Review – The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System, vol 3

Posted February 16, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System, vol 3

The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System, vol 3

by Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù

Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 408
Series: The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System #3
Rating: four-stars

To save his sect from destruction, Shen Qingqiu has at last submitted to Luo Binghe—though he wishes people would stop saying it like that! Unfortunately, they're not wrong.

Luo Binghe has finally made his desire for his old master clear. For all that Shen Qingqiu longs to return to their peaceful days together on Qing Jing Peak, he knows it's impossible now that Luo Binghe has darkened into a true demon lord. But as Shen Qingqiu begins to uncover more of Proud Immortal Demon Way's hidden plot, including his host body's own backstory, he realizes he must learn to see Luo Binghe for who he truly is if either of them is to survive.

Oof, what to say about volume three of MXTX’s The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System? I suppose one thing to address up front, which I didn’t really discuss in my initial reviews, is that this isn’t a straightforward romance novel/series in the way I think some Western readers expect when they see others’ enthusiasm. If you read it because you’re a fan of Western romances, there’s a lot in this series that just won’t make sense, because it’s part of a bigger tradition, and that tradition is required for understanding some of what’s going on. The story does explain a lot of it along the way, as do the extras in the back of the book, but it’s not a straightforward ride… and another thing is that despite this being the last part of the series proper (the fourth volume has extras), the happy ending is fairly understated.

Art from The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System, vol 3. A curly-haired young man with an uncertain expression grasps the hand of a smiling, elegant older man who is looking at him with acceptance and love.In addition, the relationship between Shen Qingqui and Luo Binghe is extremely problematic: SQQ is older and knew LBH as a child, and is also his teacher/master. SQQ could do a lot of harm to LBH due to that childhood crush turned obsessive love (and does, albeit against his will and by refusing to have a relationship with LBH). Consent is also a massive problem, in both directions (SQQ has sex with LBH while LBH is out of his mind, to save him; the sex is painful and awful for SQQ, who sees it as the only way to save LBH). So if anyone got this far to volume three thinking it was going to change, or has been curious because of my reviews and is now getting tempted to dip a toe in, be very very aware that this isn’t a romance novel and there are a lot of tropes and cultural things that would never be OK in Western romance. The whole dynamic is a mess.

All the same, there’s also a lot to enjoy here, when you take it in its context. There’s a fair bit of action and swordplay, which is all a lot of fun. The art pages are beautiful, and SQQ’s stupid inner narrative makes me giggle a lot (though, trigger warning for his internalised homophobia). SQQ’s slow acceptance of LBH’s love, and his slow steps toward trusting him and loving him in return, produce some genuinely lovely moments. I absolutely love the last piece of art (shown on the right):

“This time, no matter where you wish to go, this master will accompany you.”

I really want to read the last volume now, from what I’ve heard about it.

[And indeed, I’ve read it since I wrote this review, and loved it… but that’s a story for another day.]

Rating: 4/5

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