This conclusion gave me everything I needed from this series even if I do think it was a little drawn out. The final escape from the Labyrinth happened fairly quickly but drew on what the characters had learned throughout the previous volumes and really worked very well. However, the aftermath with the political conspiracies and the like were a little less thrilling.
I think part of the issue is that Ewan is the character we’ve mostly been following and he’s a fairly nice and naive character. Watching him get thrown in jail and treated so horribly wasn’t exactly fun, particularly when Ewan really didn’t have a clue about any of the politics going on. And given so much is from his perspective, it means that a lot of the action and unravelling of thee conspiracies happens off screen so to speak and we’re later told about it or it is revealed in flashbacks which minimises the impact of it to the reader.
They certainly go out of their way to up the stakes in this volume and the conclusion is very conclusive so no complaints there. Overall I really enjoyed this series and even if the happily ever after we get to seems just a little bit far-fetched in terms of reality, it all makes sense in terms of how this story was framed.
Really glad I read this series but I’m not going to write anything more about this final book because to be honest it is probably more fun to find out for yourself. Still, great characters, a real sense of tension or danger running through most of the story, and a satisfactory conclusion mean that overall this series was quite the exciting read.
Ewan’s story continues as the castle continues to flood and the mysteries surrounding the other captives and contenders for the throne continue to pile up. Things are going to get very serious in this third volume.
We once again have to thank the cover for showing us a major plot twist and also giving into the cliche that crazy people all lick things. I don’t know why this is such a common trope in manga and anime but I find it quite odd that the only way that some people feel they can immediately show us some character is disturbed in some way is for them to stick their tongue out and lick something. Bonus points if it includes blood.
Now that I’m done critiquing the cover art, how was volume 3? Actually pretty good. There’s a real tension in this story with the time pressure of the castle filling with water and the characters facing traps and getting progressively more injured as their journey continues. It might be a contrived reason to have tension but it has been pretty affective throughout these volumes and volume 3 really escalates things.
Ewan continues to be interesting enough as the protagonist, but like it so many stories with large casts, the support cast here are eclipsing him. He is reactive to situations he knows nothing about whereas the other characters have come in with motives and knowledge and their decisions and actions are a great deal more interesting. Ewan also gives in to the protagonist cliche of just being really nice and somehow that’s enough to get everyone on side in a way that only ever works in stories. I’m feeling in the real world Ewan would have been swimming with the fishes already.
Despite that, the end of volume 3 was a little disappointing. It just felt kind of cheap giving away the clever plots and traps to face off against a clearly disturbed player in the end. Admittedly, his motive and backstory were interesting enough and certainly the cliff-hanger ending makes you want to immediately read volume 4 (and I certainly did and will be reviewing next week) but it was probably the first real moment in this series where I’ve thought it was just a little bit silly.
That said, we’ve got political intrigue, severed heads, helpful mice, and traps galore so this third volume will certainly keep you on your toes as you continue to move through the labyrinth with Ewan and friends.
The story of Emperor, the castle and Ewan continue with more dangers and plots in this second volume of the story. If you missed my review of volume 1, check it out here.
I’m just going to say that covers that give away major plot developments need to seriously be banned. Not that it wasn’t blindingly obvious where that final arc was going and what needed to happen for Ewan to not be dead by the end of Volume 2, but it would be nice to pretend there was some sense of mystery going on here.
That said, much like volume 1, this is a pretty compelling read. It continues to go through a lot of the standard cliches with the traps and dangers the characters are facing, and even the antagonism within the group is all pretty expected, and yet it plays true to it’s story and it works. Ewan’s interactions with the rest of the characters always seem genuine, even if a little bit twee, and at times there definitely seems to be real danger faced by these characters, though so far the story itself hasn’t actually committed to really dealing out permanent damage (certainly small injuries and the illusion of life threatening without actually letting the story get that dark).
But if you can swallow a heart-to-heart conversation between a guy with a dislocated shoulder who is hanging off a ledge and another guy who is trying to hold his weight, a treasure that more or less confirms what we already suspected, and the inevitable betrayal from someone within the group who is going to kill someone for the good of the country (I always love that line because it just sounds so pretentious), then what you will end up with is a really gripping tale. The characters are more fleshed out in this volume and there’s still plenty of growth potential.
I actually finished this some time ago so I’ve already got the next volume waiting to be read. My biggest issue with this is because it is a manga, I read the entire thing in less than an hour so the cost to time entertained ratio is not quite working out. Even with discounts, the average cost of one of these is the same as a cheap movie ticket so I’d kind of want two to three hours entertainment. That said, I did re-read volume one right before starting volume 2 and I think I’ll read through the two previous volumes again before I finally get to volume 3 so maybe the cost will work out. And that probably explains why I’m not that into manga. It’s just too expensive for the incredibly short read time regardless of how compelling the story might be.
When Ewan was young he was told a story about the Castle of the Thousand-Year Labyrinth and the tragedy that occurred there. Now he’s woken up to find himself and seven other candidates to be the next emperor trapped inside.
From page one this story is kind of gripping. After we get the initial prologue we jump straight to Ewan waking up in the bottom of a well, not really sure how he got there (only remembering drinking tea with his brother which kind of made me think maybe the brother had drugged him, though that seemed less likely as the story went on). If I had to compare this opening to anything it would be the Canadian film Cube where a bunch of strangers wake up scattered throughout different rooms of a giant cube, meet and then try to escape.
The difference here is that most of the guys Ewan encounters are pretty clued in on what is going on and they figure out very quickly that they are candidates to become the next Emperor. Turns out everyone except Ewan is someone important (thief, detective, martial arts, etc). Which means I guess that Ewan is going to end up being the chosen one given they seemed to go out of their way to tie his waking up with the story of the Prince trapped in the labyrinth, two of the guys have now pledge to protect him, and he basically wouldn’t have any other purpose in the story if that isn’t how it goes.
However, predictability isn’t really a problem here because things just keep moving along in a very compelling manner. The characters and settings are well illustrated making this one of the few manga where I’ve actually appreciated taking the time to look carefully at each panel before moving on and while the cast of pretty boys are all the standard types we know from thousands of anime, their interactions have so far been pretty interesting.
It is clear each of them is bringing something to the party and that some of them are holding a few cards in reserve for a later play. Yet, none of them have come across as needlessly malicious so far. Even the thief, acting in his own self-interest, hasn’t directly gotten in the other’s way at this point. So while at this stage there is cooperation (kind of) in the group, it is clear that sooner or later some of these characters are going to strike out for their own ambition.
What is less clear is whether or not someone else has interfered with the process given the castle seems to be genuinely trying to kill them off and we’re told that the caretakers were killed prior to the candidates being locked in the castle. That could add some genuine intrigue to the story as we go forward.
However, I basically got to the end of this volume and immediately wanted to buy the next one (add yes, there is a heavy sequel bait ending but that wasn’t the only reason). From start to finish I enjoyed reading this and was absorbed by it. The traps are all your standard fare for this kind of story with rising flood waters, pressure sensitive tiles and the like but they’ve managed to provide enough variety and kept the pace moving along so there is no time to really feel bored.
While it was a short read, this volume was very satisfying and I do look forward to when I can get the next volume as I very much want to continue this story.
Thanks for reading.
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