Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 5 Light Novel Review: The Hole of Surprises Isn’t Kidding

If you missed my reviews of the first 4 books, check them out here. The review below will contain spoilers for the previous books.

Review:

Level 5 is an interesting entry into the Grimgar series if only because it seems to be forcing the direction of the story and the characters down a slightly different path. Prior to now day to day survival and the grief of losing friends has stayed first and foremost in the characters minds. They are newbies in a vicious world where mistakes get you killed and that kind of dominated the first four books.

Needless to say, by book 5 a change was needed. Not because what came before it wasn’t good, but because there’s only so many hunting trips where the characters caution each other, or pitched battles where they rely on others and feel regret, that you can read through before it starts to become repetitive. These characters are no longer the newbies in the world and they realise they have to step things up. The end result isn’t flawless and certainly as a story this chapter is probably weaker than the previous entries, and yet the possibilities it presents for future instalments makes me want to keep going.

Let’s look at some specifics. Level 5 sees Haruhiro and the crew still playing in the Wonder Hole and getting into a kind of routine. All of that changes when they discover a new shaft in that isn’t known to the other recruits and they decide they want to claim it as there’s. Unfortunately for them, team Tokimune also stumble upon the discovery and so an uneasy alliances is formed.

This premise has some great potential. For the first time Haruhiro and the others aren’t just following along with the directions they are given. Initially they started goblin hunting in areas they were directed to, and then Mary led them to the mines. The pitched battle was organised by others as well and even their forays in the Wonder Hole were always following the advice they were given about the different areas and dwellers. Moving into unknown territory is a huge step for this group. Also, pairing with another team, while they’ve kind of worked with team Renji before during a battle, allows new characters and interactions and a general shake up of the group dynamics. There’s really a lot of scope being opened up at the start of this book.

Unfortunately there is a major problem fairly quickly. And that is that team Tokimune is made up of nut-jobs and not the fun kind. While one or two eccentrics would be understandable and could even be fun in this setting, an entire team of people who seem like they shouldn’t have survive a week in Grimgar is asking a bit much. Then as these characters dominate a lot of the interactions part of me is almost wishing for Ranta to start shouting again. Oh, but he does that anyway. So we’re left with the worst interactions from the original crew and a new team that aren’t all that interesting (because they are trying to hard to be quirky) or likeable.

Where this volume manages to save itself is that it presents a genuinely interesting challenge for the teams. And as team Tokimune are the ones blundering into things unprepared for once, it makes Haruhiro and his team step up and take the lead, which is quite satisfying to see. While they aren’t instant juggernauts and the threat of death continues to seems very close at all times, these characters are quite pleasing in their new role as the stable support and later the rescue squad.

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There’s a very weird series of interactions between Haruhiro and Mimorin from the other team that seem to be indicating that she’s wanting to either adopt him as a pet or maybe she’s falling for him. I’m not really sure but their interactions are weird and the book ends with these two which makes me wonder about how significant this character is overall or whether she’s going to fade away after this one volume.

Overall though, while the book has its good points and weaker parts, it is a very satisfying continuation of a story that I’m pretty engrossed in and I’m looking forward to buying the next books and finding out where it goes.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 4 Light Novel Review: Thematic Consistency Makes For A Compelling Read

I’ve reviewed the first three books in this series but if you missed those posts you can read them here. The review below will contain spoilers for the previous books.

Review:

I said in my review of the third book that each story here takes us further into the rich world of Grimgar and book 4 is no exception. However, stronger than the extraordinary setting is the ongoing development of the characters and the themes of loss and the will to survive.

After the death of Manato in book 1, Grimgar set its tone clearly and also demonstrated a fairly strong ability to write real human emotions into a story. Coping with loss and death is done fairly poorly in so many stories with characters completely breaking down or just forgetting about the death as soon as they step away from the grave. Grimgar managed to show the mourning process in a compelling manner as well as portray the long journey back to some kind of emotional normalcy even while the characters were forced to continue to act because to wait would have been to die.

The death at the end of book 3 (which might have been a tease) was confirmed very swiftly in book 4 and even though I had quite a few weeks waiting for the next book to be released and to arrive, I hadn’t quite come to terms with what that death would mean for the party. Once again, Grimgar has managed to impress me with its handling of the grief process each character goes through and their recovery as a party. It isn’t a repeat of what we saw in book 1. These characters have gone through so much since then and this is the second time, but that actually makes it more intriguing.

Merry wasn’t with the party when they lost Manato but she has lost her own comrades and this death hits her hard and reinforces her fear that she is a failure as a priest. For Ranta, he has lost the one person in the party who kind of tolerated him and someone he’d actually started forming a connection with. But outside of the loss of a comrade and making so many of them feel guilty, is the feeling that without Moguzo they will die. That their party can’t survive without him.

There’s also the added emotional confusion when several members of the party are offered places in more established and potentially safer groups with more experience.

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But this book isn’t just dwelling on the past. Once again, the story manages to balance dealing with the characters’ emotions with moving the plot forward. More importantly, the characters still aren’t at the stage where they can rest as each day uses money and if they don’t fight they don’t earn. Another replacement party member is found and the group begin to explore new territory taking some risks in the hopes of getting stronger and finding a way for long term survival.

While Ranta remains a fairly insufferable character, his presence is kind of needed in this group and the story balances him well as he never crosses the line of making me hate him as a character. He is annoying and he stirs the other characters and at times he is a complete idiot, yet in every fight I find myself hoping he survives if only so he can stir Haruhiro up the next day.

Actually, I like all the characters as characters. They are all flawed people and struggle at times and I doubt I’d like many of them in real life, but I’ve grown very attached while reading this series and knowing that the writer can and will kill characters leaves me feeling quite stressed during fight sequences.

On that note, the final battle delivered in this book tops anything read so far and once again I’m wondering why the anime didn’t make it this far because books 3 and 4 would be incredibly impressive in anime form.

However, I can’t just be all lovey-dovey about this book so my small criticism would be Haruhiro’s character. After the progress he had been making before this book, now he seems to stagnate as a character and given he’s the narrator that might become a problem. Still, it seems as though the final fight may have broken through some wall so maybe book 5 will deliver some growth. Unfortunately it isn’t available on the Book Depository just yet. Still, I am very keen to read on.


Thanks for reading.

Karandi James

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