the tyrannical Regent, he soon curses his luck instead. It’s a political drama about a China-based fantasy world and a slow burn gay love affair as the two royals slowly start to appreciate one another. I have only read the first volume, but it’s an ongoing series, with around 14 volumes currently fan-translated into English.

WRITING
The plot is interesting, if a little bit tropey. Feng Ming, upon assuming the identity of the former Prince, feigns having amnesia to get around not knowing anything about the country he finds himself in or his own personal history, but he soon changes everyone’s perception of their “Prince” as he is bolder, more take-charge, and more assertive than their former Prince had been. This, of course, immediately tips off Rong Tian, who had previously been bullying the Prince, that he is someone different and not the Prince at all, and furthermore makes him like and respect him because while the Prince had been a pushover, Feng Ming actually stands up to him. All the while, Feng Ming is proving his worth in court by having advanced knowledge of agriculture and war tactics thanks to being well read in the modern day and age, which at times can be a bit silly (like when he shocks everyone at the court meeting by suggesting they make alliances with other countries!) but in general it’s a fun enough premise.

EMOTIONAL ENGAGEMENT
The author does a good job of making the reader interested in these characters, despite the fact that we know absolutely noting about Feng Ming and who he was prior to being whisked away to another world. His experiences immediately upon awakening and learning his new role in life keep the reader interested, especially given the mysterious and apparently abusive nature of his relationship with Rong Tian. Observing how that relationship changes now that he’s someone different than Rong Tian is used to dealing with is really engaging. I really enjoyed guessing what would be in store for Feng Ming next, especially as Rong Tian wises up quite quickly to what’s going on. There’s a sense of danger for Feng Ming; will he be executed, or tortured for information, by Rong Tian? How will Rong Tian proceed with him, will he continue to bully him? You’re on the edge of your toes as you read the progress, and you are kept wondering about the stories characters.

WORLDBUILDING
So, this world is presumably a entirely different world than ours, seeing as how the wizard said he was sending him to “another world” and Feng Ming does not recognize the name of the country he’s apparently found himself the Crown Prince of (Xi Rei). But Feng Ming’s continual assumption that he’s just been sent back in time to Earth’s past isn’t really disputed by the fact that, well… the setting, so far at any rate, doesn’t actually seem much different than Earth’s past. There’s not really anything magical or otherworldly about Xi Rei, and all of the worldbuilding is political climates between Xi Rei and the surrounding 11 other countries, which are apparently all in turmoil among themselves. It’s nice, but if it’s meant to actually be a fantasy world I’d have liked something more fantastical about it. As it is this could have absolutely just been a time travel story and it would have been rather similar. That could change in the later books, but as of the first volume the worldbuilding is nothing special.

STEAMINESS
The smut in this novel was, surprisingly, rather sweet and caring. Considering that their relationship started out with Rong Tian abusing his power over the former Prince, I had expected that kind of trend to continue with Feng Ming. Feng Ming, apparently, actually caught Rong Tian’s attention and garnered his respect by standing up to him, so he decides that he likes him and wants to woo him properly. It’s a little alarming to me that this is treated by the text as very romantic, when it’s clear that Rong Tian had absolutely no problem beating and forcing himself on the previous Prince; apparently it doesn’t matter that he did that to someone else so long as he doesn’t do that to Feng Ming, now? I would have actually preferred if Rong Tian were more abusive and aggressive towards Feng Ming, as having this be an all out noncon story would have been both hotter to me and also end up coming off with much less of an “abuse is okay if it’s directed at someone else!” vibe. As it is, it’s pretty alluring sexual content if you’re into slow burn and gradual, fumbling sexual progress which isn’t exactly my thing but I can see it’s appeal. It’s sweet and awkward and emotional if that’s what you like.

Personally most of the appeal of the story to me was the promise of power exchange between the main characters, and while it does deliver that a little bit it never really goes as far with the premise as I wanted it to, nor did it showcase enough plot complexity to keep me reading despite that. It’s a fun, cheesy sort of fantasy smut read and I enjoyed it well enough, but I doubt I’ll be continuing into further volumes.

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