“You are the mighty Beiyan Commander. Why stay here and put up with this persecution? Why don’t you rebel?!”
Fu Shen blinked the water droplets off his eyelashes. Suddenly, he laughed.
All his resentment and helplessness, his dejection, his fellow-feeling, his apathetic insight and bone-deep suffering, were collected in that laugh.
Yan Xiaohan gave a start. It was as if he had been scorched by that laugh. He abruptly let go.
During the escort of a diplomatic envoy, General Fu Shen is injured. Unable to walk on his broken legs, he returns to the capital only to be conferred a marriage with Imperial Investigator Yan Xiaohan, the court lackey who has no bottom line and Fu Shen’s nemesis.
It’s entirely by coincidence that I could time this review with Valentine’s Day, and while it’s already evening where I am, others will still have a fair amount of time left of this day.
This might not be your conventional Valentine’s read, but since when was I actually conventional? Lolol. It’s still a novel with a romance plot.
Besides all that, when Peach Flower House announced Golden Terrace, I knew I needed it. This is a novel that means a lot to me, and I’ve read it four times prior to its release of the official translation. When the novel was also getting a limited edition box set, you bet I was definitely going to get it. The issue, though, was that I live in the wrong country. I needed a proxy, so I asked on Twitter to find someone living in the US or Canada to be kind enough to order it and then ship it to me once they received it. Naturally, I’d pay all fees and a little extra for the trouble. I was genuinely worried I wouldn’t get it though.
Now, it so happened that the preorders were around my birthday and a good friend of mine, fantasy author Erika McCorkle, not only acted as a proxy but gave it to me. Peach Flower House shipped out the box sets in December, and with the additional time for Erika to send it over to me, I got my copy at the end of January. Now Fu Shen and Yan Xiaohan have joined my figurines and one other acrylic stand on my desk, the charm has joined my (mostly) Kurusu Syo pins on my ita bag, and the red box is on my shelf with danmei novels in English and Simplified Chinese.
Full Story Summary
Golden Terrace is a political novel following the Marquis of Jingning Fu Shen, a general injured in duty after an assassination attempt on him. After returning command of the Beiyan Cavalry to the court, he returns to the capital to recuperate. But he’s soon pulled into the intrigue of his childhood home — the Duke of Ying estate — and rumours of his inclinations to liking men bring him a marriage with his political rival, Yan Xiaohan. No one believes this marriage to be a good one, seeing as Yan Xiaohan and Fu Shen will fight at any given moment.
However, these two aren’t at as bad terms as people think. Making use of a misunderstanding, the two keep a distance from each other, as it wouldn’t do for a minister and an army general to be too close, to begin with.
Fu Shen resents the one who tried to assassinate him, and Yan Xiaohan isn’t happy about being made use of in the way he is. They begin to work together, solving mystery after mystery as to why Fu Shen was injured and who caused it, as well as who is avenging Fu Shen without the man’s consent. At the same time, they grow closer, more affectionate, and untie the knots that were created in the past making them unable to be near to each other for too long without fighting.
Yet, as they finally are on equal footing and their affection is deep, fate plays them and pulls the Great Zhou into war. Fu Shen rushes back to the battlefield to protect the nation, while Yan Xiaohan single-handedly builds a court and puts Fu Shen’s brother-in-law, Prince Qi, on the throne. They suffer through months of separation, while Yan Xiaohan does what he can to support Empress Fu Ling whose affection for the new emperor has faded in light of the favour of Jiangnan ministers.
Eventually, they can once more be together, retake the lost land, and return to their home in the capital, only for Xinan to cause trouble which forces Fu Shen away once more. Meanwhile, though, Yan Xiaohan will clean up the court because this court and emperor are no good. No good and much like Yuantai distrustful and willing to try assassinating Fu Shen. That becomes the end of the Emperor, and they put Fu Shen’s nephew, the crown prince, on the throne instead, the country different from what it had been when Fu Shen had been forced to the frontier at age eighteen.
A young general and the eldest son of the second Beiyan Commander. His father was the eldest son of the first Duke of Ying, who was conferred the title post-mortem. His father and uncle died in quick sequence, forcing him onto the battlefield before even reaching the age of being able to wear a guan. He was conferred the title Marquis of Jingning for his achievements and duty, instead of receiving the title Duke of Ying. He has a righteous personality and has always been willing to protect others if they have done no wrong.
He became acquainted with Yan Xiaohan at age sixteen by chance, but a betrayal of trust made him unable to remain friends with him.
The adopted son of a eunuch, he’s always been looked down upon. He’s clawed himself to the powerful position of being the Imperial Investigator and commander of the Feilong Guard, acting like the eyes and ears for the Emperor, while also being the blade the Emperor wields against those who betray him. He’s nefarious and has no bottom line.
Despite his considerations, he hurt Fu Shen when he was eighteen, and hid the complete truth of the incident from him, believing it didn’t matter much. He told Fu Shen to hate him for the rest of his life before Fu Shen was sent to the battlefield.
The lead rider was tall and upright, his posture vigorous, urging on his horse to gallop with the force of wind and thunder. His crimson robes fluttered and flew, reflecting the sunset glow suffusing the sky, as if he were bathed in flames, coming trampling through blood.
Red robes and an untamed horse, a ferocious approach—he didn’t seem to be coming to be married so much as coming to kidnap the bride.
—That was Fu Shen
—Only this could be Fu Shen.
I want to divide my thoughts in two sections, in a sense.
On one hand, I want to discuss the actual novel. Having read it five times now, I have a lot of thoughts, but should also be able to sum up them quite well, I hope.
On the other hand, I was to discuss the translation. Having read it translated by a fan in the past, while I also have the webnovel version available, I want to believe to have at least some understanding. I won’t make comparisons word by word or point to specific places in the story, because while my Mandarin is good enough to read, it’s not good enough to claim a reliable translator of Chinese.
Let’s begin with the translation.
When I first read the sample chapters on Peach Flower House, my initial reaction was that the language felt stiff. Stilted. Even for a historical novel, it was quite stiff in a way I didn’t remember the fan translation was. There were multiple points to this, but one I noted both in public and private was the use of words being too formal. It felt more like formal jargon than a novel.
I don’t remember exactly at what point this feeling stopped when I was reading volume one but I think it was during the fourth chapter or after that. Seeing as the sample chapters were the prologue and three chapters, that meant that for the most part, the novel was not as stiff and formal.
Which leads me to a point I didn’t think I’d make, ever, but there were times when the language just wasn’t formal enough or was lacking in the period feel. Like, I don’t expect you to drop medieval English in a medieval novel, nor try to do the equivalent when translating a novel, but I would at the very least feel the Emperor’s language and the Emperor and his subject have somewhat more formal speech and writing, and the letter with “Is my wife well?” was just somewhat pulling me out of the story.
In between “stilted” and “Is my wife well?”, though, the story was fairly well translated. There were localisations made that I approved of in the sense that it was easier to pick up for someone who may not know some references, and at other times the language was absolutely perfect for a historical novel like this. Unlike in the beginning, which had more than one time when it just tripped me up, I didn’t have to actually look up words that seemed to make no sense to me. And I wasn’t pulled out of the story by writing that felt too casual, at least during formal occasions.
I also appreciate the use of Lord, Your Honor, and other such addresses, while I was happy to see -xiong remain as is, since it made the most sense, I believe, seeing as it relates a bit more to Chinese culture. But there were a few “Brother” and I’m not sure if those used a different suffix/address? I didn’t bother looking it up in the webnovel version on Jinjiang Literature City.
One thing that entirely did throw me off was “club”. My friend Cas said we really need illustrated explanations or something the like when I complained about how it’s sort of difficult to determine what it actually is they meant. It wasn’t particularly wrong, but it just felt very out there as a word choice.
Overall though? This was well-translated. It would’ve benefitted from some more editing and consistency checks though.
“One look at you interfered with the rest of my life. What could I do?”
Now, over to the story. I’ll try to keep it spoiler-free and short. ( Hah!)
I think it’s safe to say that I love this novel, seeing as I’ve read it five times. It’s also my comfort novel, strangely enough. I guess I’ll get back to that in a bit.
First, I usually am not a fan of arranged marriage, but, in this book, it works. Part of why it works is the already existing and established dynamic between Fu Shen and Yan Xiaohan. Another reason, I feel, is the reason for why the Emperor bestowed such a match. It all works together in a way that just makes me like this.
A trope I do like is enemy to lovers though, so I liked that aspect quite a lot. This is more like political rivals kind of enemies than the hate-you-to-death sort of enemies.
The court intrigue that these two are involved in has quite a large part of the story, whether in the background or actually in court, and the romance between them has an ever so slightly lesser role than the intrigue and mystery behind things in pushing things forward. Nonetheless, both are important and kind of go hand-in-hand with one another. Without one, the other wouldn’t quite work out. The mystery and how it all ties together is something I also find very interesting and fun to read, even at my fifth read.
The pacing has its faster and its slower periods, as any story should to ensure the reader doesn’t get tired from a fast pace and bored of the slow one. There are a couple of times, I do find it a bit tedious to read, and funny itself neither time is during the war arc. That part is actually quite fast-paced and considerably shorter than other sections of the story. Translation issues aside, the writing seems to be rather good.
The characters are well-written and fleshed out in a way that is realistic and at least to some degree relatable. And even if I can’t relate the motivations of some of them, I can see where the characters are coming from. Yan Xiaohan and Fu Shen’s motivations and characters are of course the most important and also the most understandable.
And this actually brings us back to the part of this being my comfort novel.
Fu Shen in particular does this, I think. I love him as a character. He’s a disabled general with crushed legs and anyone who knows me ought to know my legs hurt and feel crushed by air. I could, in other words, relate to that alone.
But also! When the preorders for the box set were up, I was asked if the enemies-to-lovers/power couple combination is the type where the shou gets mistreated by the gong before they become a power couple. That’s also one of the things I love about YanFu. They don’t have that period of time. Both are strong and don’t need to yield, even after Fu Shen’s hurt.
His injury does absolutely nothing to hinder him from standing up against Yan Xiaohan. That sort of strength in a disabled character is important. And that’s a huge part of why this is my comfort novel.
That Yan Xiaohan has traits that remind me of my partner may or may not be helpful here.
Something worth mentioning is that, if you’ve read a different this has a slightly different set of extras than what I’ve read. There’s a Qixi extra in this edition that was new to me.
Another thing worth mentioning, not related to the story itself, is that the English edition also has a glossary which includes part of speech, hanzi and pinyin and I just can’t not appreciate something like that. Seven Seas also include glossaries, and while those have far more entries including characters and so on, I felt this way of handling it was just so good and really helpful, I think.
It’s one of my recommended reads. It’s not as long as most of the danmei novels I’ve read. It’s not overly violent, even though it had a section that literally includes war, and it doesn’t get gory. This is because it’s just not described in great detail, only enough to know what’s going on. The focus is, in the end, on Fu Shen and Yan Xiaohan, their past, the court intrigue and the truths behind what’s going on. It’s a pleasant read all themes considered. It also works as a reminder to myself that — believe it or not — one of my two fav genres is historical novels because of its historical setting. That this includes a gay power couple solving mystery (my other fav genre) is just making it better. Of course, how Fu Shen’s disability is handled is also one thing I like. It doesn’t make him out to be helpless but he still needs certain considerations, in the end.
If historical settings with political talk bore you, though, this is probably not for you. It doesn’t really go into great detail, but because it had political intrigue, it just won’t be without some explanations of what’s happening or discussions.
This review is available thanks to the love and support of my readers and patrons. If you enjoyed this post, drop a tip on Ko-fi, subscribe on Patreon, donate through Paypal, like this post or give me a comment. All funding goes directly to the blog so I can keep it going.
It’s a serious money sink.
Want to chat with other lovers of any form of fiction and creative work? Join Anny’s Cosy Cottage on Discord! You can also follow The Anny Blog on Twitter for updates and live-tweets, or The Anny Blog on Instagram to get some scarce behind-the-scenes content. Maybe even the occasional cat pic.
Buy this masterpiece of an epic and support the blog while at it.