Action,  Chinese Drama,  Fantasy,  Romance

Ashes of Love. Heavy Sweetness Ash-Like Frost – Review

“Ashes of Love” is a 2018 fairy-tale Chinese drama; it is based on the novel “Heavy Sweetness, Ash-Like Frost” and tells the story of the undying love between two immortals.

 

Backstory

The action takes place in the prehistorical era, in a time when the six realms were reigning independently in harmony. The realms featured in this drama are: celestial realm, floral, demon and human realm. Although the members of the first three realms enjoy immortality, who rules supreme on all six realms is the implacable god of Fate.

Important Notes:

  • Although the immortal beings do not experience death by aging or illness, they can die as a result of a magical weapon or powerful spell.
  • The Celestial Realm and the Demon Realms do not have a good versus evil connotation. Both realms are populated with both righteous or greed-driven beings. The Celestial Realm is a well organized empire-like society, while the Demon Realm is a coalition of several kingdoms and is a warrior-like society.

 

Premise of the Story

The Floral Fairy (the ruler of the Floral Realm) is severely injured and has little time to live as she gives birth to her child. Knowing that her daughter is fated to experience great tribulations due to the fate of a tragic love within the next 10.000 years, she feeds the newborn the Unfeeling Pill. The magic pill has the power to keep her daughter, Jin Mi, from experiencing anything beyond friendship, in an attempt to cheat Fate.

Before she dies, the Fairy orders everyone in the realm to keep Jin Mi’s birth a secret. She establishes a magical barrier designed to not let her daughter have any contact with the outside world and seals her true nature with a spell. However, 4000 years later, the barrier is breached by mistake by the Fire Immortal, the second son of the Celestial King. Gravely wounded (as a result of an attack) he is saved and taken care of by Jin Mi. As a reward for her kind gesture and unaware of her true identity, Fire Immortal agrees to free her from her prison. He takes her to the Celestial realm where she becomes his reading assistant.

It follows a sweet, yet tragic love-story that will have to go through the trials of life and death in order to be purified. This is not a sappy love story. It is well written and it comes with as much action as romance. I think that if it weren’t for the language barrier, dramas like this one would be critically acclaimed worldwide and would receive international awards. Here is a Trailer, together with the ending theme “Upwards to the Moon“.

 

Main Characters

Jin Mi is the naive and innocent daughter of the former ruler of the Floral Realm. For 4000 years she lived disguised as a boy; she has no concept of love, evil or of the difference between men and women. Her reading of the reality she comes in contact with for the first time is very endearing and it adds an element of comedic relief to the story every time we have access to her thought process. Jin Mi’s arch story follows the coming-of-age pattern. Through pain and suffering she grows from a carefree young lady to a mature, strong and wise woman, willing to sacrifice herself to make amends for past mistakes.

Fire Immortal/Phoenix is the second son of the Celestial King and the only legitimate heir to the throne. He is a valiant warrior and one of the most powerful beings in the realm, despite his young age. He falls deeply in love with the endearing, yet unfeeling Jin Mi. Fire Immortal is, without a doubt, the most positive character in this drama. He is slightly arrogant, but he is understanding and forgiving to a fault. He forgives time and time again, even those closest to him who caused his downfall; not because he is a push-over, but rather due to his loving and magnanimous nature. He is such a positive hero, even as he hits rock-bottom, while his world turns to ashes.

Night Immortal is the eldest and illegitimate son of the Celestial King; thus, he does not have a legitimate claim to the throne. He is very close to Fire Immortal. Despite their parents, the two half-brothers share a strong bond. Their relationship, however, is put to a test when Night Immortal decides to pursue Jin Mi. Things take a turn for the worse when he sets to take revenge on the Fire Immortal’s mother, the Empress. In my opinion Night Immortal’s character is one of the best written in the drama. His psychological journey (from the mild mannered celestial prince, to the vengeful and ambitious tyrant) is very well written and portrayed. And although the viewers cannot condone his actions, they can, however, relate to his pain and anger.

 

Review

“Ashes of Love”, without a doubt, falls into the category of classic fairy-tales, despite being based on a recently written novel. It has all the required elements: the battle between good and evil, an incumbent tragic fate and the attempt to avert it (but by doing so, it only helps fulfill it), the forging and purification of the heroes through pain and suffering, the need for a sacrifice in order to restore balance to the world and the presence of a hero willing to do so.

The intense and tragic love-story of “Ashes of Love” has a very strong appeal. The attempt of the Floral Fairy to cheat Fate (by feeding her daughter the Unfeeling Pill) sets in motion a series of events that would ultimately lead to the fulfilling of the implacable Fate; thus, Jin Mi will eventually go through her love trial. In Chinese folklore, a love trial is a heartbreaking and tragic love-story and is considered the most appropriate and painful path to purify oneself from past sins. Although she has no recollection of it, in her past life Jin Mi was a soul-demiser who caused the death of many. As a consequence, she will have to experience the most painful experience of all: fall deeply in love and cause the death of the one she loves.

One of the underlying messages of the dramas seem to be that no evil goes unpunished and justice needs to be served even in the afterlife.  One of the questions that I still ponder over is: ok, Jin Mi had to go through the love-trial in order to redeem herself, but what did Fire Immortal ever do to deserve to go through the same trial as Jin Mi and endure even more pain than her? This is still a mystery to me. Will love be able to defy death and Fate and rise from its own ashes like the Phoenix?

I enjoyed watching “Ashes of Love” much more than I expected I would. It is one of the best Chinese fantasy dramas in recent years. In my opinion it surpasses “Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms” (considered by most the best of the genre) in both story and cinematography. The latter has the advantage of having a much more experienced cast; but to me, “Ashes of Love” has a fresher feel to it and the fairy-tale elements are a lot stronger; above all, it has a story that made me giggle, laugh, sigh and sob from heartbreak over and over again.

I probably gave away more details that I originally intended, so I will add another mild spoiler by saying that the story has a happy ending, but it will take you from the heights of joy to the pits of sorrow and back again in the process. “Ashes of Love” will transport you into a world of magical beings, fairies, spells and bounded destinies; it will tell you a beautiful story about love, friendship, ambition, betrayal, loyalty and self-sacrifice. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

 

Cast and Acting

I first saw Deng Lun (Fire Imortal/Phoenix) in “Princess Agents” and I became instantly a fan of his acting. In this drama he is amazing in the role of the tortured hero; moreover, he has great chemistry with the veteran actress Yang Zi (Jin Mi), who has my full admiration. She portrays very convincingly her character in different stages of the story: naïve, innocent, independent, self-reliant, repentant, torn between love and duty etc. A special mention goes to Luo Yunxi (Night Immortal) who played admirably the most complex character of the entire drama. I have never noticed him before, but now he gained a new fan and has my full attention.

 

Cinematography 

One of the most recurrently criticized aspects of a Chinese fantasy dramas is the low quality CGI and the resulting cringe-worthy cinematography. And although “Ashes of Love” did not reach the perfection, it surely surpassed the previous contenders to the title. I still remember the painful-to-watch CGI scenes from “Journey of Flower” a few years back. The story was beautifully written, but it felt as if the director hired a high-schooler and put him in charge of graphics and special effects.

One of the reasons the cinematography of “Ashes of Love” is so amazing is due to the fact that the drama had a big budget. Only 30% of the sets were CGI; the rest of 70% were real sets, built specifically for this drama. The sets covered an area over 100.000 square meters and the actors had over 3000 pieces of costumes at their disposal.

If (in the beginning) the story is not enough to catch your attention (although it is hard to imagine), the cinematography alone might be a good enough reason for you to continue watching this drama until you catch up with the story.

 

Music

The music was composed by Sa Dingding, one of the most renowned current Chinese artists in the West. In 2008 she won the BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music. She is singing the ending theme “Upwards to the Moon”, which is my favorite track of this drama (link above). Some of the tracks composed by Sa Dingding were interpreted by the two main actors. Here is the link for the track “Frost Love interpreted by the main actress, Yang Zi. Make sure to turn on the captions to enjoy the lyrics.

 

Shortcomings

The only shortcomings I would list deal with generics mostly:

  1. At times the story had some “too” dramatic turn of events.
  2. While the main characters are very well written, some secondary characters felt two-dimensional.
  3. The editing suffered some hiccups here and there.

Final Thoughts

Photos Source: Pinterest

Although I consider myself a veteran in Korean-drama watching, I am fairly new to the Chinese drama by comparison. I first watched a Chinese Drama in 2014 (Perfect Couple). Despite liking the story, I was put-off by the poor directing, sloppy plot-line and ridiculous cinematography. I gave it a try again with two other dramas, but I had a similar experience; thus I became reluctant in checking out other Chinese dramas. But last year I stumbled onto “Princess Agents” and “Ten Miles of Peach Blossom”. I realized I was missing out! Since then I have been in a Chinese-drama-hunting mode.

If you are as reluctant as I was, “Ashes of Love” or “Princess Agents” might change your mind. I would recommend you watch both. If you love action-romance, start with “Princess Agents”; if you are more into fantasy, then maybe you should watch “Ashes of Love” first; the bonus being, Deng Lun plays in both of them.

 

Overall Ranking 10/10

Story 10/10

Acting 9/10

Directing 9/10

Cinematography 10/10

Music 9/10

Re-watchable Value 10/10

 

11 Comments

  • PJ Smith

    I just finished this beautiful drama. As an American English reader, I will first say that the translation, while literal, often used the wrong words for the context. The CGI is not perfect, but is used to great aesthetic effect and very watchable. The cycle of tension, climax, and tragedy tugs at all of the emotions. The story line was slow in building as characters were developed and revealed. I appreciated this as American dramas want to rush to a conclusion. The unrequited love theme was pushed a little heavy-handedly into the minor characters, but did not take away from the excellent acting of all of the cast. A, seemingly simple plot at the beginning, became masterfully complex. It is a journey in love and discovery and the the harm that comes when we follow a single minded intent, good or bad, to its conclusion.

  • Rebecca Warr

    This Drama is Excellent. I have to read the English Caption and sometimes I miss all that they are saying. But even In This, it seems that the Characters are now a part of me. I watch this Drama non stop except for sleep from the beginning to the end. Now I have started over and the things I missed…I am catching up on. This Drama has let me experience all of my emotions sincerely. And has become a part of me. I have a smile on my face. I really love the Romantic paring of Actress/Jinmie and Actor/Phoenix…Superb. The Scenery was excellent and Graphic Artistry Like This Place really exists and I Am there in the Midst. Thank You to Each person that contributed to the 5 Stars ⭐️ Drama . Oh and Music 🎶 is in my heart. And the Language though I don’t understand has me trying to sing what they say.

  • Anonymous

    This is by far the best TV drama I have ever watched. I highly recommend it. I hope such quality drama will be made again and again!

  • CHARLOTTE HALL

    Yes—this was a GREAT “fairy tale” The actors are terrific and the music is BEAUTIFUL!!! The sets were SPECTACULAR!!! However as Runyu said, the Emporer and Empress made heaven a MESS—and then HE started being just as MESSED UP—thank GOD that the REAL HEAVEN is NOT like this !!! That the ONE TRUE GOD loves ALL people equaly, and does NOT consider one set of people (or women) lower than others !!! AND ***HE*** sent HIS SON as a sacrifice so that ANYONE can go to heaven (instead of the COMPLICATED stuff that was going on in THIS show) The BIBLE says that there will be as MANY PEOPLE as there are GRAINS of SAND on the BEACHES in the REAL HEAVEN—not just a few hundred like in THIS “Heavenly Realm” !!!

  • Jat

    Hi! I consider myself a veteran in k drama too. But I think I want to check on wuxia drama , because I haven’t seen one in recent years although I really liked them before I watch Kdrama. Ashes of Love is really good so far although I am only in ep 37. Like you, I giggled, laughed, mad, and cried with this drama. I fell in love with Fire deity or maybe Deng Lun. I am glad it is a happy ending. I just can’t get over the frustrating sad ending in Legend of Yunxi.

  • Cori Lee

    I am an American, who lives in the U S. And have never watched a Chinese show before, but I MUST say, what an extraordinary and wonderful show this was! I too laughed, and cried(a lot) and felt the storyline, cinematography and acting were really well done.

  • Rea

    This was my first fantasy Chinese and I did enjoyed quite a bit.

    another great Chinese historical drama (not fantasy) is Rise of Phoenixes.. it is heart breakingly good

  • FangirlCher

    Firstly, this is a MUST WATCH DRAMA!!! I am a Kdrama fan first. In addition, I have watched some really great dramas –
    Japanese, Taiwanese, Thai, Chinese, etc…. I I must say that Chinese and Thai were my least favourite, I found them lacking in the past and the number of EPISODES 🤯. (Please note that I grew up watching Chinese movies which were excellent) However, The Chinese dramas have been steadily improving. I have started watching some Wuxia Cdramas and stopped due to CGI’s and sometimes lack of acting skills. I didn’t think that I would watch a drama with 63 episodes, especially a Wuxia, BUT this one was worth it. I never felt bored. I laughed, cried (I seldom cry) hoped, felt pain…a whole gamut of emotions. It could have had less episodes, but don’t let that deter you. My guy pal actually watched it to the end…something he would NEVER have done. I dare say this is the absolute best Cdrama Wuxia. Take a chance and watch, you will be pleasantly surprised. I know that I was 😍😍😍😍💓💓💓💓

  • Artemide

    Hello, Ying Yue. Indeed the Chinese dramas have improved quite a lot the past few years, which makes me very happy. I always look forward to new ones. Unfortunately, only the most popular dramas are translated into English right away; other dramas get subtitled (by fans) months after the release, for example “A Step into the Past”, while others never make it to the non-Chinese speaking public. But things have improved considerably in this department as well, so I predict that in a matter of a few years the Korean entertainment industry will have a serious contender for the title of best Asian dramas.
    P.S Congrats on your chosen career. It sounds exciting! Maybe in a few years I will see your name on the credit-score of some dramas!

  • Ying Yue

    Hello, I have just scrolled down your comment on Ash like Forst (the title says literally: honey heavy frost ember). Thank you to write nice things of our dramas and specially this one. We are proud of them, and as you say, we keep improving. Only one thing: a school girl like me could work with special effects even better than an adult. I am going to be a graphic designer and actually I need to be in college just for the title. Have a good day!

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