The party is finally splitting up and there are some dire consequences to be found.
It’s honestly going to be impossible to review this one without spoilers so if you haven’t read this far in the series, check out the links below for some of the earlier books or check out one of my other light novel reviews here.
For those still with me, level 8 really stepped things up. As much as I loved the last couple of volumes as they left Grimgar and travelled through the Dusk Realm but the end of the volume where they finally emerged back into Grimgar was a bit of a relief. The question became what now that they’ve gotten back to Grimgar considering it isn’t their world either (though at least there are more humans in Grimgar and they’ve gotten a bit used to it).
Well, it turns out a lot can happen when the party finally arrives back. They aren’t anywhere they know in Grimgar, in fact they are a long, long way away from their familiar territory and hunting grounds or allies that might help them. This presents a number of fairly immediate problems because even though Haruhiro and the gang have undeniably gotten stronger even before their trek through the Dusk Realm (and they most definitely found strength through enduring that), they are still very small fish in the larger pond.
So the team splits up in order to scout the surrounding area and figure out what to do next.
Honestly, as soon as they made this decision it was clear what was going to happen and yet they still managed to make this interesting. Ranta and Merry end up with one group made up of orcs and other inhumans while Haruhiro and the rest end up kind of attached to a mercenary unit that may or may not be assisting a samurai village.
As the team learn about this part of Grimgar, the Samurai villages, Arnold – a force of nature, and everything else that is going on, they are continuing to search for Merry and Ranta however Ranta as always has an interesting knack for survival. When up against an unbeatable enemy, make the enemy a friend remains his standard practice and while it might be argued in this instance his instant bow act saved Merry’s life, it would be difficult to say that Ranta has particularly grown as a character.
That said, his presentation in this volume was perhaps the most nuanced yet as it seemed he was well aware of his failings but desperately wanted to save Merry and couldn’t think of a better way to go about it. It made me quite interested in where his character might go, assuming of course he lives long enough to go anywhere from this point.
However, this does set up for a climax where Haruhiro and Ranta face off. Now, anyone who has read seven books in this series will be on their edge of their seat for this confrontation. While these two have been in the same team since the beginning, the friction between them has never gone away and finally seeing them on opposite sides for real is one of those character moments you are just grateful actually eventuated and they didn’t back away from it at the last minute.
While the conclusion is yet to be decided and I’m kind of hopeful that eventually they pull the team back together, Grimgar has a penchant for being very realistic about some things. Water once spilled can’t be returned to the glass and all that. Is this the end of Ranta in the group or will they find someway to save him?
Outside of the interesting team dynamic moments, I must say Grimgar continues to introduce some weird and yet interesting supporting characters. While such a large cast might be a problem if handled poorly, here they manage to keep the focus on how each encounter changes the core group so characters coming and going from the story around them is actually handled fairly well with enough reminders of who the important support cast are for us not to forget (even though it has been awhile since we’ve seen them as Haruhiro’s group have been separated for a fair while now).
The story continues to move at a good pace giving each moment enough time to have the appropriate emotional weight without lingering overly long on any one point and while Ranta’s dialogue remains fairly insufferable, it has become pretty accepted at this point that it is part of his character.
If anything, I’d have to say my only real criticism of the story at this point is that it has become decidedly serialised. Earlier books could be read more or less independently, though needed to be read in order, and these later ones pretty much build to a climax but leave so much still be to be discovered. That would be fine if all the books were out and while I have volume 9 to read and ready to go I suspect that I’ll soon want volume 10 and unfortunately it is pre-order only and Volume 11 isn’t out until October. That would be why I haven’t been in any rush to get through these volumes because I want the story relatively fresh when I read the next book.
Grimgar remains a really great read and I think the writing has gotten better since book 1. The story and world building are great, the character development remains believable, and the books haven’t fallen into a repetitive pattern as each new adventure really does build on the last but take us somewhere new to learn more about the world and characters. I very much recommend this series to anyone looking for a more serious isekai (though early books do still have too many random fanservice moments just because).
If you’re interested in reading Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Volume 8 it is available on the Book Depository.
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