The Seven Princes of the Thousand Year Labyrinth Vol 4 Manga Review

The thrilling conclusion of the Ewan’s story is here. Some spoilers in the review below.

Review:

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.

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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.


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Karandi James

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The Seven Princes of the Thousand Year Labyrinth Vol 3 Manga Review

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.

Review:

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.

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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.


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Karandi James

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Goblin Slayer Volume 2 Light Novel Review: It’s Always Goblins

Goblin Slayer has quite the reputation now and in this volume he’s answering a quest request from the Sword Maiden herself, a Gold-ranked adventurer who apparently fought a Demon Lord.

My review of Volume 1 can be found here.

Review:

While this second volume doesn’t quite have the drawing power of the first, it is a very decent follow up. There is an understanding that while the protagonist is cool and all, he can’t carry the story alone, and so a lot of energy has been put into the support cast. And even while many of these characters do come off a little too one-note at times, they are all quite interesting notes and the interactions between them are always kind of fun.

The reason this novel works so well is that the readers have a soft spot for this cast. We’ve watched them come together and fight off a horde of goblins with a lot of risk and very little reward. We like these characters already and we don’t want them to die. So when the story plunges them headlong into danger there’s an instant hook to make us keep reading. Because even though I know there are plenty of novels to come and therefore it is very unlikely that the main cast are going to die here, abandoning the story when they were still stranded in a sewer never really crossed my mind as a viable option.

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If I had to complain about any character in this particular volume, it would be the Sword Maiden. I’m not really sure what they were going for. At times she seems super seductive, at others she’s the fragile and damaged adventurer, and others still she just does not seem like she’s a real character. And given she’s the catalyst for the adventure in this volume that’s probably the book’s weakest link.

However, once the quest is accepted and the characters are on their way through the tunnels and facing some fairly hairy situations, using arrows, swords, slings, magic, and whatever else is handy to survive the next encounter, the story moves along beautifully. There’s some fairly tense moments in the darkness and as the characters do come under heavy fire and several of them do sustain some fairly heavy injuries considering they are the main party – a feat the book only gets away with because there’s magic around so ultimately they manage to get the cast back on their feet before the final act.

Basically, if you enjoyed the first story, and you are up for another adventure fighting off a horde of goblins who may have learned a couple of new tricks, then this story will work for you. The writing style remains much the same and is quite enjoyable, the characters are still pretty fun, and the fight sequences manage to be exciting without getting too hectic. I had a lot of fun with this second volume and I’ll be reviewing volume 3 very soon.


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Karandi James

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The Seven Princes of the Thousand Year Labyrinth Vol 2 Manga Review

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.

Review:

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).

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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.


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Karandi James

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So I’m a Spider, So What Volume 2 Light Novel Review: Being Reincarnated is Hard

While the game mechanics are still very much going wild, this second volume follows several of the classes reincarnated students through their latest trials and tribulations. If you missed my review of Volume 1, check it out here.

Review:

This is going to be really hard to review because mostly telling you anything about the plot would drop us face first into spoiler territory. While many things can be suspected early on in this volume, it isn’t until the end of it that critical reveals are made and that kind of changes a lot of how you feel about the story.

So I’ll start with my general impression of the book, which is it isn’t all that great to read. Don’t get me wrong, the story and setting are actually quite interesting, but the heavy reliance on levelling and game mechanics really get in the way of the narrative. There are literally entire pages given to reading the main character’s current levels and statuses. I don’t even like reading those when I am playing an RPG and prefer to just guess where abouts I’ve currently levelled to. The last thing I want is the pace of a novel to come to a screeching halt to find out that Recovery Speed is now at LV4 and Cutting Enhancement is at LV2. When you couple those gripping pages with pages of ‘narrator’ dialogue telling the spider that various points are going up, you could probably shed about half the pages in the book without actually denting the story content.

Despite that, the story we get is really interesting and that just annoys me because it means I will read the next book when I can even though the writing itself is really not great.

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I don’t ever want to reincarnate as a spider.

Still, the spider’s exploits in the labyrinth are kind of fun. The setting varies sufficiently and there is enough detail put into encounters to make it worth the while. More importantly, the human characters on the surface get a lot more time in this book than in book one. Shun in particular is a far more interesting character this time around and… okay, we’re getting back into spoiler territory, but he’s a lot more noteworthy and I enjoyed his story immensely.

Still, this volume is hard to recommend as a read. There are plenty of isekai stories out there about humans in other worlds, being reincarnated as either human or not, and this one isn’t particularly great to read. I’d love to see this story shed of the gimmicky game elements and told with quite a bit more fluency, though perhaps there’s a reason those elements are needed further down the line. For now they just seem to be there because the writer couldn’t think of a better way to show character progress and that by itself is probably a big red flag.


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Karandi James

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The Empty Box and Zeroth Maria Volume 2 Light Novel Review: The Best Idea Has Flown

Overview:

They made it out of the time loop but now Kazuki finds himself with the unwanted attention of the being known only as O and someone else with a box has come to disrupt his everyday life.

Review:

I’m going to keep this review short because I don’t want to hit too many spoilers and really I don’t have a lot to say other than while this is a good read, it doesn’t quite hold up when compared to the first volume.

The first volume of this light novel really was like a bolt of lightning. Unexpected and yet glorious, I loved reading it and getting caught up in the mystery and wanting to see how they ultimately would escape. The second volume in this series remains well written and plays with the reader’s expectations but compared to near infinite loops over the same time period and a gradual unravelling of both the main characters, this volume instead has a time limit before the main character will disappear altogether. While it does put pressure on the characters to act as they don’t get the infinite do-overs, it also means that a lot of the playfulness and experimenting with ‘what might happen if’ is removed giving us a far more straight forward story.

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It isn’t that the story in this second volume is poor. It just doesn’t hold up when compared with the first volume. If anything it is kind of a bridge. It gives us a reason to believe that these characters will keep getting caught up in extraordinary events fuelled by the boxes, but in and of itself it isn’t terribly impressive.

Part of the problem lies with the central antagonists. Where their motives and actions are not terribly impressive, and their need to gloat and leave clues makes the overall mystery somewhat less mysterious and interesting, it really leaves the whole volume lacking something. It also doesn’t help that Kazuki and Maria spend a lot of this volume at odds and so there is very little chemistry between them save when it is important to the narrative.

There are a few interesting moments between Kazuki and some of his classmates. And the use of phone messages to communicate at times is used to clever effect. None of it is quite as intriguing as what the first volume offered but it is still entertaining in its own way.

Despite all of that, I would still recommend reading this. It is quite a solid follow up to the first volume and while it may not have quite the magic of the first book, it is still a decent story and leaves itself open for more to come. Basically, if you enjoyed the first book, this one isn’t as good but is still a quality read.


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Karandi James

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