I have a new obsession. I seem to be switching obsessions a lot, but the truth is I’m not switching anything at all. I’m simply adding. This time around, I’m absolutely infatuated with a show on Netflix that I’m a little mad took me so long to check out. That show is The Untamed, a 2017 live-action adaptation of the Chinese fantasy novel Mo Dao Zu Shi (Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is the English title) by author Mo Xiang Tong Xiu. The novel is not yet officially translated into English, but I’m desperate for it to be. I want this thing on my shelf. Like, yesterday. Granted, since it’s a web novel, it’s not likely to be on anyone’s actual shelf, but lordy do I want this book as a real thing in my hands.
Anyway, the show is wonderful. I understand that, from my very basic research from this post, that the live-action adaptation is quite divergent from the novel, so I’m content to watch the show while waiting for that official English translation (there are unofficial online translations, but I would like to put money into the hands of the author, you know?), knowing that the two are different enough that my enjoyment of the novel won’t be impacted by having watched the adaptation first. Also, apparently this adaptation is only one of many, and so I might have to go and find other adaptations.
The story itself is a multi-layered fantasy epic drama with grand themes of belonging, family, clan rivalry, justice and love. Centering around Wei Wuxian, also known as Wei Ying or the Yiling Patriarch, an orphaned child who was adopted by his father’s master’s family and is considered a sibling of the master’s two children Jiang Cheng and Jiang Yanli, the story is often funny, and terribly sweet, and also very, very dark.
It doesn’t pull punches, killing many folks, straining and breaking relationships, and turning heroes into villains. Everything is difficult, and you can understand why people act the way they do, calling into question what you might do if you were caught in these positions. Essentially, it’s my favorite kind of story. Give me the darkness. Give me unsure characters and well-meaning people who unwittingly make bad choices. Give me consequence and heartache and despair. Those alone, however, do not make this one of my recent favorites. What really makes it for me is the thread of a deep abiding love that moves like gossamer throughout the whole piece; a glittering filament of hope that grabs a hold of the heart and doesn’t let go.
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