The Benefits and Pleasure of Reading Light Novels

Normally this is the time of week I’d have a light novel or manga review and I certainly have more than a few books stacked on my desk and ready for their reviews to be written or finalised. However, recently I was asked what I enjoyed about reading light novels and it made me start thinking about the changes in my reading habits over the past two years since I started reading my very first light novel series, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash.

My whole life I’ve been obsessed with books. I fill shelves with them, spend hours rummaging through dusty boxes and shelves in second hand book stores, and spend more than a fair bit of time online shopping for books. However, growing up my focus was decided split with fantasy, science fiction and horror books on the one side and the standard classic literature list on the other. At university I expanded more into a range of authors who pioneered or represented movements or were renowned in some form or another, though I definitely kept enjoying my genre fiction.

It was pretty standard for me to be carrying two to three novels on me at any one time and cycle through them based on my mood or how much time I had to sit and read.

Maka Albarn - Soul Eater - Reading books

Then adulting happened.

I know, becoming an adult is kind of that thing we all have to do. But it had a definite impact on my reading because after spending a day reading for work meant by the time I came home I wanted entertainment that was less immersive and demanding of me and so movies and games filled the recreation time, as did my growing obsession with anime. I still read books, but they became something I stacked away and stored for long weekends or holidays where I would devour two or three in quick succession. Young adult novels became more standard in my collection because they were quicker to read and I was sure to complete it before I got distracted by work again.

As my anime obsession grew, so did my curiosity with the source material of many anime and while I wasn’t overly keen on reading manga, I decided it was time to plunge into light novels.

Fortunately for me I picked wisely.

At first I ordered one volume of one series when it was on sale and thought the worst that could happen was it would end up donated to a charity where it would end up sold on to someone else. However, I kind of became hooked.

For all that the first volume of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is not a perfect book by any means, the story rolls over you easily and carried you along to the end. There’s enough description to sketch in the world and character dialogue to give them shape, but it doesn’t get bogged down in details or tedious conversations that serve no purpose.

In a nutshell, it is easy and undemanding to read. Plus, easily devoured in a single sitting or over a couple of evenings so even with work demands it was something I could sink my teeth into and enjoy.

However, as my collection of light novels and manga (because one opened the door to the other) grew I ran into a few problems as well as a few really good points.

My main problem was storage space. Because of the quick read time and number of volumes in some sets it became quickly apparent I was going to need to a new shelf to store them on. But the other issue is that each series seems to be its own specific shape. Some are wider or taller than others and so stacking books has become quite the game of jenga and I’m not entirely convinced I’m the best person for the job. Particularly when I decide to read an older volume and pull it out from under a precarious stack, or the latest volume of a series I just read needs to be placed under another series requiring some careful handling.

This is a dream come true, a room totally surrounded by books.

Admittedly, a lot of people are probably just better at dealing with stacks that don’t perfectly align but for me everytime I look at the light novel collection I just want to try to make all the spines line up neatly and I’ve yet to succeed because they just don’t.

The other problem is naturally cost. While each book doesn’t cost all that much, particularly taking into account the frequency of online sales, the speed at which the books are read and again, the number of volumes each set will end up with, means that the cost of books rapidly adds up. It isn’t insurmountable but in order to stop myself binge spending on any other given day I plan lists and schedules for my next book order to keep it all under control and under budget.

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Yet both of these are petty complaints.

The books I’ve bought and read so far have been fun and entertaining. They’ve given me a raft of colourful characters and settings and plots that are incredibly. In the case of Grimgar and DanMachi the books have filled the void left by anime that next concluded the story and in the case of the Natsume manga I’ve found a new and amazing way to experience a story I loved in anime form. Arifureta gave me something different in a genre I’m familiar with from anime, and so on and so forth.

I love the artwork that is included in these books, whether it is the fold out work at the beginning of the volumes or the images scattered throughout, it just adds something to the reading experience. And certainly I appreciate any book that is easily slotted into a handbag or travel bag. That and a book that doesn’t hurt when it falls on my face because I fell asleep while reading.

Certainly I’ve ordered the first volume of some series and it just hasn’t worked for me and I’ve not continued on, but that is true of all types of books. Growing up there was a huge second hand book sale that took place every six months and the last day of the sale always had a fill-a-bag option and so I would plunder the fantasy section of any and everything I hadn’t read. I worked on the standard idea that only one in every ten books I started would actually be amazing and only three in ten would be good enough to end up on my book shelf. The rest would be read and then returned to the charity to end up at the next book sale. The only tragedy being that one particular book got purchased on three separate occasions.

Yeah, No Game No Life looked like it should be perfect for me, but just didn’t work out.

From that point of view, I’ve had far more hits than misses when it comes to reading light novels, though given a lot that I’ve chosen I’ve watched the anime of, I’m not going in blind to very many.

While a few people I know feel I’ve gone backwards a bit in my reading, all I can say is that I’m having as much fun as every consuming stories. While the pictures on the covers of the books I’m reading these days may be brighter, what hasn’t changed is my general love of words and nicely flowing plot with characters I can get behind and want to see succeed.

Next week I’ll get back to actually reviewing something from the stack before it takes over my desk entirely but before then, if you read light novels I’d love to know what you find appealing about them?

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Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 8 Light Novel Review

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Volume 8

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.

Haruhiro Vs Rantar

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).

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Volume 8

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).

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In Case You Missed It

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Another week where it felt like things were go, go, go. But then again, I guess the lead up to Christmas always feels like that as for some reason everyone decides the things that could wait all year suddenly need to be done right now. However, it is also a time where people start doing housekeeping and putting themselves in order. Last week some three bloggers that I followed announced an end to their blog. And while I know blogs come and go all the time, some without announcement, it is still sad to see people leaving the community here on WordPress because it is a community that is so much fun to be a part of.

So without further ramblings, let’s get to this week’s anime related blog posts that I came across while scuttling around in my corner of the internet. As usual, I didn’t have time to read as much as  I liked and there are probably some truly fantastic posts I missed, so please feel free to give a shout out to them in the comments below.

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Posts from the Community

Who Am I has an interesting post about the source of Kirito’s strength in Sword Art Online Alicization. They avoid going into spoilers for the arc, which is great, because I’m enjoying being pleasantly surprised by what happens and don’t really want to be told, it would take all the fun out of speculating. Still, they make a good point about Kirito and why he is fundamentally able to break or overcome the rules and other characters based on the information we’ve been given in the first 8 episodes. A very nice post to read.

Cactus Matt takes some time to look at 10 typical complaints about harems and works at rebutting them, or agreeing with them but in a round-about way making it clear that it doesn’t matter that the complaint exists. Keep in mind that he isn’t actually telling people who dislike harems they are wrong or that they should like them, merely that their not liking the harem genre is no reason to spoil the fun for those who do enjoy it. It’s a fun post and written in Matt’s typical conversational and entertaining style.

Ty from Watash wa Bucho shares a summary of why various bloggers still love anime. It was fun thinking about it about this idea and great to read the responses of others. Seeing the common themes from responses put together here is a solid reminder that there are a lot of reasons to love anime. This one is a great read to make you smile.

Yomu follows up their excellent review of Jormungand last week with a character analysis/discussion of Koko Hekmatyar, a very dynamic and interesting character indeed. While there are a few spoilers in this post if you really want to keep the plot a secret, for those who have watched Jormungand, or are interested and don’t mind having a bit of foreknowledge, this post is a great read and a lot of fun.

Koko Hekmatyar - Jormungand

Irina has a discussion post about the technical vs creative merits of anime and asks why more people don’t look at the technical. Like so many of her posts it is a great conversation starter and well worth the read, as well as reading the comments to find out what others think. Of course, I’m pretty sure most of my readers have already found this one.

Atelier Emily has a truly beautiful post about creating otherworldly spaces through visuals in Tsurune. One of the big draws for the show early on was just how beautiful it was and how the visuals drew me into each and every scene, and reading this post really emphasised how well thought out and detailed the visual direction has really been in this anime. A really great post to read.

Tsurune Episode 2

From Ink and Image there’s a post that looks at Lupin the Third and how the show and characters have evolved over time. I’m not a huge Lupin fan but I was still curious about this franchise that continues to enthral audiences and seems to capture new viewers decade after decade and this post was an interesting read as to how the story has managed to not become too dated over time. Great post to read.

Artemis from Otaku Lounge has a great top 5 list of English OP’s performed by native English speakers. It is a companion piece to a previous top 5 list which is linked in the post, and also an awesome list, and I just love lists. This one is a great read, and you can listen to some great OP’s so be sure to go check it out.

Pick of the Week

L-zerb did a comparison piece on SAO (season 1) and Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash this week and when I read the title of this post and the first paragraph I was a little worried that we were diving into another SAO bashing session. Instead, I found a thoughtful, reasonably balanced attempt at comparing how the two stories dealt with their premises and built up  their characters and the danger in the worlds. I really enjoyed reading this and it made think about all the things I loved about both anime as well as acknowledge the flaws they have. Absolutely great read, though clearly spoilers for both anime in the post so if you haven’t watched them and you are worried about that, probably give it a miss.

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Inquiring Minds Want To Know #41: If you could live in one world which would you choose?

Inquiring Minds Want to Know - Ichigo

Welcome to another ‘inquiring minds want to know’ post where readers ask and I attempt to answer their questions. This is post number 41, and I am really happy to have had so many amazing questions so far in this series, even if my answers don’t always do them justice. Still, this will be the last one in the series for 2018 and I’ll pick this series of posts up again sometime in January. In the meantime, please leave your questions in the survey and I’ll get to them in the new year.

If you could live in one anime/manga/light novel world (excluding Aincrad post-Aincrad arc) which world would you choose? from Alexie The Great

I realised when thinking about this question that way back in June of 2016 I wrote a feature about anime worlds that caught my eye though I will admit that looking back at it, there one world I didn’t include either because I wasn’t aware of it then or because at the time I hadn’t really gotten hooked on in.

And yes, that world is Grimgar from Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

Grimgar Of Fantasy and Ash

I loved the anime of this one, but it is through reading the light novels that I’ve truly fallen head over heels for the world constructed in the narrative. What excites me more is that everything feels like it is part of a much richer wider world so every discovery actually creates the space for more discoveries and for the world to continue to open up. Because we experience the world through Haruhiro and his group’s perception we only have it expand and open up to us as they become stronger and venture further into it.

Now, common sense declares that this is a terrible choice. Seriously, I’d be the last picked for a team, I have no clue what role in the party I’d be given but I doubt I’d be very good at it, and ultimately I’m not sure my survival odds in Grimgar are particularly good. 

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash - Mana

But, it is a world I would love to explore. A world full of possibilities and amazing creatures and places and a world that expands beyond the realm of our heroes’ knowledge meaning we can continue to explore it for as long as our heroes don’t get killed.

That and the anime was just plain beautiful. 

So yes, while Disboard from No Game No Life remains a world I am highly curious about (and is probably a bit safer), and the world explored in Chaika was fun, and travelling worlds with Syaoran in Tsubasa Chronicles sounds like a blast, I think in 2018 my answer to this question would definitely be Grimgar.

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash - Haruhiro fight

That’s of course because Aincrad was taken off the table because I’m still all for exploring there. Now remember, if you have a question, please just fill in the simple survey below (two questions and you don’t need to answer the second one) and returning mid-January, the Inquiring Minds Want to Know series of posts should continue to try to answer your questions.

As always though, I’d like to throw this week’s question over to the readers. So if you could live in one anime/manga/light novel world, which would you pick and why? Share in the comments and I look forward to your responses.

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Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 6 + 7: Biting Off More Than They Can Chew

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 6

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.

Review:

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.

Grimgar7a.jpg

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.

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Level 6

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.

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

The review below contains 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.

Grimgar5b.jpg

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.

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

The review below contains 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.

Grimgar4b

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.

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If you’re interested in reading Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash Volume 4 it is available on the Book Depository.