Title: War Prisoner
Genre: Drama, Historical, Romance, Yaoi
Status: Completed (95 chapters + 2 extras)
Summary [from NU]
Su Yi, the great general of Qi, was captured by enemy country’s army. Faced with the downfall of his country and interest from opposing country’s king, how will he react?
Review [spoilers in white text; highlight to read]
The summary peeked my interest, but the “torture” and “rape” tag put me off this story for a long time. I eventually picked it up because I was in the mood for a historical setting. Truthfully, the rating should be lower, but this novel hit several of my meng points so I gave it a higher rating for personal enjoyment level. The two extras at the end of the novel was especially good imo.
The MC, Su Yi, did suffer through a lot of torture. It was to the point where I was wondering what kind of superhuman he must be to still be functioning after all that. But I think the author forgot to account for how battered the MC should be after the tortures he went through, instead focusing on his endurance and stalwartness. The author also glossed over the details of the tortures, which I am immensely grateful for, because I don’t like reading about that kind of stuff, especially when it’s happening to a good character. I might’ve DNF’ed the novel if the torture scenes were too graphic, but I persisted and things took a turn for the better after a dozen chapters.
Addressing the “rape” tag. There were only two instances in the entire novel where sex was described in detail. In the first scene (around chapter 12) the ML forces the MC to perform oral sex on him. This was the turning point where the ML started seeing the alluring charms of the MC and the novel switched onto the romance track. Although I cringed throughout, I did find the ML’s lust for the MC to be realistic. It wasn’t love that fueled him to rape the MC the first time (but I’ll get to the “love” part later). The second time sex happens is after the ML starts pursuing the MC in earnest and I would call the scene dubious consent. There were undertones of blackmail and “Is this rape? Is this not? It’s actually rape, right? Right.” Except the ML was very sweet and super attentive throughout the act and after, striking all my meng points, so I gave it a pass. I’m a sucker for dub-con in BL, but only if the gong is in love with and sweet to the shou. Also, the reluctance of the shou heightens the tension of the scene for me. Thumbs up for a sweet dub-con scene. [Yes, I am very aware that this is still rape in real life; so don’t pelt me with rotten vegetables. I know the line between fantasy and reality.]
The love of the ML for the MC was progressing realistically at first, from admiration for the MC’s integrity and endurance, to gradual interest in his physical body, before sliding into romantic inclinations. But once the ML realized he was falling for the MC it went from 0 to 110 (out of a scale of 100) and you’re left reeling a bit from the whiplash. The ML likes the MC for treating him as an equal and being honest with him, something that the ML lacked growing up as a crown prince, but his devotion to MC was way too deep in way too short a time. I think there needed to be either more time in between or one more big event happening to really push the ML to that level of devotion. Conversely, the MC’s feelings were more gradual. He starts with admiration for the ML’s capabilities as a ruler and softens over time from the ML’s doting and increasing gentleness.
One thing that I absolutely must give this novel credit for is the female cast. For a BL story there are quite a few reoccurring female characters with decent and impactful roles. (To be fair, my standards for female characters are pretty low when it comes to BL stories.) But I really like how 3D the antagonistic female character is. Her name is Zi Yan. For someone with the status of a maid I think she carries herself with a noble air. She has legitimate reasons for disliking the MC. During the war, the MC killed her brother, and now her emperor, the ML is starting to favor the MC, and she’s afraid that the MC will mislead her emperor because the MC is so loyal to his former country. She also doesn’t blindly hate on the MC. She is capable of acknowledging his good traits and even expresses admiration to the MC. She has always been straightforward in her intentions towards the MC, to the level of announcing it point blank to his face. (At the time the MC even welcomes it, because he was looking for a way to die. He couldn’t suicide for fear of the ML taking it out on the people of his country, so he wanted to borrow her blade to kill himself, so to speak.) Later she sees how deeply in love her emperor is and repents, trying to help the MC restore his glory instead. When her past treachery comes to light, some people might complain that she got off too lightly. I personally don’t have much of an opinion on how she should be punished, but since things turned out okay, I don’t think she deserves to die. (Although the MC really is a big softy. Makes one wonder how he lasted so long as a general in war.)
And while we’re on the topic, the MC is too much of a bleeding heart. Like seriously! I tend to like softhearted characters, but he’s a god damn general. That fought in a bloody war. I can understand caring for the men in his army (since he fought alongside them) and the common people of his country, but did he have to put himself on the line for a bunch of scholars that he didn’t even personally know? And they (the scholars) also knowingly committed treason. It would be well within the emperor’s (ML) right to execute them. MC standing up for the common people was because they’re innocent to political affairs and warfare, and therefore do not deserve to be treated unfairly just because their country is annexed by another, but the scholars knew what they were doing when they plotted a revolt and should therefore take responsibility for their actions. So much angst could’ve been prevented if the MC would just stop shouldering everything. I look at his bleeding heart and I’m like “Boy, sthap it. Think about your own welfare sometimes.”
While I’m complaining I should probably mention that broken leg and the healing method. First off, I’m not too clear on how the leg was broken or even what kind of injury it was. They said his knee (knees?) was ravaged, but afterwards it sounded like one of his femur or maybe tibia was broken. And then the injury was healed with magic ointment that causes excruciating pain during the absorption process. (-_-) Boy, you can’t fix broken bones with just cream, even if it has unicorn poop and fairy sparkles in it. (Okay, maybe that could work…) But you gotta reset the bone first! Like, was it just cracked? Yeah, I didn’t understand that part, but the technicalities weren’t the point, the leg injury was brought into the story purely for the angst factor. And then later it was to demonstrate the ML and MC’s love for each other during the healing process.
Now it’s time for me to sthap, because this review is getting way too long. But one last honorable mention for Wanyan Shou (the ML’s young son from the deceased crown princess when ML was not yet the emperor). He’s a devious silver-tongued devil, but he knows right from wrong so I really enjoy his character.