ARC Review: To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods by Molly X. Chang

Posted April 15, 2024 by Lisa Mandina in Review / 10 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Review:  To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods by Molly X. ChangTo Gaze Upon Wicked Gods by Molly X. Chang
Series: To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods #1
Published by Del Rey on April 16, 2024
Genres: YA Fantasy, YA Science Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: the publisher
My Rating: four-stars
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She has power over death. He has power over her. When two enemies strike a dangerous bargain, will they end a war . . . or ignite one?

Heroes die, cowards live. Daughter of a conquered world, Ruying hates the invaders who descended from the heavens long before she was born and defeated the magic of her people with technologies unlike anything her world had ever seen.

Blessed by Death, born with the ability to pull the life right out of mortal bodies, Ruying shouldn’t have to fear these foreign invaders, but she does. Especially because she wants to keep herself and her family safe.

When Ruying’s Gift is discovered by an enemy prince, he offers her an impossible deal: If she becomes his private assassin and eliminates his political rivals—whose deaths he swears would be for the good of both their worlds and would protect her people from further brutalization—her family will never starve or suffer harm again. But to accept this bargain, she must use the powers she has always feared, powers that will shave years off her own existence.

Can Ruying trust this prince, whose promises of a better world make her heart ache and whose smiles make her pulse beat faster? Are the evils of this agreement really in the service of a much greater good? Or will she betray her entire nation by protecting those she loves the most?

I got this ARC at AASL last October. Wasn’t sure if I would end up getting into it as fantasy can be hit or miss for me. But once I picked it up and had some time to read, I did get into it. This book is a mix of fantasy and some science fiction. But also with the author’s note at the beginning relating it to some historical issues, it has a bit of a historical fiction aspect to it as well, from knowing that I guess.

Ruying is our main character and she lives in a world with magic, that has been invaded by people from a world with science and technology that came through a rip in the sky. The guns and bombs and technology from this other world was able to defeat Ruying’s kingdom, even going so far as to almost enslave them by making them addicted to something called opian, I’m guessing an opium like drug. Only certain people in Ruying’s world have magic, and even with that, they all have different or somewhat different abilities. Ruying’s power is death. She is able to reach out and see a person’s life force, or qi is what she calls it I think. She can then pull it away from their body. Other than one time when she was a child and was drowning and trying to save herself, up until the beginning of the book, she’d only ever brought some people to the brink of death and then been able to save herself or get away to save herself.

Her childhood friend Baihu, who seems to be a traitor, working for the Romans from the other world, he wants her to help him, to use her power to help his cause to rebel or at least get their lands back from these people. She refuses him, not wanting to kill anyone. Until one day when she sees one of the Romans stop and give a coin to another orphan in her town, and for some reason she decides she can steal his bag of coins that he has let his attention drift away from. But it goes wrong and she must run and then almost kills the man’s guard as she escapes.

It turns out the man who had given the coin to the orphan is one of the ruler of the other world’s grandsons, soon to possibly be the ruler. And now that he’s seen her, and what her power is capable of, he decides he wants her for himself. He wants to use her powers to save their two worlds from going to war. After he captures her, he convinces her to work for him. To kill for him, in exchange for keeping her family and friend safe, as well as in an effort to promote peace between their people.

But can Ruying trust Antony, the grandson of the ruler of Rome? Does her really only want peace? Her sister, Baihu, all of them tell her there is more to Antony than she sees. That he is evil. There is supposed to at least be a sequel to this one, so I’ll be eager to see how it goes now that she’s found out what he is up to and has made a decision on how to handle it.

I was unsure at first if I would get into this, and the science/magic aspects were a bit jarring in their match up at times for me, but I get what the author was going for and I was drawn into the story and wanted to know what was happening and how things would line up. So I did enjoy this story.

I will make a note that I recently fell down the Goodreads review hole on this one and there are a lot of people complaining about the romance aspect between Ruying and her captor, Prince Antony. I’m going to side once again on the fact that this is fiction. I think teenagers are smart enough to know that a romance that is intriguing to read in a book doesn’t translate to a real life romance. Same issue that people get in a big fuss over Twilight about. I do not agree with what I’ve read about the author supposedly reaching out and saying things to reviewers. That’s not a good look and will cause issues for them in the future. So while I hope that there will be another book, I also hope the things that people are saying about how the author has behaved are either not as bad, or that the author will stop this behavior.

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10 responses to “ARC Review: To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods by Molly X. Chang

    • Lisa Mandina

      I’m hoping she’s realized it. She is with a big publisher, so if they were smart they’d say something to her about it as well.

  1. Suzie B

    What a beautiful cover! It’s a shame the author acted so badly – if anything, she could have used the reviews to shape the next book into something the readers would really love!

    • Lisa Mandina

      I didn’t see any of her supposed posts, so can’t speak to them or if she continued, just hoping she figured out not to engage like that.

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