Guardian: Zhen Hun, Vol. 1

By Priest and Marmaladica. Released in China on the JJWXC website. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Yuka, Shry, amixy. Adapted by Ealasaid Weaver.

Its always tricky when you come at a series after everyone else. The hype can sometimes be too much to bear. I was being told about Guardian years ago by friends who had seen the live-action drama loosely based (fans always emphasize the “loosely based”, wanting you to be sure to know how many liberties the TV show took from the source) on this online novel series. When Seven Seas announced it a year or so ago the excitement was greater than almost any other danmei title they’d announced before. Hell, even the cover art draws you into the hype. Just look at those two! That said, the question as always is: is this any good or not? I’m delighted to say that it is. Guardian is a compelling supernatural police procedural mystery, with a great protagonist who’s a classic “jerk with a heart of gold”, and even a lot of the “jerk” is for show. As for the other guy on the cover… well, he’s the mystery.

Zhao Yunlan is head of a special department in the police that deals with supernatural crimes, and he and his somewhat pathetic newbie underling are called upon to investigate the scene of a very grisly disemboweling on the street. This leads him to a university, where he meets Shen Wei, a handsome young professor who Zhao Yunlan is immediately very, VERY attracted to. He proceeds to try to get to the bottom of the case while also flirting heavily with the awkward Shen Wei, who is giving off somewhat mixed signals. As they uncover missing underworld artifacts, a young woman desperate to keep her grandmother alive, and an anthropology field trip that gets somewhat hijacked by ghosts from the past, Zhao Yunlan is determined to find out why Shen Wei is so compelling to him… and so familiar.

BL is not really my wheelhouse, so I will simply note that the chemistry between these two is amazing and those who are here for that will not be disappointed. As for the rest, Zhao Yunlan is an excellent protagonist and a good detective, combining human psychology with a knowledge of the netherworld and various tricks up his sleeve. He tends to put himself in harm’s way a lot, as you’d expect from a “jerk who’s not really a jerk” guy, but he’s savvy enough that it comes off well. The supporting cast are mostly good, though it took me a while to get used to Guo Changcheng, who is the very definition of “comedy relief”, but does vaguely grow over the course of this book. The cases were also well done, though I am hoping when we hit the second book we’ll get a mystery that does not revolve around a woman being the cause of most of this. And the writing was extremely good (and, of course, that means the translation and adaptation as well), despite the need for lots of footnotes for Chinese terminology.

Basically: readers will enjoy this. Go get it. I give it a 9/10, minus one point for falling down right at the end and mentioning the dreaded word “cultivation”.

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