Monthly Archives: July 2019

Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland (Rachel Griffin #3)

Title: Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland

Author: L. Jagi Lamplighter

Series: Rachel Griffin #3

When a bit of dreamwalking goes wrong, Rachel ends up across the world and deep in another mess. Demons are breaking into her world—and will break her world utterly if they aren’t stopped. The only problem is that no one knows how to stop them.

The best thing about these books is still the humor. Siggy and Lucky, as always, get first place.

“Sorry,” growled Lucky. “Couldn’t resist. I mean they were just flying there… like tiny chickens. Who could be expected not to want to annihilate them utterly with super-hot flame?”

But they’re starting to get fierce competition from Gaius, whose remarks often left me in stitches.

Gaius raised his right hand solemnly, “I will keep your secret. Er… with Vlad’s standard clause of: ‘if you are planning to blow up a significant portion of the world, the deal is off.’”

Now that we’re three books in, the character development continues to improve. We finally get more details about who Vlad and Gaius were in their previous lives (well, off-planet, before-Raven-meddled lives). And the answers are fascinating, because it’s obvious neither of them have truly changed at their core, but the various factors around them may have the power to move them in somewhat different directions this time.

I especially liked the development with the Raven. He’s gone from being Rachel’s most dreaded nightmare to something closer to a best friend. It’s also interesting to see how Rachel may be unwittingly humanizing him, as his appearance has been changing from beast to angel.

I liked how history plays a bigger role in this. Certain historical references come up, and end up being very important to the overall plot. Although I’m also really amused it gives Gaius the opportunity to show off.

“In other words, we do not want any Pyrrhic victories,” said Gaius, “which is appropriate, considering that we are discussing a deity worshipped by the Carthaginians. Oh… wait. Wrong Roman war. That would be a Punic victory, wouldn’t it?”

Overall this is another excellent story in the ongoing series. If you liked the earlier books at all, this one continues to up the ante. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel (Rachel Griffin #2)

Title: The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel

Author: L. Jagi Lamplighter

Series: Rachel Griffin #2

Things have barely quieted down at Roanoke Academy since the battle with the dragon. Now that the Wisecraft know there is a geas that can control people without them remembering it, everything is in an uproar. Rachel is desperate to be in the thick of things, but the adults are trying to keep students in the dark—even though the students themselves are the ones most likely to be hurt. If no one will tell her anything, she’s determined to keep investigating herself . . .

I really like how Vladimir Von Dread and Gaius are shaping up as the book goes on. Pretty much all the adults have written Vlad (and by extension, his loyal henchman Gaius) off as evil, but as the first book showed, that’s oversimplifying things by a lot. Now Rachel is finding that the people she trusted so well are brushing off serious concerns, but Vlad is willing to take her warnings to heart.

As for Gaius, he’s enough older than Rachel to make dating a concern—which even Rachel admits. So she teeters between wanting to keep him as a friend, and wanting him to be more. I like how Gaius is, even more than Vlad, ambiguous.

But nobody beats Siggy when it comes to making me laugh.

Rachel sighed. “Sigfried, you’re a human being. You don’t have glands like that.”
Yet!” said Siggy stubbornly. “You told me people can’t turn into dragons—but look at Dr. Mordeau! If she can do it, I can do it. I have great hopes for alchemy class. I can’t wait to perform alchemical experiments on my head!”
“It’ll work out great!” Lucky added loyally. “You’ll overcome many naked monkey boy handicaps! When have horrible experiments with unknown magical forces ever gone wrong?”

The scene where Mr. Burke is trying to explain about dangerous areas to Sigfried is another bit of comedy gold. Siggy and Lucky take all his warnings as if they were signs on attractions, and wants to see them all.

This is a darker book than the previous. Although the event itself happens offscreen, a student was raped, and she’s struggling to heal.

The Raven also gets some interesting bits of development. Rachel’s always seen it as a harbinger of doom, but once she knows a little bit more of who he is and what he’s doing, her feelings get more complicated.

Overall the story continues to build and improve. I rate this book Recommended.

The Rising of the Shield Hero (Anime)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero

Episodes: 1-25 (focusing mostly on 13-25)

Naofumi is struggling to get the other three heroes to take him seriously as the Waves continue to strengthen. But the Waves aren’t the only threat—political and religious conflict explodes against him, and he’s stuck defending some of the people he hates most.

The second half of the series highlights some of the best and worst of the story. I really like L’Arc and Therese, who show up right at the end (they were awesome in the books and even better on screen). L’Arc is still basically the only competent male character who gets a significant role in the action. He’s a bit of a prankster, but he knows how to be serious when it counts, and he’s every bit the hero Naofumi is. I very much hope the anime gets another season so we can get the arc where they meet again.

The conflict with the corrupt noble who used to own Raphatalia was changed in some disappointing ways, but overall that arc was still well done, especially with the music. Her backstory was as tragic as expected, but the use of visuals and music really elevated this above the source. I just wish she’d still kicked him out the window.

The middle arc with the Pope, though, is where most of the problems are. This was not great writing in the books, with how much standing around and monologuing at each other is happening in the middle of a fight, but on screen, with the ability to feel time wasting (and a lot of recap animation because characters keep bringing up old events) makes it even more tedious. In this case, being a little less faithful to the source would have been a good idea, as a lot of the needless exposition and bickering could have been cut for a stronger fight.

This was overall still a fun ride, and I do hope they make a second season so they can adapt my favorite arc (Naofumi visiting the world where L’Arc originates). I rate this show Recommended (although possibly watch the Pope’s fight on fast forward).

Wise Man’s Grandchild (Anime)

Title: Wise Man’s Grandchild

Episodes: 1-12

Shin was someone who died and reincarnated in a world of magic. Picked up by Merlin, a famous wizard, he grows up away from the rest of the world. When he turns 15, his grandfather realizes that he’s been taught nothing BUT magic and fighting from his grandfather and his friends, so they opt to send him to a magical university to learn how to interact with people. Shin is unaware of how much his unconventional magic will change the world.

I was looking forward to this since the samples I read of the light novel were enjoyable, but as a show it’s a mixed bag. Many of the more interesting parts of the story, like the war against the demonoids, and the bits focusing on anyone who isn’t Shin, get truncated in favor of spending more time on the tired cliche elements that do the story no favors (hot springs episode being the worst offender).

The story does have some good elements. Shin uses what he knows of science to visualize process instead of result for his magic, which is what makes his spells so powerful. The story also isn’t afraid to kill off some characters (none of the main cast, though), and the villains in general have decent backstories. Especially Kurt, who looks so much like a typical noble jerk until you see his family and realize there’s more to the story.

That said, it devolves at many points into pandering or just spends too long on things that can be found in dozens of other series, so overall it’s just too much of a mixed bag to really recommend. I liked seeing a few of the fights from the light novel animated, but I think if I ever pick this up it’s probably just going to be the first volume of the light novel (before the plot starts going downhill). I rate this show Neutral.

Isekai Quartet (Anime)

Title: Isekai Quartet

Episodes: 1-12

Four different isekai protagonists and their companions push a mysterious red button and find themselves in another world, where they must attend school. But can these doubly transported misfits get along?

The four series highlighted are: The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Overlord, Konosuba, and Re:Zero.

I’ll say up front comedies aren’t usually my thing, so I only found this mildly amusing outside of a few specific gags (Subaru and Kazuma being carried by their physically stronger female party members being the best). That said, the shorter episode format means the recycled-from-base-series gags tend not to drag on too long, and some of the interactions between series are funny. I need more of Tanya and Demiurge plotting together how to make the rest of the students miserable.

One major weakness is that the series does rely heavily on done-to-death comedy from their original series, like Darkness from Konosuba going on and on about being tormented (she gets several long monologues in this vein). The humor is better when it’s doing something different than re-applying old jokes, even if they are between characters from different series. Another possible downside is that many of the school events are such staples they’re obvious, although this one is mitigated by the crackpots who have to actually do these events.

Overall this is watchable if you haven’t seen all four series, although some of the more subtle jokes will likely only make sense if you know the characters in their regular setting. It was interesting enough to get me to watch Saga of Tanya the Evil, which I appreciated more than this show. I liked it enough to watch weekly, but it lacked more than one or two scenes that I would watch again. I rate this show Neutral.