Chinese Drama Review: Sound of the Desert/Da Mo Yao

sound of the desert

So, apparently this drama goes by many names. Sound of the Desert is how I was introduced to it. But, on many sites they put “Da Mo Yao” in parenthesis, while some others call it “Romance of the Desert.” Dramawiki has the name as Feng Zhong Qi Yuan, which I’m guessing is the official name.

Anyway, yay! I’m finally reviewing a Chinese drama, and it’s a period one at that! I’ve had the Chinese/Mainland Drama category since I started this blog, and it’s crazy that I haven’t used it yet. This isn’t my first Chinese drama to watch, but it is the first one I finished (well, I did finish their disastrous take on Boys over Flowers, but that’s a different story). The main character didn’t end up with the man I wanted her to end up with, and let me tell you, I have never been so affected by this. I’ve had Second-Lead Syndrome (SLS) many times, and some of those times it has ruined the whole drama. That was not so with this drama. For the first time in all my years of watching Asian dramas, I actually cried at the ending. I was literally sobbing because the main girl wasn’t with the guy I wanted. I was so heartbroken for that man! And it doesn’t help that I think the main character would have been better with him than who she ended up with anyway. I also had to stop watching the drama for a week when it was finally official that the main character was never going to be with that guy.

Reading other reviews and recaps online, I feel like most people disagree with me. They love who she ended up with, but I don’t know, I’ve just never been so affected by SLS. Now, the drama is still quite good. Xin Yue not ending up with the perfect man did in no way ruin or take away from anything in the drama. I just wanted to note that if you’re anything like me, which you won’t know until you watch the drama, you might be a little sad during the last ten or so episodes. On to the review!

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Ratings out of 10:

Acting: 7

Storyline/plot: 7

Plot Development: 7

Characters: 8

Music: 9

Ending: 8

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Acting

Liu Shi Shi (Cecilia Liu) played the main character, Xin Yue. I thought Liu’s performance was okay. There were times when she shone and times when she fell flat and still other times when it was just in between. I thought she could have been a bit more rough since she was raised by wolves and then raised in the desert after that, but that may not be her fault at all and only the fault of the direction she was given.

Eddie Peng (Peng Yu Yan) played one of the main characters, Wei Wu Ji. This was the first drama I have ever seen him in, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that he was actually a Taiwanese actor. I thought he did a really great job in this role as a seemingly arrogant general who actually has a tender heart. Eddie Peng also has amazing eyes and eye expressions, so there were some great scenes of his character gazing upon Xin Yue, and the audience was able to see just exactly what he was feeling in that moment.

Hu Ge played another of the main characters, Mo Xun, also known as, the Ninth Lord. I am so thankful that I finally buckled down and decided to watch this drama because it introduced me to the wonderful acting of Hu Ge. From the minute I saw his character on the screen, I loved him. Hu Ge did a really good job acting as someone who is crippled. Whenever he would get on his crutches to walk, the way he acted made it seem as if it were the most difficult and tiring thing to do in the world. There were so many times that they way he would speak or the expressions he would make with his face would just break your heart. I do think Eddie Peng was the true shining star of this drama, but Hu Ge’s performance was good nonetheless, and I can’t wait to watch his other dramas.

Fala Chen played another principal character, the emperor’s most favored concubine, Qin Xiang. I was not impressed by Chen’s performance. True, there were times when her icy stare would make me feel like shivering, but she was lacking in vocal and facial emotion most of the time.

The performances from the supporting cast were quite good, with the exception of the emperor’s performance, which was dull and stiff. The actress who played Hong Gu, Qin Xiang’s friend and adviser, was really good. She’s definitely the most notable of the supporting characters.

Plot and Plot Development and Ending

Ninety percent of this drama was about love. The other ten percent focused on politics. Although I have no problem with a drama being even 100% about romance, I do have a slight problem with period dramas that add political intrigue here and there only for the purpose of the drama not being all about romance. Sound of the Desert did this for the first twenty-five or so episodes and then lost steam in the last ten or so episodes because the romance was winding down and there was nothing left to do but make it all about politics. Now, I love my politics, but my interest needs to be caught near the beginning in order for it to continue.

I loved the beginning half of the drama that was about Xin Yue, her business, her friendship with Wu Ji and her love for the Ninth Lord. It was mostly light-hearted and fun and really keeps you coming back for more. Then we enter the middle of the drama, and it becomes all about the love triangle and Xin Yue’s confusion. This is when it starts to become a bit boring, but still continues to grip because we’re all interested to know who Xin Yue will pick. Then, when she finally makes a decision, the last eight or nine episodes begin, and the drama becomes slow.

The plot develops rapidly in some sections while moving like a snail or coming to a standstill in others. In the beginning, the plot development was nice. We saw minor changes in all of our main characters and their situations. In the middle, plot development was still going strong, albeit a bit too fast in some parts, but at least it was progressing nonetheless. Then, the last episodes come and the plot develops a bit too fast and it almost seems like the writers were confused about where they wanted the drama to go.

Then, the ending comes, and although it was bittersweet for me, some people may just find it sweet. It didn’t tie up all loose ends, but it tied up enough to keep us from wondering too much about the main characters.

Characters

Xin Yue’s development as a character bothered me a bit. I liked how in the beginning she was a strong, independent woman who stood up for what she believed no matter what. I didn’t like how her character changed almost as soon as she agreed to marry Wu Ji. While her character was interesting before, it became rather dull. She did whatever he said and for the most part became a woman who was no longer independent, but solely dependent on Wu Ji. I thought that this was not a good thing for the writers to do to her character and while she was one of my favorite characters in the beginning, she quickly moved down on my list.

Wu Ji didn’t go through too much developing, but he was already a simple character from the beginning. I loved how the writers made him not act out on his jealousy very much. When he did act out on it, it made you cringe, but it wasn’t very often, and he really just wanted Xin Yue to be happy.

Mo Xun went through the most development, and I definitely liked it. In the beginning, he was very noble and wouldn’t let his feelings out, which got a bit frustrating. Then, he becomes a man who will say what is on his mind and tell the woman he loves that he loves her no matter if she will return his affections. Then, in the end, also like Wu Ji, he just wants Xin Yue to be happy, and that makes his character precious.

Qin Xiang’s character was annoying, though I’m sure it was made to be that way on purpose. I didn’t feel like the motivation the writers gave her character for wanting revenge was enough, however.

The other characters, like all other dramas, ranged from annoying to lovable.

Music

Chinese period dramas seem to be really good about their music. The music in this drama was beautiful. Three vocal songs played the majority of the time. Basically, the opening theme would play as a love theme for Wu Ji and Xin Yue, and the ending theme along with another absolutely gorgeous Della Ding song would play as love themes for the Ninth Lord and Xin Yue. There was another insert song that was sung by Hu Ge, and I also really liked that one. The background music was beautiful too, and although it was a tad too cheesy and dramatic in some “Oh my God!” moments, it still had its charm.

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Well, there you have it. My first Chinese drama review, and it gets a pretty high score. Which means?? You should go watch it. It will be worth your time, I promise. You will have to get used to the voice dubbing and the stupid, squeaky voices they choose for most of the women, but I swear, once you get used to it, it’ll be like the characters are speaking in their natural voices. (Well…that’s a bit of an exaggeration, at least with this drama, but I promise you will get used to the voices)

Overall Rating out of 10: 7.7

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5 thoughts on “Chinese Drama Review: Sound of the Desert/Da Mo Yao

  1. Pingback: Chinese Drama Review: Nirvana in Fire | The OOC Channel

  2. OMG I love you for this seriously. I was convinced I was the only person who felt heartsick when I came to realize her and Ninth Lord ain’t gonna happen. Then as if I already couldn’t get more hurt I feel like I got sacked right in the heart a second time. Seriously us Ninth Lord shippers are so overshadowed I feel like we could all find each other among the masses of Wei Wu Ji fangirls. We stick out like sore thumb but united we are !!! I too am convinced that Xin Yue would’ve been happier if she ended up with Jiu Ye because if all things were equal and she discovered Jiu Ye’s true feelings for her before she was “forced” to move on, she would’ve been happiest being with the first choice of her heart. Don’t get me wrong the OTP is cute together and Eddie Peng couldn’t have brought more life to the character of Wei Wu Ji, but perhaps it’s something about Hu Ge that I fell in love with Jiu Ye at same time Xin Yue first laid her eyes on him. That’s how much I love Hu Ge as Jiu Ye that I am not entirely sure if I would’ve felt the same about Jiu Ye if it was another actor. Probably would but I was so mesmerized by Hu Ge’s acting to even imagine anyone else but him.

    • I totally agree with you! I probably wouldn’t have felt the same way had another actor played the Ninth Lord. This drama was my first introduction to Hu Ge, and he definitely didn’t disappoint (even if the romantic pairing did).

  3. came across your post when I was looking for reviews for this drama. I am a huge Hu Ge fan. Now knowing he is not going to end up with the Liu Shi Shi dont really wanna watch it.

  4. WARNING: HUGE SPOILERS BELOW:

    This was a good review of the drama. I can’t read Chinese and there are few comments on this drama on the English language websites, so I really appreciate this.

    The story and characters were fun in the first 25 episodes, and I particularly liked General Wei’s roguish charm and Xin Yue’s forthrightness. The best scenes really were the interactions between those two.

    The harem politics were dreadfully long and boring, especially since they’re barely mentioned in the book (the advantages of a first-person narrative is that you get to skip all the villain plotting scenes) and the imperial politics became overwhelming in the last 10 episodes. I was really uninterested by Qin Xiang. We know she’s headed for a dead end plot, why put so much time into it?

    Hu Ge as always was perfect in his character, and actually reminded me a lot of his physically-weak character in Nirvana in Fire. If only he hadn’t been a noble idiot in the beginning when Xin Yue was throwing herself at him.

    I was initially a bit distracted by Eddie Peng’s boyish looks, narrow jaw and long chin, but his acting was awesome and the intense scenes with Cecilia Liu were spot on. His acting was really impressive. General Wei was such a great character – strong in war, indifferent in politics, but utterly devoted in love and wily and strategic enough to wait and catch his wild ladylove. Eddie Peng captured his twinkling eyes, brave arrogance, and love for the heroine. The look on his face when he sees all the other men in her life….

    Cecilia Liu was very good. I’ve seen her in several dramas and she really convinces me that the hero is her OTP. In this drama I’m shipping her with Ninth Lord, no wait, General Wei, then in Lost Love in Times I think she should be with William Chan, but of course, we all know she really belongs with Fourth Prince…She’s a great actress. However, the sharp contrast between her happy wolf girl self in the first 25 episodes and her crying depressed anxious self in the last 10 episodes made it a bit unrealistic to me. Also, the super unflattering Han hair style made her face look completely different from the stylish updos she has in Lost Love in Time.

    Visually, I found the drama very brown/yellow toned. A lot of scenes are in dark rooms, with the actors’ faces half in shadow. It made the drama seem very dated to me, not like it was filmed in 2014. Newer dramas, like Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, or Nirvana in Fire, or Lost Love in Time, have brighter, whiter lighting. The CG was subpar, but the actual scenery was quite beautiful, especially the desert scenes.

    I really love the theme song that plays when General Wei and Xin Yue are together. “Pacifying the World” has a syncopated triplet beat which makes it very evocative. It really caught my attention when he was brushing her hair.

    Storywise, I found the family backgrounds of General Wei and Ninth Lord to be very complicated and confusing. Xin Yue works in a dancing house, but we never see her performing for a paying audience or serving/accompanying paying customers, which they do in the dance house. Xin Yue owns several dancing houses and brothels, but later on we never see her engaged in the business, just quietly sitting along with Hong Gu going over the books. It’s as if they white washed her story a bit.

    As to the ending, Ninth Lord does live on. This is the first book in a trilogy, and the second book, Song in the Clouds, has a character who is described as Ninth Lord’s adoptive son. I’d like to think Ninth Lord, who is loved throughout the desert, goes on to live a fulfilling life surrounded by people who care for him.

    I don’t know if this is a common problem with the chinese dramas, but by chapter 35 I was pretty disgusted at the selfish Emperor, Empress, Senior Princess, Consort Li, Sima Lie, Wei Ang, etc, even Great General Wei. Everyone left at court was just rotten. I find that in Chinese dramas, the last 10-15 episodes usually involved the hero/heroines getting physically injured/sick/poisoned/etc and in a serious decline. Then in the last episode, there’s about 20 minutes of happiness to show a happy ending. Or, there’s no happy ending and someone dies. That’s it!

    After emotionally investing in the OTP and watching 40-60 hours of chinese drama, I wish they would put in longer happier endings. If I want to watch something tragic I’d go read Shakespeare….Even just a short segment where the OTP are living happily in a new home with their 3 kids would be fine, so we know that all their pain and sacrifice was worth it – kind of like the epilogue ending in the k drama Secret Garden. Or the little blurb in Dragon Sabre Heavenly Sword about a beautiful woman in white, highly skilled in the Nine Yin Manual martial arts, who arrives in the middle of the conflict and alludes that she is a descendant of the Condor Hero Yang Guo and his lady. Real life can be tragic/depressing enough. I’d like to think that all those happy times in the first 25 episodes would end up in a long, happy ending.

    By the end of the drama, I had a lot of conflicting emotions, but I think it’s worth a watch and I’m going to re-watch it again, especially now that I know how it turns out.

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