A new trope has arrived in the world of manhwas/webtoons! It is a combination of the art style The Bride of the Water God and the death toll of Another. From ChongZhuo Comics arrives The Revenge of a Fierce Princess – a perfect mix of flowing imperial costumes, phoenix headdresses, masked male leads, changing loyalties and clanging swords. It isn’t the first one of its kind and it won’t be the last because the genre is here to stay. With a trend brought forth by the live adaptation Goong and carried on by the commercial successes of Scarlet Heart and Legend of Yunxi, The Revenge of a Fierce Princess merely changes its media to coloured paper. But what makes TROAFP stand out amongst the rest? It’s pacing and characters.
Queen Murong Quiyu is a highly trained martial artist and the diplomatic reason behind Emperor Li Mo’s ascension to throne. The manga opens with a long prologue filled with images of fire and flowing skirts (both red) which establish Murong Quiyu as the heir to the throne – clearly the fierce princess in question. We know that she has been through a lot and we support her because she’s the female lead. The next scene abruptly cuts to her being killed while in childbirth by her husband and father of child Emperor Li Mo. He is helped in this ploy by her half-sister and his mistress Murong Xin’er.
After her “death”, Quiyu wakes up in a seemingly alternate universe. She is in bed with the seventh Prince Li Jian who died two years ago. Not to mention that she herself has orchestrated the ploy to kill him to allow her former love, Prince Li Mo to head the Empire.
In a few more frames, both the reader and Quiyu realise this is an alternate universe, three years behind schedule where the revolution hasn’t taken place and Quiyu is married to Prince Li Jian instead of Li Mo. The sudden change in dynamics throw Quiyu off, but she quickly realises that while the setting has changed, the people haven’t.
Armed with the hindsight only time travel can afford someone, Quiyu ventures to exact revenge on Prince Li Mo and Murong Xin’er. Accepting that she is now on Prince Li Jian’s side, she overthrows the revolution she knew Prince Li Mo to be planning. She comes across several characters of her former life including her loyal maids Xiaomei and Xiaoji, but under completely different circumstances.
After the shocking first chapter (with a gruesome ending scene), the story mellows down until it picks up pace once more and we realise, it is darker than we had bargained for. One cannot change a person’s fate and death is inevitable. Quiyu cannot save those who were meant to be sacrificed.
Do we have complaints? Yes, very much so. Ever since her resurrection, Murong Quiyu has focussed on avenging her enemies – and in a manhwa that took an unexpectedly dark turn, revenge = death. We’re faced with rooting for a main character that has absolutely no qualms before killing someone. And if she ends up killing an attendant or maid or two in the process – she chalks it off to the greater good, or worse – doesn’t think about it at all! There is also an incident where she kills a maid as bait to frame *someone*. Should be we concerned about this being? I don’t know. Quiyu seems too obsessed to consider the opposite. When Xin’er devises a similar plot, which results in Quiyu losing one of her loyal servants, she cannot fathom the pain or motive. Does she not realise she has subjected Xin’er to the same?
Given the serious note the manhwa tries to take, the number of people easily dropping dead using poisoned hairpins or fooled by strategic “ghost noises” (cue: Xin’er) seems pathetic. Quiyu’s easy manipulation of the King is laughable. But what annoys me most is how they happen to “sneak” around in full daylight behind screens that are oh-so-clearly perforated. Quiyu also has an uncanny ability to procure weird concoctions which when dipped into Xin’er’s food (right in front of her servant, who does not feel the need to question this?), makes her act in outrageous (read: promiscuous – the only disgrace because murdering is a-okay) manner. The sheer number of deaths around them (orchestrated by Quiyu/ Xin’er/ Li Mo/ Li Jian – you name it) makes me wonder why the King doesn’t suspect anything. Reminds of Scarlet Heart Ryeo where everyone is a royal but apparently unattended and unprotected at all times.
The author has hardly focussed on fleshing out any of the characters other than Quiyu and Li Jian, and even they can be simply explained in a word. The supporting cast is one dimensional and exist solely to further Quiyu’s thirst for revenge or her romance with Li Jian. Xin’er and her mother are evil without any motive. The King is stupid without any motive. Li Mo is a puppet without any motive.
But, do we love it? Yes, we do! It does have its positive points. There is obvious chemistry between Quiyu and Li Jian but the author does well to not dwell on them more than necessary in the beginning. The build up is slow, but not at the risk of losing a reader’s interest. Li Jian also stands out as an exemplary partner, who chooses to blindly believe Quiyu’s schemes despite her sketchy to non-existent explanations of them. He is reliable and logical. He questions her when her plans are too outrageous. The plot is one fast paced trick after another leaving one barely any time to breath or fathom the consequences. One of the disadvantages arising from a manga with one dimensional characters with only a singular aim is the inability to provide any sudden plot twist other than the sudden deaths. We know Xin’er is evil and Li Jian is not. Their characters are too ingrained to ever allow feelings of betrayal. Li Jian cannot suddenly reveal himself to be an undercover spy all along simply because his character isn’t complex enough to portray such an emotion. This means the author has chanced out on a huge part of the typical arcs of inside betrayals and undercover spies which are an essential constituent of any historical court drama. The plot pacing is similar to Reign – it is fast, unpredictable and absolutely outrageous.
The manhwa is currently ongoing and it’ll be interesting to see where it ends since the author is so keen on killing off every secondary character.
The art style isn’t uncommon or new for the genre. It isn’t Bride of the Water God, but it doesn’t aim to be either. The pacing doesn’t allow the art to stand out. The palace setting is grand, but not intricate. There are lots of reds and oranges to signify power and riches. Backgrounds are attentively attended to but don’t expect glamorous spreads of makeover transformations. Each scene cuts into a new one quite effortlessly and makes for an easy read. The characters look different and are easily identifiable (And they’re almost always angry).
There’s lots of blood, but it isn’t graphic. We’re only allowed glimpses of blood being sprayed on the walls. There aren’t any torturous death scenes either.
Revenge of a Fierce Princess is available for reading on MangaToon for free and is updated till chapter 57.
Based on the addictive storyline, we give it 7.5 Turnips out of 10!
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