《判官》by 木苏里 – A Fantasy Danmei Book Review

First Released2020
Length117 chapters + 6 extras
Total Characters564,000
Unique Characters3,400
GenreModern, Historical, Danmei, Cultivation

A member and danmei fan of the Chinese learning Discord I am part of inspired me to pick up this webnovel after she became super obsessed. I am so glad for her obsession, as I enjoyed reading this very much, and it did not disappoint.

Before we move onto the review and discussion on the difficulty of this webnovel for a Chinese language learner, let me clarify two points:

  • I’ve tagged this as “Historical & Modern” because it’s a blend of both, the story is set in the modern world with a heavily linked to past events. Around 30% of the plot is recollections of the past.
  • This is not a progression cultivation novel, it is a story about cultivators with heavy influence from Buddhism & Taoism concepts.

Disclaimer: I read the original Chinese webnovel in Chinese. I can not comment on any of the translations or any other edition. If you are reading the physical Chinese release or a translation, your experience may differ from mine.


木苏里 《判官》


闻时 (wén shí), the direct disciple of the founder of the school of 判官 (pàn guān) cultivators with a lost past and soul, emerged out of the 无相门 (wū xiāng mén – “Door of the Soulless”) for the 12th time. His collector once asked, “You’ve already departed, why must you always come back to life? Is there someone you cannot let go of?”.

Upon re-entering the realm of the living, he is met with the descendants of the sect he was one part of and an outsider with a hidden story. While following the traces of his past and lost soul, he mysteriously enters several “cages” (a spirit realm left behind by the attachments of the deceased) where he must dissipate and guide the soul on a peaceful journey to the circle of rebirth.

The Reading Experience

The plot unfolds through many arcs, with the majority revolving around “cages” that the main character must dissipate. In this sense, it strongly resembles the “unlimited flow” (无限流) genre. As mentioned above, this webnovel is set in the modern day with many recollections of past events. These past events play a significant role in the primary plot and can not be overlooked. It is not as simple as “dissipate one cage and move onto the next”.

The narration in this novel is very intricate, with numerous (and sometimes confusing) small and subtle details that gradually build up to a big reveal. Everything eventually falls into place despite all the confusion at the beginning. This resulted in a highly confusing first quarter, which led to a few readers giving up after a few chapters. The level of confusion does reduce as more and more is explained through the cause of the novel.

Prior knowledge and experience with the cultivation genre would have been highly beneficial. Given that my experience with this genre is minimal, I found myself a little lost on a few scenes and either had to reread or seek an explanation from a reader with more experience than me.

The Writing Style

The style of narration varies depending on the type of scene and setting. Modern scenes are generally straightforward; however, intense emotions and recollections of past events are often conveyed using flowery and abstract language. The latter half of this webnovel is much more challenging due to the increased number of past retellings and fantasy fight scenes.

Some might say the writing style is a little amateur, with short sentences and paragraphs that lack detail or description. However, from the perspective of a Chinese language learner, this more straightforward writing style allows for fantasy webnovels with an intricate plot like 《判官》to be much more approachable.


In terms of romance, it’s neither heavy nor can it be ignored. The main story does not contain many sweet and cute romantic scenes and is subtle at times. Like many danmei web novels, their love for each other is a key driving force for the overall storyline. It’s a good balance between advancing the plot and bringing the main couple’s relationship closer.


木苏里 《判官》

Difficulty for a Chinese learner

A challenging fantasy novel for the following reasons:

  • Constant of switching between the present day and retelling of the past.
  • Some unclear switching between different characters’ points of view.
  • Many genre-specific terms and concepts, with no explanations. Prior knowledge and experience would be ideal.
  • The narrative during the recollections of the past are flowery and abstract.
  • The second half is much more difficult with more past recollections and magical fight scenes all interwined with Buddhism & Taoism concepts. These scenes can’t be ignored due to their significant role in the plot.
  • This is not a novel for reading a chapter a day here and there, it’s best enjoyed continuously (read almost every day) without any long breaks.

A word of warning for less experienced Chinese learners, this is not a webnovel where you can gauge the difficulty solely from the initial chapters, it is significantly more difficult in the second half.

《判官》is best for very experienced readers as a lack of understanding, particularly during the plot revelation scenes, could be detrimental to the overall understanding of the plot.


The fan art drawn by the artist 梨乖酥 is absolutely gorgeous, just look at the pretty image below (the left image). Do check out their Weibo for more of their artwork – The official audio drama art (the right image) is also pretty nice.

Final Thoughts

My final thoughts on 《判官》 is that I loved it, but I didn’t love it at first because the first half was relatively slow! I was completely hooked as soon as the main plot picked up and more was revealed. I have been told this is this author’s style; a slow start with a fast-paced heart, heart-racing end!

The plot is very captivating. The pacing could have been more balanced, but overall, it is well-executed with a good blend of various elements: mystery, comedy, pain, sweetness (bittersweetness, some might say) and more.

Despite the highly confusing beginning, everything will be revealed and answered. It was a fantastic feeling when it all finally fell into place! The journey may be difficult and confusing, but it’s all worth it in the end.

I recommend this for both native and very experienced Chinese language learners.

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