the power of the gods | to gaze upon wicked gods by molly x. chang

by - 8:30 AM

To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods is Molly X. Chang's debut that takes place in a world on the brink of war between magic and science. Ruying is blessed with the gift of Death who is struggling to survive in the aftermath of her land being conquered by the Romans and their advanced technology. When her gift is discovered and she's given the ultimatum of using her powers to serve the oppressors, leaving her grappling with the weight of her morals.

 isbn: 978-0593722244 | pages: 351
       publication date: April 16, 2024 | source: physical / tour
      genre: young adult, fantasy
     rating: 6.5/10

     A M A Z O N    |    G O O D R E A D S    
       B O O K S H O P *    |    B A R N E S A N D N O B L E S
links with an (*) are affiliate where, when used to purchase gives me a small commission to support my blog at no extra cost to you!

I received a physical and digital arc from the publisher for the purposes of this book tour -  I was not compensated for this review and all thoughts are my own honest opinion.

This book has been making its rounds on the internet and it's a bit daunting to try and my own two-cents into the conversation. As a debut, I went into this knowing that there would be many elements of the story that would be less polished and that would make it difficult to read because of the historical events that the author has claimed to take inspiration from. The author's note at the very beginning introduces readers to the absolutely horrific events of Unit 731 and emphasizes the realness of those horrors despite the story itself being fictional. With that lens in mind, it's easy to see where the marketing of To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods struggled to draw the line between a romance and a historically-inspired fantasy.

Yang Ruying is a character who honestly gets the worst of life thrown at her and who doesn't make the best decisions. Her thought-processes for her actions highlight her inexperience in the world which makes her easily manipulated into believing she's doing what she can and subjecting her people to the lesser of two evils. The romance that begins to blossom between Ruying and Prince Antony treads the fine line between questionable and romantic which is a path that's easily marketable to readers wanting a more morally gray relationship. While we don't get to see the morality really explored, it definitely becomes part of Ruying's learning curve as she navigates what it means to have the power of Death and how to wield it. Her character arc displays the difficult journey those under occupation experience and the struggles they must endure to learn how to fight against the oppressors.

The world of Pangu and Rome rely heavily on the anti-colonial themes that are sprinkled throughout the book. While the romance ultimately takes center stage, the author continues to highlight the hardships the Pangulings have endured at the hands of the Romans. I wish we got to spend more time exploring the history and culture of Pangu along with gaining more understanding about the magic-blessed Xianlings but that will hopefully be explored more in the sequel as Ruying continues to mature and gain more autonomy with her own powers. There's frequent references to the concept of mankind playing their hands at being gods which I do love because who doesn't love a power corruption arc?

For a debut, I think the author took a very bold chance to tell a story that at its core tries to shine light on a historically horrific event. For the book to be marketed primarily as romance does take away from that stance but with the ending, I hope it'll lead to further exploration of Ruying's powers, the development of her character, and for the freedom from the oppressors for the people of Pangu.

huge thanks to Colored Pages Book Tours, Molly X. Chang, and Del Rey Publishing for the opportunity to participate in this book tour! be sure to check out all the other stops by clicking HERE!

- a b o u t    t h e    a u t h o r -

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  1. I've definitely been hearing a lot about the romance in this one. I do think it's something that can take away from the story. The fact that this is the first in a series makes it more iffy for me, bc if it was a standalone, I could kind of see why there could be trouble balancing everything out, but having next books and using this first one to focus on the romance rather than character or world building? Not sure about that. I think I'll wait for the sequels before I decide if this is worth reading or not. Thanks for your honest review, Riv! :)

    aimee @ aimee can read

    1. that's a good point, I hadn't thought about that! keeping my fingers crossed for the sequels because I do think there's potential but we'll see how the next books turn out. if you do pick this one up, let me know what you think! <3