Oh boy, where do I even start.
Reverend Insanity is an absolute masterpiece, an example of just about everything good in xianxia, taken to its peak. If you have even a vague interest in the genre, RI is a must read by all means - even if you do dislike some aspects of it.
What makes RI so outstanding is primarily the plot, structured into distinct 'volumes'. (Though the ones marked as "1" and "2" here on Webnovel are actually the same volume) The novel starts off somewhat slow, but over the course of each volume slowly builds up to an absolutely massive climax in the last 30-40 chapters of a volume, the likes of which I have not found in ANY other webnovel out there - and very few print book series for that matter!
That may sound like an exaggeration, but the first couple of turning points are amazing beyond words - unbelievably intense and unpredictable - yet so incredibly well set up and foreshadowed, with surprisingly few plot holes considering the sheer scale.
And that, in a regular-release piece of ambitious action fantasy is a very impressive achievement.
At its core, RI is a classic xianxia novel, with a 'relatively' traditional cultivation system, clad in the cover of 'gu' - magic insects that form the basis of not just the power system, but society on the whole, from street lights, to letters, to houses. While certainly a unique take on cultivation, with some other interesting twists I won't spoil, it's still very much a xianxia, the internal cultivation remains much the same, and many traditional elements, such as dao paths, pill refining, heavenly tribulations, inheritances, blessed lands, and so forth do appear, though often with different names.
Our main character, Fang Yuan, is not only a reincarnator, but originally a transmigrator as well. Don't put too much focus on the latter, but fact is, this is his third rodeo, and he certainly acts like it. He is mature, driven, and logical. Unlike many reincarnation novels, our hundreds-of-years-old MC does not act like a naive teenager with plot-convenient 'past knowledge' that is only used as deus ex machina, no, Fang Yuan is very much an experienced *****, callous, scarred, hardened and cynical after his past life.
And while I certainly consider this a good thing, its also one of the key points that will turn some people off RI.
Because Fang Yuan is not a hero. He is not an anti-hero. He is not neutral. He is EVIL, to the core. Not your prideful, arrogant villain, your crazed maniacal slaughterer-for-fun, or your edgy brooding git, thank god. But he is cold, cruel, calculating, and utterly amoral. He is a manipulative double-crosser who knows when to act nice for his own benefit. There is no wholesomeness to be found, and very little comedy, this story is DARK and cruel, with virtually no exception.
And don't expect this to change much. For while Fang Yuan is a fairly interesting character, he's already a grown man with hundreds of years of experience - there is not much character growth to be found.
Most side characters are fleshed out enough to seem like realistic, grounded people, with their own ideals, beliefs and motivations, even quite minor characters. There are some characters which receive significantly more characterisation, and remain relevant throughout the story, and very few are entirely forgotten. But ultimately, this is not a story with more than one main protagonist.
The author does not do what oh so many other authors do, in trying to write an intelligent MC by making all other characters utter morons. No, not only is our main character well and truly intelligent, so is just about everyone else. There are extremely few incompetent characters, even throw-away villains, minor characters, and lunatics are generally intelligent and rational, with very little of the clichéd blind arrogance or utter stupidity so common in xianxia works.
Of course, while characters are generally intelligent, they are still limited by perspective, circumstance, pride and rules/standards, and certainly make many errors and poor decisions from an omniscient point of view. What sets our MC apart is not that he is all that more intelligent, but that he is experienced, amoral, and shameless - without the slightest care for pride, rules, or reputation.
And another thing which sets RI apart from many other novels, be they xianxia or not, is that there is absolutely no romance. Zero. Zilch. We have one, perhaps two minor characters with an adoration towards Fang Yuan, but, as one would expect of intelligent characters when faced with a cold, loveless killer, they don't ever bring it up, and merely keep at a distance.
One of the central recurring themes in RI is the idea of individuals versus organised groups. While with a fair bit of bias, seeing as our MC very much stands for the former, this is portrayed in a rather grey sense, with deceit, abuse and corruption, contra caring, love, and fairness being portrayed on both sides. For the most part, the author seems to write from a fairly open-minded perspective, which can very much be a breath of fresh air.
And another praiseworthy aspect is that our MC, while certainly evil, and a complete psychopath, is by no means a hypocrite. He knows full well that he is evil, and makes no attempt to seek a moral high ground - if it gets him to his goal, he has no qualms with being in the 'wrong', and does not attempt to justify his actions. There are no rose-tinted glasses here.
The world itself has a very strong foundation, with clear and distinct world building, history, rules, and organizational structures - everything 'makes sense', and this is something that really sets RI up for greatness. There is in-universe mythology that permeates through the story, often founding the basis for not just cultivation, but beliefs, ideals, and ways of thought as well. I do, however believe that it is important to see it as such, as much like real-world mythology, it is simplified, over-exaggerated, and metaphorical - which makes perfect sense for abstract stories passed down over countless years.
While I praise it to high heavens, and it is one of extremely few novels I will ever give a perfect score, there is still no such thing as a perfect novel.
It can absolutely be polarizing to a lot of people, Fang Yuan is definitely not everyone's type of MC, the serious tone doesn't ever really go away, and it is still ultimately a xianxia - which some people will like and others not.
And while basically unavoidable, the lulls between climaxes can feel unbelievably slow. They are undeniably important, as they are dense to the point of bursting with foreshadowing and set-up, but by god can it be slow. The fourth (fifth on Webnovel) volume in particular really drags on, and while the pay-offs may be worth it, getting there can be a slog, especially once caught up and reading chapters as they are translated.
Besides the novel itself, the translation is excellent, with the occasional slip-up here and there, but a reasonable pace and consistently good quality. There is very little to complain about here.
Ultimately, I believe that beyond the plot, what makes RI so bloody good is the incredible consistency. Characters are consistent in their actions and beliefs, the power system is well founded, with the vast majority of power-ups making perfect sense - in fact, just about everything in the story just makes sense.
Very little feels shoehorned in, little is left out, ignored or unexplained, and there is an incredible amount of foreshadowing and build-up.
And this is why I believe that while it may not be a perfect novel, RI achieves what it sets out to achieve. There is no such thing as a flawless or universally appealing novel, but for what it is, RI is downright fantastic. Even if you do dislike aspects of it, even if the genre does not interest you, at least the first 400 chapters or so are absolutely worth a read for the quality alone. Said quality does not decay beyond that, but the story does slow down quite significantly, and if you already weren't interested it may be hard to tough it out between the climaxes.