Title: The Lord of the Rust Mountains
Author: Kanata Yanagino
Series: The Faraway Paladin #3 – Primus
Will is trying to manage the lands within Beast Woods and protect the people, but a prophecy about the evil within the Rust Mountains warns him that trouble is coming. For the Rust Mountains house a mercurial dragon. Sometimes siding with the gods, sometimes siding with their enemies, in the last war this dragon partnered with the demons to devastating effect. The dwarves lost their ancestral home. Thousands died. Will has no chance of beating the dragon, but he can’t stand aside as innocent people are once more going to be slaughtered . . .
This volume is split into two parts, so the story here is incomplete in and of itself. That said, the story arc as a whole is very strong, and this first part sets out the stakes and throws in a lot of complications.
Here we meet the dwarves. Will envisions them the way Blood talked about them—warriors proud and strong, unyielding in the face of certain death. But what he meets is the wreckage of a people who have wandered for two centuries. Timid. Spiritless. Broken.
That would be enough for Will to help anyway, but I love how he’s trying to encourage them—and one in particular—to stand back up. Even though Will himself admits he did the same things they did, in his previous life. Maybe because of that, he wants them to go farther than he had. He can’t quite remember the thing that ultimately broke him in that life, but he knows what the results were: a life where living and dying were basically the same to him.
I also really like how Will points out it doesn’t take anything exceptional to succeed. Practice and basic skill building, and a willingness to get back up again, are really all you need. The biggest things are built on those little building blocks.
Menel gets some interesting new abilities, too. I like that he’s not getting left behind as Will continues to improve. Even though he might feel like Will’s far better than he is, they’ve become a team.
Stagnate gets an interesting encounter too. (And it’s awesome that the god of undeath is called Stagnate.) I like how Will can totally understand where Stagnate is coming from and still be resolutely against Stagnate’s conclusions. Stagnate is nothing if not complicated, and Will can benefit from that even if they are enemies. And Will wants to be enemies—everything Stagnate can offer is everything that ruined him previously, but that doesn’t make it less tempting.
Will’s crisis of conscience is also very good. The skills and abilities he’s gained in this time are not insignificant, but he’s being told point blank by multiple parties that this will not be enough to stop a dragon. That it’s okay to step back or run away. But that’s a dangerous position for Will, who has memories of an entire lifetime where he’d stepped back and run away from the problems facing him. So far those memories have been the impetus for him to take hold of life with all his strength, but they also represent a trap. Giving in just once will put him back in that place inside his heart, and then the next time his courage is required its fractured strength may falter again.
This is one of the main reasons I enjoy his displays of overwhelming strength. It’s often training prevailing in spite of what’s going on in his heart. He’s not proud, but realistic about how far he’s come and how far he has yet to go. He keeps a very level head. But even Will needs encouragement to push him to take the steps he wants to take, but is afraid to. Even though he can remind himself, he needs other people to stand up with him.
I adore the end. Will finally divulges a bit more about his past to his closest friends, to hilarious results. (I’ve wanted to see Menel’s reaction ever since they became friends.) It’s so understated, and just imagining the reactions had me laughing long after I put down the book.
The humor continues to be really good. Whether it’s Will commenting on how hiring maids actually worked out for him (versus the tropes he’d been familiar with from Japan), the conversation where he’s trying to defend his utter lack of a dating life, or watching how everyone around him reacts to what he thinks is perfectly normal, there’s a good bit of levity balancing out the more serious bits.
Overall this (partial) volume continues the adventure in some wonderful directions, and although I’m a bit sad they didn’t just bundle both halves of volume 3 together for the English release, I’m still very glad I continued with the series. I rate this book Highly Recommended.