Impressions on the Latest Light Novels I’ve Read

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Recently I’ve had a bit of time in the evenings to read a few light novels and work my way through my to-be-read stack. Here are my thoughts on the latest books I’ve finished.

Light Novel: The World’s Fines Assassin Gets Reincarnated in Another World As An Aristocrat

I’m going to be honest, this light novel definitely decided to dump pretty much its entire premise into the title. The only bit that needed to be added is: As An Aristocrat Where The Family’s Secret Job Is Also Assassination.

Karandi's reaction to bad light novel titles.

Be that as it may, I kind of enjoyed this first volume by Rui Tsukiyo. Our reborn protagonist, Lugh, has a pretty clear goal as he’s been offered a chance at rebirth to complete the task of killing the hero but only after the hero defeats the demon lord. It isn’t an easy task and Lugh, having been an excellent assassin in his first life knows this.

The entire first volume is very much Lugh preparing his skills and supports for the task that I guess will eventually be upon him and so action is sporadic and it relies on the characters to carry the story.

While Lugh isn’t exceptional as a protagonist in a light novel about a reincarnated kid in a fantasy world, he’s pleasant enough and I actually liked seeing him succeed and grow.

What was less thrilling is the repetition in the narration. I don’t know if originally this was written in an online format where there were time gaps between chapter releases but information that we’ve been told in one chapter is almost always reiterated again in the next chapter. Character growth is summarised for us as if the author was worried we somehow forgot why that character was around and what they’d just done.

By the end of the book, I was getting a little annoyed as it felt like the writer didn’t trust me to remember anything and every character motivation needed to be written out before any action just to make sure we understood why they were acting the way they did.

Basically, its an interesting concept on display in The World’s Finest Assassin, some of the powers are cool, the magic and the ability of the main character to write new magic could be awesome, and I’d love to see the eventual assassin vs hero conflict but I’m not sure I want to deal with the way the story is narrated to get there.

Light Novel: Three Days of Happiness

I’ll give Three Days of Happiness points for being a little bit different from the usual type of story I read. This one came up as recommended reading on the Book Depository and I had a discount coupon so I decided why not.

The basic concept in Sugaru Miaki’s light novel is the question of what life is worth. There’s a shop where you can sell all manner of thing including time and life and our main character, short on cash and then realising how worthless his life is, sells quite the chunk.

Compared to the usual isekai story I binge read while working, Three Days of Happiness is quite heavy reading and forces quite a bit of contemplation from its reader. It’s described as dark and moody and that isn’t wrong. While not a perfect story by any means and with a protagonist who frequently feels self-destructive and aimless it isn’t exactly uplifting.

But nor is it really supposed to be.

Karandi contemplating life while readinga light novel.

I really loved the character journey undertaken by Kusunoki throughout the novel and while I never much liked him as a character, that wasn’t really a problem.

Three Days of Happiness leaves you really just still and taking stock of your own life and while I probably would have preferred to read it over a break from work (hard to focus on your job when you are in the midst of an existential crisis) I certainly did enjoy the read.

Warning though that it does contain some themes such as suicide that may not sit well with all readers.


Light Novel: Solo Leveling Volume 2

So if you read my review of the first Solo Leveling Light Novel or the audio book of volume 1, you’ll know I am very much in love with this story.

Volume 2 of Chugong’s story pushes Jinwoo even further as he continues to level up and come across situations that put his skills to the test. New characters are introduced and we learn more about the hunters and their guilds.

Karandi's excited about this light novel.

I’m not going to give much away but if volume one worked for you and you liked the game like mechanics and the grinding upgrade story then you’ll continue to enjoy it here. Jinwoo is really finding himself now that he has power and at times he isn’t the nicest guy but he also isn’t a complete jerk.

Those who spy on him or cross him get a rebuke but it is more a playful warning than anything else. Like when Jinwoo sells gates he was never planning on entering at extreme prices early in this volume to the guild that was spying on him in the last book.

The danger continues to feel very real with threats increasing as Jinwoo’s level does (a little plot convenient but it keeps the tension real). Also there’s a definite sense that this is all leading somewhere even if we’re a little vague on where.

And yes, I did pre-order volume 3 already.

I like how this story details action, I like the sense of danger and I’m enjoying Jinwoo’s character enough that I want to see where he ends up. And for as long as the story keeps exciting me I will keep reading.

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What have you been reading recently and if you’ve read any of the books above, what did you think of them?

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Solo Leveling: Vol 1 Audiobook Review

Solo Leveling Vol 1 Audiobook Review

I recently received a copy of The Solo Leveling Vol 1 Audiobook from Yen Audio to be released July 13 for the purpose of review.

Wondering if the Solo Leveling Audiobook would be good to listen to.

Having read the light novel I was curious as to how the audiobook would go. Realistically, I haven’t really listened to many audiobooks (largely because I tend to lose focus when something is just in audio form) so I wondered if I’d be able to get into the story in the different format.

For those unfamiliar with Solo Leveling it is an action/adventure story created by Chugong and is set in our world where gates to dungeons have begun to appear which sometimes unleash some fairly nasty monsters on the civilian population. Fortunately, some people have awakened as hunters and go and defeat the boss to close the gates before the monsters are released.

We follow Jinwoo Sung, who is known as the weakest of all hunters, as he goes on a dungeon raid. However, when tragedy strikes and most of the hunters who entered the gate are killed, Jinwoo having been left to die suddenly gets an opportunity he never expected.

I really liked that it is a fantasy story that isn’t an isekai and the way the fantasy elements were woven into real world settings. I also liked the way the story continues to escalate a sense of danger and tension. Basically, while the plot of weakest to strongest is kind of done a million times, Solo Leveling has made it quite interesting and the journey so far at least has been worth following.

The audiobook has been narrated by Ki Hong Lee and you can check out a bit of a biography for him over on the Hachette Audio site as well as find links to where the Solo Leveling Vol 1 Audiobook will be available.

Ki Hong Lee has done a great job narrating Solo Leveling Vol 1.

So let me just say, Ki Hong Lee has done an excellent job narrating this story.

The pace, which is usually something that drives me crazy about audio books, is actually pretty decent. You don’t feel like you are hanging on each word and just waiting for them to move on. Instead, the pace is easy to listen to, pauses feel appropriate, and there’s a sense that you are moving forward with each sentence.

The clarity was also awesome on the copy I received. I was listening while going on a short trip around the state to visit a number of family members and friends (so plenty of car time) but because I was traveling with someone I was listening through headphones (traffic noise, road and engine noise, other people) and it was still really clear and easy to follow.

One thing I really have to compliment Ki Hong Lee on is the way he brought the characters of Solo Leveling to life.

Jinwoo, as the main character, is given a voice and internal narration that really made him feel real and it was easier to connect with him as he went through this incredible journey from near-death to becoming stronger and facing off against monsters and other hunters.

There’s a number of scenes where a reasonably large number of hunters are together in a frantic situation inside the dungeons and the dialogue between them comes thick and fast with few dialogue tags and yet the way they included subtle variations in tone to distinguish between them worked really well.

The one exception to that was probably when one of the female hunters screamed. I kind of get that the narrator of an audiobook isn’t actually going to scream (causing pain to the listener) but the half-hearted ‘scream’ included here actually made me laugh and was one of the few immersion breaking moments while I listened.

Small criticisms aside - Solo Leveling was a great read.

The other criticism I had, before I go back to singing the praises of what was actually a really great listen, was the way the various sound effects were portrayed. Whether it was the ‘ping’ of the system delivering a message or the sounds of statues sliding across the dungeon floor, hearing sound effects being spoken doesn’t really do them justice.

When you read Solo Leveling you see the words for the sound effects but for me I just hear the sound I think it should make. Hearing someone actually speaking the sound again takes a bit of the immersion out of the experience.

Again, minor criticism and more likely a personal preference.

The narration as a whole is pretty on point and builds up tension in scenes where it is needed, delivers sarcasm and humour when needed, and paints a solid view of what is happening while you are listening.

While I intended at first to listen to this one chapter at a time I found myself reaching the end of a chapter and just continuing on because I was caught up in the story and the events and wanted to get to the next part (even though I knew how the story would go).

All and all, the Solo Leveling Vol 1 Audiobook was a great listen and this story really did come to life through the narration. Whether you’ve tried the manwha or the light novel or not, the audiobook adds a little something to the characters and was quite an experience.

Solo Leveling Vol 1 Audiobook – Find out where it will be available.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James

Solo Leveling Volume 1 Novel Review

Review Solo

One moment can change your world.

It’s final a light novel: Solo Leveling Volume 1.

I first heard about Solo Leveling from a very exuberant fan of the manwha (that he was reading fan translations of through an online app) and after his repeated insistence that it was this legendary story that I absolutely had to experience I did in fact cave and read a fair bit of it online after which we had some interesting discussions around the protagonists progress throughout various parts of the series.

However, I could never really get lost in the story. Largely because of the varying levels of quality available to read and because graphic novels just aren’t my preferred thing to read. I know I love the Natsume manga and there are a couple of others that I’ve really gotten into, but my preference is always for either watching an anime or reading a novel and alas this one wasn’t available in English.

Until now.

Karandi Happy Transparent
Happiness is receiving a pre-ordered book in the mail.

Yes, colour me thrilled when I found I could pre-order volume 1 for delivery early 2021 and even more excited when it finally arrived in the mail. I loved the cover with its bleak and fairly minimalistic style and I was absolutely ready to dive into this story.

What is Solo Leveling Volume 1 about?

For those that aren’t familiar Solo Leveling starts out as a typical zero to hero narrative with a low-ranked hunter, Jinwoo Sung, getting in over his head when a raid he’s a part of in a dungeon takes a turn for the terrifying. However, due to Jinwoo being a little bit observant, lucky, and pretty determined, he manages to save the lives of some of the other party members though this does in fact result in him being injured and finally left behind in the dungeon where it is expected he will meet a sticky end.

Yet, as is the case with such protagonists, while he does experience some very real pain and terror in this situation, a last minute plot device offers him a new start and he is turned into a ‘player’, which then introduces a raft of game mechanics into Jinwoo’s life allowing him to essentially level up when the world he is living in essentially declares hunters to be fixed in rank after they awaken.

Thoughts on Solo Leveling Volume 1
For a story device that is pretty effective.

This works significantly better than a character who suddenly just gets a massive power boost for a number of reasons. Firstly, Jinwoo has to work for every level and skill he gains. While he can now work harder to gain strength (a path that didn’t exist to him before), it isn’t freely given and the rewards he receives are always commensurate with the danger he faces.

Whether it is a party of treacherous hunters trying to kill him, an unexpected fight against a three headed dog, or an assassin trying to cover his tracks, Jinwoo has got to work hard and while the reader knows that the protagonist is realistically not going to get killed off, the story manages to make it seem like there’s real danger in each of these scenes, largely because Jinwoo remains a fairly cautious person who is well aware of his own limitations and definitely concerned about being able to continue living.

Secondly, because Jinwoo didn’t instantly get strong, it means that even though the initial incident was investigated, the change in Jinwoo was over-looked because he didn’t change in strength according to the tests done at the time of the examination. This means he doesn’t instantly come to everyone’s attention but rather has time to put his own plans into place and work on gaining strength in more or less secret throughout most of this first novel (though there’s definitely more than a handful of people starting to realise that he isn’t exactly just an E-Rank hunter anymore by the end).


Finally, this device is working because Jinwoo figures out throughout the messages he receives from the ‘system’ that there is some purpose behind him being given the ability to level up. This establishes an ongoing bit of mystery for the reader to anticipate some kind of revelation at a later date and considering Jinwoo gains nothing without paying for it (and some of the prices have already been pretty steep) you just have to wonder just what it is the system ultimately wants from him by granting him so much potential power.

Karandi Confused Transparent
Curiosity will definitely keep you reading.

Granted this isn’t exactly an original concept and weak characters gaining strength after being abandoned or betrayed has become a very common trope, but Solo Leveling manages to keep things feeling fresh, gives us a character we can genuinely get behind and generally creates a world that fuses modern day life with the fantasy of appearing dungeons and the bureaucracy of the government and associations that mange these threats. It isn’t perfect by any means but it certainly is an enjoyable piece of escapism.

For me, personally, I really like the protagonist here. He’s a very practical person who awakened as a weak hunter and probably would never have gone on a raid given the likely danger except that he has bills to pay for a sick mother and a sister he wants to put through school. Even when the first raid goes horrifically wrong and it is pretty clear he’s probably not going back alive he realises it will work out because the association will pay out the insurance money to his family so it won’t be for nothing.

Karandi Sad Transparent
Okay, he’s also materialistic and goal oriented so it isn’t like he’s some kind of saint, but still I really wanted him to win.

I also like that while he acknowledges some of the other hunters did abandoned him initially he doesn’t become all vengeance consumed. Instead he becomes more cautious in dealing with others and a little bit more closed off – he certainly expects to get something back for his actions – but he isn’t on some quest to pay back someone or get back at the world for dealing him an unfair hand.

His goals remain around being able to look after his family and getting stronger is simply his process for ensuring he is able to do that. It makes a refreshing change in this kind of story to see a character who isn’t forgiving of those who have stabbed him in the back but is also not tunnel focused on something that ends up being pretty petty.

Volume 1 covers an array of dungeons fights, we learn quite a bit about the leveling up system, and basically watch Jinwoo feel his way around his new powers. Side characters are introduced and we start getting a bit of a look at the guilds and the association but these are very much just setting up future plot points. If I had any real criticism it would be that the book just kind of stops. There’s no real sense that we’re at the end because there’s no particular climatic scenario or any kind of closure. Instead we get two further future plot points set up and then you just run out of pages to read.

I really enjoyed reading this story and basically devoured it in three sittings. Now I have to wait for the release of volume 2.

Cover Image: Solo Leveling Vol 1. Author. Chugong. Yen Press. 2021.

Thank-you for reading 100 Word Anime.
Join the discussion in the comments.
Karandi James