You ever get that sinking feeling when you know your English manhwa publisher stopped publishing your favorite series? Yeah....
I gave up on Yen Press when I realized that that the author also seems to have discontinued this work. It's not a good sign when you're reading a manhwa that has a last published date of 2011...and it's 2015.....
But that doesn't mean I didn't want to read what was already in existence. And yes, I broke out the Chinese dictionary one more time....
Review (no major spoilers)
All in all it's not a bad series and I really like the ancient Silla costumes and beautiful prints the manhwa artist uses for costumes. The style is beautiful, first and foremost.
The characters, aside from the air headed heroine, are very intriguing. Ji-Hae is in love with Seung-Hyu in modern times, but her persistence doesn't pay off. Like they have some sort of ill fated destiny, he pushes her and she falls down some stairs and goes into a coma. Seung-Hyu is truly a beautiful "flower boy" aka bishie, but he is a bit evil. He makes no attempt to save her from falling and as she lies there with an open head wound, he goes so far as to say, "Yeah, maybe it's better this way." (What a jerk.)
The goddess of rebirth grants her wish to go back to the beginning where Ji-Hae occupies the body of her ancient past life, Lady Ari, to fix the fate that causes Seung-Hyu to hate her. On her chest is a tattoo of a flower that will blossom when she is fully loved. It doesn't discriminate though so if anyone else has feelings of true love for her it will also blossom.
Enter the reverse harem theme... ^__^;
At first I couldn't stand the heroine, but eventually she grows on you, sort of, and it's a little ridiculous how every gorgeous man she runs into develops feelings for her (a girl's dream, really) but she is fixated on Ja-Hun, Seung-Hyu's past life. Her determination makes sense at first, since she literally went through space and time to fix this broken destiny of theirs. But her walking through ancient Silla with horse blinders on gets a little old. Moral: Who you might think is your "destiny" may NOT actually be the other half of your OTP.
So we are thrown into the complicated world of Queen Seon-Duk (for any of you who watched the lengthy drama you have an idea that this is the Korean version of Three Kingdoms unification period, around 600 years after the birth of Baby Jesus). Enter Bub-Min (I'm cheering for you, man), the handsome warrior "Dae Hwarang" (a prince in his own right and likely to be someone in Ji-Hae's future as well) who first saves Ji-Hae/Ari from the dangers of wild life in Silla. He will eventually become the king who unifies the Three Kingdoms.
Along comes Ja-Hun (Seung-Hyu's past life) who is rather cold, but not entirely heartless at this point, the beautiful foot soldier who works under a different division than Bub-Min. His superior is the beautiful and sadistic Misa-Heul, another "Dae Hwarang" with connections to nobles who want the Queen de-throned/dead.
Ji-Hae/Ari's father, Lord Seon-Pum is also a political player who supports the Queen's faction along with Bub-Min's family. So Ji-Hae/Ari becomes involved in a tangled plot of intrigue, dynastic motivations and counter plots in the first 5 volumes.
And just when your ship has sailed on Ari's OTP, the author shakes it up a little and (annoyingly) things happen that make you rethink your OTP. (Crap!).... So all things said, people are dying, being poisoned, sacrificed as political pawns, and Ji-Hae/Ari is only concerned with her love life while everyone around her, from Bub-Min to Misa-Heul on down, is trying to protect her from her own foolishness. This is where Ji-Hae kinda loses my respect, and by volume 8 I want to scream at her through the pages, "OMG use your brain?! WTF are you doing?? DON'T TRUST ANYONE!"
Sadly, this is where Ryu Ryang leaves us, not having published anything in ages, and I'm left screaming at my silent manhwa pages, like some crazy person past midnight.... -_-; At this point, I'm wondering if the author actually gets tired of the heroine too and has dragged her through so many WTF's per chapter that Ji-Hae cannot be redeemed.
But it's a bit of a mountain of politics the author built up as well to overcome. Ja-Hun is using Lady Ari to his advantage to climb up the social/political ladder and solve the mystery of why his former master was framed and why his entire household was executed. Bub-Min must find the original perpetrators who want the Queen dead and pretty much leaves the story line in vol. 8. But his typical Korean mother is also opposed to him choosing Lady Ari as a marriage candidate and essentially has a very heated moment with Lady Ari's family that makes you think, "Yeah, there's no way they'll ever be in-laws..."
Misa-Heul, who is a cruel bastard, is trying to redeem himself in front of Lady Ari rather unsuccessfully, but he seems to be a reluctant participant in the political plot his family is fronting.
Amid all of this, Ji-Hae/Ari is still kind of a useless twit following Ja-Hun around like a little puppy.
I don't blame the author for giving up, since there are so many loose ends to tie up at this point. Originally I thought this author was going to expand this to a really long story line, maybe over 20 volumes, but it seems we can't get past volume 8. There are so many characters we have yet to meet and there's a lot unanswered and you get the feeling that you're nowhere near the end.
Overall, I rate 3.8 out of 5 stars. There are so many redeeming qualities about this manhwa. I'm still hoping someone turns it into a Kdrama. Her present time friends are all found in the past as well, so it makes you curious as to who these other characters will be in her future. You're also crossing your fingers that Ji-Hae will redeem herself and either use her brain, her status, and/or her knowledge of the future towards the greater good.
So either I'm going to start translating the entire Chinese version of Sarasah, or I'm going to write fanfiction to get rid of my manhwa angst. The reason why I might dust off my dictionary again is to show people what a really great series this is, Ji-Hae aside, and to gain support to have Yen Press publish up through volume 8. My other desire is maybe to find out whatever happened to the author too, or gain enough support to have this turn into a Kdrama with Jae Joong as Ja-Hun. <3
Moonflower Scans is still scanlating through Chapter 30 but they have other lovely projects that keep them busy as well.
If I decide to translate this, it will all be in one place, from beginning to the current end, much in the same vein as my Chihayafuru translations, so that you can read it like a novel. Because the terminology is complicated, it's easier to explain in novel form than scanlation.