The review below contains spoilers for the previous books and there will also be spoilers for level 6 as it directly leads into the events of level 7.
It has been awhile since I reviewed book 5 of this series and I finished reading this one ages ago and immediately went into book 7 so I feel a little bad about taking so long to write the review. Part of the issue with level 6 of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is that unlike every other book in this series so far, book 6 didn’t finish within its own volume. It literally just leaves us hanging at a fairly critical point and I’m not the biggest fan of completely unresolved stories so naturally had to read the next book before I could even think about reviewing it. While level 7 also doesn’t bring things entirely to an end, it does at least resolve the crisis they were facing and I felt it was a nice resting point (which is good considering I’m waiting for the actual release of the next few novels in the series. But this is all just kind of meandering around the point of what books 6 and 7 bring to the table.
Considering the world of Grimgar has always been deadly to the characters with their inherent weaknesses and inability to survive without assistance, upping the stakes in the story is actually kind of challenging. We know that these characters can die from something very small if they just let down their guard or have bad luck so they don’t really need to escalate things very much to have us in a life or death situation. With that said, the way these two books bring another level of tension to the story is actually fairly solid.
The characters are still exploring the Dusk Realm with the Tokkis but now many other teams have joined in. And it is this increased number of people that leads to the problem. The Dusk Realm starts fighting back with much larger giants and more threats than ever before. Which is what also leads to the single stupidest decision ever made in Grimgar and we see the issue with Haruhiro and the others inherently following the leads of the other teams. Soma and the Daybreakers, as well as a bunch of other teams decide to try their hand at taking out these new enemies. And to be perfectly frank it all falls apart very quickly.
We also get a lot more relationship drama with Haruhiro being the standard mopey protagonist who bows out from pursuing the girl he likes just because he thinks she’s with one of his other team members (without ever actually asking her or confirming anything). It isn’t exactly Haruhiro’s finest moment as either the leader or a character, but what it does do is set the scene for some of his best growth yet over the course of these two books. Yes, he makes mistakes. Yes, he is mopey and whines a lot. And yes, he doesn’t get his team out of the dusk realm pronto when things start going south.
However, Haurhiro’s greatest strength is that he learns from each mistake. They might cost a lot but they are lessons that he burns into his very soul and resolves to avoid making again. Level 7 finishes with one of the best moments for Haruhiro. He isn’t suddenly some amazing leader and fighter, but he overcomes a challenge that really should have left him dead and he does it almost entirely alone.
Basically, Haurhiro is a character I can get behind. Right from the beginning he’s been weak and he’s full of faults, but what he achieves despite all of his weaknesses is amazing. The fact that he’s still trying and hasn’t just laid down to die is incredible. And the story presented here showcases all his faults and his greatest strengths and it is incredibly satisfying.
The inclusion of Lala and Nono in these two volumes is a bit more of a mixed bag in terms of characters. On the one hand, they are important catalysts and unlike other teams they don’t baby Haruhiro and his group and they certainly aren’t going to carry the weak with them. On the other hand, they just aren’t developed enough for their characters to really feel like they are anything more than plot devices at this stage. They point the way at the end of level 6 and show up in level 7 mostly to deliver an interesting moment where Haurhiro faces a moral choices and makes a choice that most people would say is probably right but it leaves the group in significant trouble.
I kind of get why these two characters are presented the way they are. The story is primarily told from Haruhiro’s point of view even though it isn’t in first person and Haruhiro does not understand these characters or really know what to make of them. It makes sense that the audience is also left with that impression. However, considering their significant impact on the plot at the end of both books, these two characters needed a little more.
The rest of the team really do get sidelined though in terms of development. They each have their moments, and the group dynamic as a whole really gets explored during level 7 when they don’t know if they’ll ever get back to Grimgar, but as individuals they all just kind of blend into the group. It really feels like this story exists to push Haruhiro in his role as leader and while the rest of the team are growing their achievements aren’t as interesting and aren’t focused on.
I really enjoyed the two volumes and the story presented here. Level 7 ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger but it does feel like enough is resolved that I was happy with that as an ending point. I continue to really enjoy spending time in this world with these characters so even my complaints aren’t really complaints as much as areas that might have been a bit stronger. I found these books very easy to read and there is a nice mix of action and reflection over the two volumes. If you’ve read up to this point, these two are definitely a fine addition to the series.