Tag Archives: dragons

Gods and Kings (Eve of Redemption #9)

Title: Gods and Kings

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #9

The time has come at least to open the Temple. But in some ways it leaves more questions than answers. A conflict spanning thousands of years is reaching its tipping point in the present day. Kari and her allies must coordinate multiple plans over multiple worlds as they fight to overthrow the demonic Overking.

It’s hard to summarize this book because there’s so many characters and so many plot threads. Almost every chapter drops some major revelation or advances something critical. And a lot of the things hinted at did not turn out at all the way I expected (particularly regarding Max’s father). I would definitely recommend catching up on the other books before reading this one, as it drops you straight into the action and never lets up.

I love that the gods are pretty much uniformly good in this series. They’re not the conniving, selfish manipulators so many other books use. They have different focuses, different forms, different worlds, but they have an underlying unity of purpose. And they all care for their believers. Which is one reason that although faith is hugely important in this series, it’s not restricted to a single group.

I also love that Gil gets a fanclub (richly deserved). The werewolves continue to be one of my favorite parts of the series. And Starlenia’s reaction to finding out she can’t inherit the “curse” is hilarious.

The humor stays strong. One of my favorite lines was this:

“Perfect. As for everyone else, I’d say Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, but since that list apparently includes sleeping with demon kings, I’ll just leave you to fend for yourselves.”

Overall, this is another strong volume in a fantastic series. Start at the beginning and work up to this one for the full impact. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 5 (Light Novel)

Title: Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 5

Author: Ryo Shirakome

Format: Light Novel

It’s time for Hajime to return Myu to her mother—but new locations inevitably mean new problems. An oasis town is suffering from a contaminated water supply. Two new dungeons await, pushing Hajime and his companions to their limit.

For the first time, we have a good look into the demon’s perspective. And Hajime meets someone he can’t overpower or avoid, who is competing with him to conquer the ancient labyrinths and obtain their powers.

I also liked the way Hajime gets roped into helping out around town far more than he originally wanted to. Certain types of problems are very easy for him and his party to solve, which makes him feel like it’s not a big deal, even though it’s still things others find impossible to duplicate.

I’m still not a fan of the harem antics, but at least there’s enough other stuff going on to balance it out. Myu’s mother is of course added as another candidate, and Kaori is working on integrating herself with the group.

Overall, if you’ve liked the previous ones this is a good next step. It throws a few more interesting things into the mix, namely the demons, and has plenty of good action scenes. I rate this book Recommended.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 3 (Light Novel)

Title: Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 3

Author: Ryo Shirakome

Format: Light Novel

When Hajime takes on a request to find a lost adventurer, the last thing he expects is to run into some of his old classmates. At least with the monsters he’s on more familiar ground. For his classmates, it’s a shocking revelation that Hajime even survived, let alone how much he’s changed.

This volume contains the moment I was hoping for since the end of the first book: Hajime’s reunion with his classmates. And it was every bit as funny as I anticipated. Hajime immediately goes rather grumpy and close-mouthed, possibly trying to tone things down for the teacher who’s been so distraught over his situation. But he can’t change the obvious fact of his current strength, which in its own way says more than words ever could.

I like that we get the perspective of Aiko, his teacher. She can’t help but see herself as responsible for all these kids, and the fact that they’re now in a world where death is just around the corner bothers her to no end. She doesn’t even have a combat class that she could train to keep them safe. And because Hajime knows this, it makes their reunion even more awkward, because she’s one of the only people he can respect.

Q: After you fell from the bridge, what happened?
A: I went through hell.
Q: How come your hair is white now?
A: Because I went through hell.

Also a major highlight is the continual shock and awe tactics Hajime pulls off. The battles are a lot of fun—and I love how Aiko accurately calls him out on what he didn’t say when she originally asked him about the army.

But it’s not entirely a volume without problems. Yet again we have medical procedures interpreted as kissing, and I’m doubly annoyed that this time it’s with his teacher. Tio, however, was even more eye-rolling. She was better before she joined the party, because once she does she’s yet another flat character whose whole existence becomes getting Hajime to sleep with her (and also punish her, because she’s into S&M). Which means yet another character has a really annoying behavior pattern that’s constantly popping up.

Overall, if you liked the first book I would say give this one a shot because it makes a nice benchmark to show how far Hajime has come. I rate this book Recommended.

The Rising of the Shield Hero #12 (Light Novel)

Title: The Rising of the Shield Hero #12

Author: Aneko Yusagi

Format: Light Novel

Naofumi is still working on building up the village. Between raising a gifted dragon egg and dealing with the crazy girls after him, he doesn’t have a lot of time to rest. News of Itsuki fighting in the Coliseum, though, forces him to detour to try to recruit the last Hero by whatever means necessary.

This book is a mess. Structurally, it doesn’t hold up well. The plot has three separate main conflicts going on, and they aren’t tied together very smoothly. It’s more like two and a half shorter stories bludgeoned into a novel-length book.

I hate this segment of the village life even more than the previous book. Alta lost all my sympathy after she got healed and started being a creeper on Naofumi, but she’s finally gotten so bad that Naofumi is jumping at the chance to run away in a manner she can’t follow. The whole harem aspect isn’t even done well, as pretty much all the girls except Raphtalia have a single character trait they beat to death and virtually nothing else (it doesn’t help that they’re all very much underage). When I find myself wishing that something would just come along and kill them off, they’re an active detriment to the story.

In a related note, Naofumi’s attitude about slavery is getting worse. This isn’t helped by all his slaves enthusiastically supporting him as their owner. Forget being slaves, these are kids. I’m shocked none of them have any issues with him bossing them around, even if he is telling them the fastest way to get stronger. I don’t actually mind Naofumi personally seeing this in a wrongheaded way, as that’s part of his morally grey character, but it’s a bit too much when everyone else decides to worship his decisions.

Gaelion is better. I liked that Naofumi finally got a dragon and decided to raise it, although predictably things go sideways before too long. I appreciate that Naofumi actually chooses a male, since the cast has been way too imbalanced towards the girls for too long. Although it’s not the same case as Filo, Gaelion ends up as someone else Naofumi can talk to, and one of the few people around him who isn’t interested in jumping him.

Itsuki’s confrontation with Rishia was also decent. Rishia’s been overcoming all her past limitations, and now it’s time to go back to the person who both inspired her and rejected her. But Itsuki never thought much of Rishia, and his curse series has even further stopped up his ears, so their actual battle is an amusing sequence of “Hey, the person fighting you is over here!” I am disappointed the book never confirms which curse series he unlocked, as several guesses are offered but none confirmed.

The last part of the book is the only part I actually enjoyed. Sadeena has some interesting comments about Raphtalia’s family, and that turns into a big mess by the end and gives Naofumi a new goal. I’m pretty sure this will be related to one of the Sacred Beasts as well, so that should hopefully bring the story out of this slump and back into a better plot.

Overall, it’s been an extremely rocky road through this arc, and although I still have hopes the series overall will get better I’m getting less enthusiastic about having to buy the next book to find out what’s next. I might look for the web novel to get an idea if the plot actually gets better or if the tacky harem plotline continues to dominate. I rate this book Neutral.

The Lost Continent (Wings of Fire #11)

Title: The Lost Continent

Author: Tui T. Sutherland

Series: Wings of Fire #11

Blue is a SilkWing looking forward to a peaceful life. Under the rule of the Hivewing Queen, life in the Hive is predictable. Safe. But then his sister Luna has an unusual Metamorphosis Day, and suddenly everything Blue thought he knew is turned upside-down. Is it all right to break the rules? Won’t everything go better if he just tries to get along?

This was another excellent book in a strong series. It starts a new arc here, so new readers could jump right in, although the end also ties in with the teaser from the last book.

To most readers, the dystopian nature of Blue’s society is evident from the very beginning, although he’s under the mistaken assumption that everyone sees the world the same way he does. Blue is too nice, too agreeable, too obedient to recognize the slavery the SilkWings are suffering under the Hivewing rule. But that’s Blue’s problem—other SilkWings, like Luna, are more aware.

On the other hand, this is also what allows him to befriend Cricket, a Hivewing. Cricket is one of my favorite dragons in the series. She’s too intelligent for the role she was assigned in life, and her curiosity, boredom, and intellect have resulted in basically a mad scientist. She knows all about various chemicals and isn’t afraid to use them. And she has some rather unusual properties for a Hivewing, which make me suspect she’s either from a different line than the current Queen or has some non-Hivewing ancestor.

I like how the new dragon species are totally different from the ones we’ve met so far. The Hivewings are like wasps, the Silkwings are like moths/butterflies, and the Leafwings have plant-like characteristics.

Overall this was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Everyone Else is a Returnee

Title: Everyone Else is a Returnee

Author: Toika/Toy Car

Chapters: 348 + 4 extra (Complete)

Location: https://kobatochan.com/korean-novels/everyone-else-is-a-returnee/

Yu IlHan has always been left out because no one notices him. And when God moves all of humanity off to other worlds to prepare for the coming Cataclysm on Earth, Yu IlHan remains the sole person left behind. But the endless years of being alone transforms him into someone able to break all common sense when everyone else returns . . .

This is a hilarious twist on the usual formula. Instead of one person getting sent from Earth to another world, all of humanity is sent to other worlds, and the story follows the one poor guy who didn’t get the intergalactic tourism experience.

So Yu IlHan tries to teach himself what he’ll need to know when mana shows up and monsters start spawning on Earth. With the help of a sole angel who visits every few days to keep him from going insane, he learns combat techniques, blacksmithing, dissection, etc. My personal favorite is how he eventually ends up on a quest to read all the books in the world, because it gives him something new to do.

This is a litRPG, so levels, skills, and stats provide a framework for how the world works. Of course, Yu IlHan is so busy proving he can do the impossible from pretty much the get-go that it’s not like these numbers represent much other than how much experience he can get.

I’m not fond of the predictable way the story set up Heaven as basically just another group of high-level beings who banded together under one leader, which has the expected outcome. The author does make a point that he’s not specifically trying to dump on religion, just use some angel names, but just the structure telegraphs the ending from miles away. So I had more fun with the book before about the last quarter, because that’s when the innovation is strongest and the threats are still credible.

I also hated YuNa. She was funny when it was her aggressive pursuit bouncing off Yu IlHan’s stone heart. It was less funny when this turned into sexual assault. And the harem ending was depressing because the whole story has been about Yu IlHan sticking closer to Liera than anyone else, and suddenly he’s okay with multiple wives because he thinks he shouldn’t limit himself.

So it’s a bit of a mixed bag for me. I love seeing the bizarre and completely overpowered things Yu IlHan creates. I love his pessimism, which prompts him to over-prepare for every possible scenario and then some. (Like how he designed his house to be usable in space. Because he was sure THAT was somehow a likely possibility.)

It’s the kind of mentality that results in this:

“Yes. It’s a great idiom meaning that I should not act until I am convinced that I can defeat the last boss, the true last boss that comes after that, the hidden dungeon that comes after the true last boss, and the hidden last boss that comes out at the end of the hidden dungeon, and the true-true last boss that can only be met when I install a super expensive downloadable content later, even after I have the strongest equipment and maxed out all my levels.”

So overall this is kind of a mixed bag. There is plenty to enjoy, but also some things that really annoy me. Still, it made me laugh a lot. I rate this book Recommended.

Infinite Competitive Dungeon Society

Title: Infinite Competitive Dungeon Society

Author: Toika

Translator: FudgeNouget

Chapters: 354 (Complete)

https://www.wuxiaworld.com/novel/infinite-competitive-dungeon-society

Shin is following in his father’s footsteps of exploring a mysterious dungeon whose depths are invite-only. Meanwhile, Earth is drastically changing as monsters start appear, followed by dungeons of their own. But Shin isn’t concerned about the new ability users or monsters. He’s determined to conquer the depths of the dungeon.

It’s hard to give this one a good summary because it is a very long story, so there’s a lot going on. On a surface level, at the beginning there are two plot threads that rarely intersect: the Two Moons incident that caused Earth to gain monsters, magic, and little dungeons, and the giant extra-dimensional Dungeon that Shin is working his way through.

It takes a good while before the full story comes out about why both the big Dungeon and the little ones exist, and I like how this takes a familiar trope and twists it a bit, and then goes on to break out of it completely. Heroes defend their world, and monsters invade, but there are reasons behind why all of this is going on, and it’s a lot more grey than it first appears. Shin is stubborn and passionate, and even though Earth is in a very bad situation, he’s looking beyond the immediate problem and towards the bigger picture. Because Earth isn’t the only world facing these kinds of problems. And some of those other worlds have already lost.

This is a litRPG, but it twists away from skills and stats by the end. Actually, it was fascinating that the whole “dungeon” concept is an abstraction, and Shin eventually tries to tackle things at a deeper level. I liked that Shin has actual experience as a spearman from training with his father (and I also like that he’s using a less-common weapon), which makes his progress in the dungeon more believable. He picks up or creates a number of skills and abilities, but I like that after a certain point the concept of a skill can’t overcome actual knowledge/training in how to fight with his chosen weapon or technique.

A large focus of the fights isn’t so much the stats but the strategy. Some of that is tied to skills and their cooldowns, but more of it is about evaluating his enemy, trying to interrupt their dangerous moves, and most importantly not getting hit. Despite his rapidly increasing power, he’s also got enemies far stronger than him—and also a father who is determined to win in any competition against his son.

The one downside for me is unfortunately a rather big one. I don’t like any of the girls. They’re all introduced by hair and eye color, height, and breast size, and every single one falls in love with him and competes to be his wife. They have only the most minor personality variations because of this. They’re flat, uninteresting, and clearly there just to pander. Which makes the harem ending unsurprising but also annoying.

I kept hoping that he’d meet at least one girl that either hated him for real or just wasn’t interested, or could get more of a focus than trying to jump him. In the same vein, all of the elementals are female, all of the tamed monsters are female, and even his sister’s relationship with him is less than platonic (for a while I was hoping she was just playing up to his crush on her to extract benefits from him, but no luck). Even Daisy, who initially appeared to be sane, eventually joins in the “marry me too, please” crowd.

So that being said, I found Ren, Walker, Leon, and Lin way more interesting. Ren is a hotheaded beastman who can’t always live up to his own expectations, but gives his all however he can. Lin is half-dragon and a blacksmith who takes over the dungeon floor shop when Loretta gets a vacation. His grumpiness hides a sharp mind. He’s unwillingly friends with Shin, who keeps toppling his expectations (and thus creating more work with every bet he loses). And so on. The men manage to have better character arcs, and they aren’t spending every other sentence trying to get down Shin’s pants.

The chapters are a bit longer than the other web novels I’ve read so far, so it took quite a bit of time to finish, but the story is complete. I’m on the fence about recommending it, though, as the girls all harping on Shin gets really tedious, even though the fight scenes and the idea behind the dungeon was great. I rate this book Neutral.