Stars of Chaos: Sha Po Lang Vol. 1 by Priest: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

Stars of Chaos by Priest

Stars of Chaos is Chinese
BL fantasy set in a slightly more modern alt-history Empire than the other
books in the genre I’ve read. Westerners (spearheaded by the Pope!) have
established trading and diplomatic relations with the Empire, and there’s new,
exciting steam technology powered by violet gold. There are airships—with kites
instead of balloons—and automatons among other things. The army especially
makes use of these inventions, keeping the Empire powerful. But everyone covets
the violet gold, making it worth wars and treachery.

Chang Geng is thirteen when barbaric
northerners invade his small rural town, breaking a peace that’s lasted
fourteen years, to stop the Empire draining their huge reserves of violet gold.
But their presence in his town isn’t random: they want Chang Geng.

Turns out, Chang Geng’s life has been a
lie, and he’s a more important person than he thought. Not that he believes a
word of it, a great cause of internal conflict for him. But even worse is to
learn that his godfatherso elected because he
once saved Chang Geng’s lifeisn’t who he’s
claimed to be either.

Chang Geng is whisked off to the Empire’s
capital to live with his godfather there. The story follows the pair trying to
come to terms with their new life as a family. Gu Yuo is utterly unsuitable for
a father figure; he’s too young and selfish, and he’s mostly absent with the
army anyway. But when, at fifteen, Chang Geng tests his limits by setting off to
see the world, Gu You follows, only for the pair to stumble on a coup.

The story is advertised as a boylove
romance, and it’ll likely head there eventually. In this first volume, Chang
Geng rather abruptly becomes aware of his feelings for his godfather, a cause
of great agony for him. Gu Yuo, however, sees him only as a child, and isn’t
interested in men anyway. He has his own troubles to deal with, issues that he hasn’t
shared with Chang Geng, making the boy mistrust him.

Chang Geng and Gu Yuo were interesting
characters, more nuanced than in average web novels. The side characters were
fun and had a proper role in the story. Narrative was more coherent too, with
no internal inconsistencies that so often plague these stories. Either it’s
written as a novel and not serialised first, or it’s been properly edited for a

I don’t know how many volumes there are in the story, but if each take
only a couple of years of their lives, it’ll be a long time before it reaches
the romance part. But I’m here for it.