Tag Archives: fantasy

Crota (The Gods’ Game #1)

Title: Crota

Author: Rohan M. Vider

Series: The Gods’ Game #1

For ages, the gods have called mortals to champion them in a grand game. But for one such mortal, Kyran, the summons was unexpected on both sides. With no gods willing to sponsor him, Kyran steps in as a free agent, and selects the skills and abilities he hopes will allow him to survive. But his presence signals a potential shift in the stalemate, and the gods are eager to either recruit or destroy him.

This is a pretty solid litRPG about a modern college-age gamer who ends up living out something that’s a cross between a game and real life. I like how the game mechanics actually constrain the players more than the non-participants. Kyran is no exception, although he has somewhat less to worry about than a normal champion, because he doesn’t have a god sitting behind his every decision.

We don’t see too much of the world in this novel, although hopefully that’s coming. This book mostly paints some broad strokes about the game, a few of the gods and champions, and a small piece of Crota, the land where Kyran starts out. I like the fact that there are multiple demi-human races, and that Kyran chooses not to be a human. Given his location, it’s unlikely he’ll have allies for a while (although I have suspicions about the ending), but some of the other groups look like they’ll contain a mix of types.

I did think the stat windows should have only been shown once in full per chapter, towards the end, as some bits of the novel felt like table after table of information. And I’m not a huge fan of pre-chapter quotes, especially when they could get somewhat long. I would have preferred that off in an appendix.

The beginning also confused me as to which century the story was happening in. Stealing apples from a cart is a rather common trope for stories set in the middle ages, and calling the kid a “street rat” combined with a lack of setting details meant I originally read the prologue as a huge time skip before the first chapter, and was subsequently confused why they seemed to be referring to the same person.

Overall I liked this well enough that I would like to pick up the next book whenever it arrives to see where it goes from here. I rate this book Recommended.

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That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #4 (Light Novel)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #4

Author: Fuse

Format: Light Novel

Having taken care of the most pressing issues, Rimuru and his monster allies are busy building their town. Part of that is establishing trade with the various surrounding nations. They need supplies, and Rimuru also hopes to convince everyone that even though they’re monsters, humans can deal with them just like any other town. But as they move onto a bigger stage, they also attract entirely new enemies. . .

This volume was enjoyable, but also a bit scattered. Rimuru has been having dreams that feel like Shizu is trying to communicate with him, but he’s also not in any particular hurry to pick up on them. The tour of the nearby countries is rather relaxed despite the fact that he’s trying to forge alliances.

It was amusing to see Rimuru finally sign up to be an adventurer. Aside from the funny way he gets his license, this now means he can actually get paid to do what he’s been doing all along in killing the monsters in the Jura forest that pose a danger to his town. Of course, basic economics says that if he actually tried to cash in all his monster parts he’d drive the guild broke.

This volume also introduces the kids Shizu was formerly teaching. It’s neat to see how Shizu’s relationship with the Demon Lord Leon is more complicated than it initially appears. She had been angry at him for a few things, but also appreciative that what he did for her saved her life. And Rimuru, who decided to inherit her will, is trying his best to figure out what she actually meant when she sent him after Leon. Because he’s starting to think Shizu didn’t exactly mean to kill Leon.

The other interesting thing here (although it ties in with the main frustration) is that Rimuru finally meets other summoned people from Japan—and he figures out too late why Heroes are so highly regarded . . . and feared. He’s been able to mostly coast thanks to his unique abilities Predator and Great Sage. But he’s not the only one with unique skills. And when one of the summoned who has made it her life’s mission to eradicate monsters clashes with him, he finally has to fight against someone incredibly stronger than he is.

And that’s the main irritation here: the cliffhanger is brutal. And the next book isn’t out for several months. If that bothers you, read the rest of the book and save the epilogue until book 5 comes out.

Overall, despite not much of impact happening for Rimuru himself, I enjoyed seeing the expanded world. The focus on the practical issues of building a civilization and running a town, the furthering of some earlier plot threads, and the hints of some really big things to come make this a solid read. I rate this book Recommended.

No Game No Life (Anime)

Title: No Game No Life

Episodes: 1-12 (Complete)

Sora and Shiro are sibling gamers, collectively known as Blank for their habit of not putting any username in when possible. They never lose, except to each other. One day a god named Tet summons them both to another world, where everything is run on games. Humanity is at the bottom here. But now that Sora and Shiro have arrived, that’s about to change.

I have mixed feelings on this one. There’s a huge amount of gratuitous fanservice, and a number of the girls getting stripped are very young. Steph, the granddaughter of the previous king of Imanity (humanity), is treated with casual abuse and humiliation, mostly because she’s sincere but naive and not good at games. So there’s a lot to dislike.

The games themselves are better. In a world with magic, even familiar games can have interesting twists. The best one is probably the chess match with living chess pieces, but this doesn’t go at all the way you might expect (well, it’s not exactly a “chess” game by the end). The other highlight was a word game that has the power to materialize or de-materialize the words in play, which leads to some interesting strategies.

There’s also a lot of references to other games or media. I’m sure I didn’t even catch half, but that can make watching it a sort of game in and of itself, as long as you’re sufficiently familiar with the sources to recognize the callouts.

I like the art style too. The colors are more bright and illustration-style, and gives it a unique aesthetic.

The story unfortunately only gets a small way into what’s clearly a larger narrative before cutting off. Sora and Shiro’s ultimate plan—to challenge Tet again to another game—is barely laying the groundwork in the 12 episodes available. Given that the series is older, it’s unlikely that a sequel will show up, so keep in mind the show doesn’t really accomplish much plot-wise due to its length.

Character-wise, Sora and Shiro have enough personality to carry the show. They’re geniuses in different ways, but even the outgoing Sora is a social wreck. I dislike how Sora pervs on pretty much every girl, especially his 11-year-old sister, who he’s constantly trying to take pictures of in the bath. Their codependence, however, is a nicer touch. They can’t interact with people at all outside of games, so they only rely on each other. I also thought the attempt to paint Steph as competent in her chosen field is undercut by the fact that she’s too much of a moron otherwise to make a brilliant ability for diplomacy plausible. Maybe if it was all deskwork.

Overall, I can’t really recommend this, due to the incomplete story arc and the huge amount of fanservice on underaged girls. I might at some point watch the movie, which is supposed to do better in both of those aspects. I rate this Neutral.

The Death Mage That Doesn’t Want a Fourth Time (Web Novel)

Title: The Death Mage That Doesn’t Want a Fourth Time

Author: Densuke

Translator: Yoshi

Chapters: 1-178 (ongoing)

Location: https://lightnovelbastion.com/project.php?p=248

Amamiya Hiroto has had a terrible life followed by a senseless death when terrorists bomb his school field trip. Then a god intercepts their souls and offers them the opportunity to be born again in another world, with powers and everything. He accepts. And the god mistakes him with another student who has nearly the same name, so Amamiya gets a second life even worse than his first since all of his powers and good luck went to someone else. All he has is a gigantic mana pool, but no ability in magic; he ends up as an experimental test subject until he dies. Now on his third life, and under curses with the intention of making him die quickly, he’s determined to live as long as possible and carve out happiness for himself.

Of course, now that he’s a Dhampir called Vandelieu in a world where most people consider Dhampirs to be monsters, he’s not going to have it easy. The only things he’s got going for him are an absurdly large mana pool, the possibility of re-acquiring his unique death-aspect magic, and the memories of his previous lives.

This was amazing. The story undoubtedly has dark moments, but it’s also packed with humor, so it’s not this grinding horror story about all the awful things Vandeleiu suffers in his various lives.

At a high level, I adore the humor. Vandeleiu is mostly like a normal lonely kid who just wants people to stop picking on him, and to make lots of friends. But he’s also going more and more insane, because he’s completely out of touch with “normal.” It’s so bad that the various races that live in the city with him all get along very well because “compared to him, we’re all normal.” His friends put up with his eccentricities. But his enemies, who don’t have the full picture and refuse to talk to him or try to see it his way, see this as signs he’s dangerous, so they push harder, which makes him do even more to protect himself.

Those other races are a high point. From the very beginning of his third life, Vandelieu finds more welcome from the monsters and the half-monster species than he does the humans (Vampires excepted, as they see Dhampirs as something to eliminate), so he’s got a very open mind towards thinking beings. So the story really digs into culture and lifestyle of various races, and Vandeleiu’s interactions with them. This is also somewhat contributing to normal humans thinking he’s insane, as the cultural standards for these races tends to differ quite a lot.

But I like that the differences are more grounded than “Ghouls sleep around a lot.” There are valid biological reasons why their culture built up that way, and when Van finds a way to address some of those biological issues, their culture starts changing as a result.

It’s also telling that for everything that he’s suffered, Amamiya/Vandelieu never completely breaks. His first life had him in an abusive home and a situation that basically never allowed him to make friends, but he still impulsively sacrifices himself to try to save a classmate who can’t even remember his name. His second life is spent deliberately crippled by the scientists who treat him as nothing more than a lab animal with a unique magic, but when he breaks free at last he only kills the researchers and guards, and frees and heals the other experimental subjects. And his third life, which begins with curses intended to make him die or commit suicide, also has a caring mother and then lots of friends who unconditionally support him and give him the strength to keep going.

The chapters where some of the other students are digging into his background are really powerful, as they’re finally realizing why he was the way he was and realizing it may not be too late to try to reason with him—but they can’t find anyone who treated him kindly enough to send to have that discussion. They’re also too paranoid to recognize that he’s only targeting people who are actively trying to kill him in the current world, so any messenger is actually likely to work as long as they aren’t hostile.

I also really like how the chapters will occasionally break away from Van to show the lingering impact of his life on Origin (the second world) or the perspective of various gods who are tangled up in this. Unexpected consequences arise, like the Eighth Guidance, a terrorist organization/cult formed from the experiment subjects he freed, who recognize that he was the only person they can trust, and have devoted themselves to carrying out what they think was his will.

There is a harem aspect to this story eventually, but this is one of the few books I’ve read where I’ve felt that aspect is well-done. Vandeleiu himself is too young to really be interested in girls, and he’s grateful to anyone who wants to be friends. In fact there’s a hilarious sequence when he meets his first Arachne (a woman with the lower body of a spider) and tells her she’s beautiful . . . because he really, really likes her biceps. Having been on the smaller, weaker side in all his lives for various reasons, Vandeleiu appreciates muscle. He completely ignores curves. (The fact that he implements a bodybuilding contest later on—for both genders, since he just likes muscle—was a lot of fun.) And all of the women so far have been people first, and potential wives second.

Speaking of beauty, though, I also like that Vandelieu himself comes off as more creepy than beautiful. His face is expressionless and he has eyes like a dead fish (it’s unclear if this is because of his race or his trauma, but indications are more on the side of trauma), waxy skin, and a small build. Combined it means many people mistake him as a doll instead of a person. And this is before he does things like use his astral body to grow extra heads because that’s the easiest way to cast dozens of spells at once. (And the insanity is probably why he doesn’t just stop at one or two extra heads—when each head can cast a spell, and you have THAT much mana, why not make a few dozen? Watching his enemies freak out is hilarious.)

Overall this is a very good read, and I hope it one day gets officially licensed so that it will be easier to support the author. Chapter 178 basically finishes off a book (minus appendices) so at least I’m at the end of the major arc while waiting for new chapters to arrive. I rate this Highly 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.

God of Crime

Title: God of Crime

Author: Han Yeoul

Translator: Rainbow Turtle

Status: 165 Chapters (Complete)

Link: https://www.wuxiaworld.com/novel/god-of-crime
(Please note the site is temporarily taking this novel offline, but it can likely still be read at web.archive.org)

Seo Tae-hyuk was framed for murder, convicted, spent the last ten years in prison, and is now about to die. He has no idea why, but he’s angry he never got a chance. Now that chance has come in the form of a demon. Tae-hyuk wakes up fifteen years in the past, with all the memories of his future life and an opportunity to actually become the God of Crime that people called him . . .

This was amazing. It’s mostly a crime drama, with a very tiny amount of magic that drives the entire plot. Because Tae-hyuk returns to his past self in possession of a mirror with demonic powers, a mirror that gives him the ability to acquire any and all criminal-related skills and apply them at superhuman levels.

Of course he never INTENDED to become the very thing he raged so hard against in prison.

It starts with accidentally learning a Robbery skill. From there his unintentional kleptomania expands into things like forgeries, disguises, violence, and so on. And the list. The list of criminals Seo Tae-hyuk met in prison (or heard about on the news while in prison) and the crimes they committed. He can stop them . . . but his methods decidely lean towards less legal methods.

It doesn’t take long for his moderate goals of getting his family out of debt and giving them a happy life snowball into something he might not be able to stop.

I love how it wraps up at the end. The revelations about why he had been framed, and what that murder was about fit in much better than I expected. I love how he keeps progressing into ever more ridiculous powers, but hesitates at the very last, as he finally sees in himself an emerging person he’s not sure he can live with. And then what he ultimately decides to do with his life and his abilities.

If there’s any weak point, it’s that his brother feels totally unnecessary to the plot. His sister’s ongoing development are a nice foil to the increasing darkness of Tae-hyuk’s life. And it’s fun how some of the more obvious twists are handled, like his sister falling in love with a detective who’s desperate to learn the real identity of the Phantom (who is of course Tae-hyuk).

Overall if you’ve got any interest in crime dramas crossed with a bit of fantasy, I would suggest giving this one a go. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

I Reincarnated for Nothing

Title: I Reincarnated for Nothing

Translator: NaughtyOtter

Chapters: 128 (Ongoing)

Link: https://www.wuxiaworld.com/novel/i-reincarnated-for-nothing
(Please note the site is temporarily taking this novel offline, but it can likely still be read at web.archive.org)

Artpe used to be the weakest of the four demon lords, the final bosses before the demon king. But after being killed by the hero’s party, he finds he’s somehow gone back in time. Now he’s a second hero, alongside the original hero . . . and he can finally get his revenge on the demon king who had formerly enslaved him.

This is a lot of fun. Artpe still has all his memories as a demon, as well as an innate ability that lets him analyze whatever he’s looking at to extract a high degree of information. He used to be the demon in charge of gathering intelligence due to that ability, so he has a lot of knowledge about how things used to go (although of course things are changing now that he’s veering off-script from the original events).

And he may be the hero, but his basic personality hasn’t changed. Which means people really question whether he’s actually a hero or if he’s somehow a demon.

The original hero, Maetel, is naive, good-hearted, crazy strong, and a moron when it comes to anything not related to physical combat. Artpe, on the other hand, is a genius with limited physical abilities. So Artpe decides he’ll specialize as a magician (since heroes can learn all class skills) and have Maetel focus on melee combat.

This is a litRPG, but the skills and stats angle is fairly light. Artpe does focus on leveling up as much as possible, but his interaction with various opponents usually comes down to cleverness and his innate skill rather than pure firepower. So far his interactions with demons have been limited, although that’s looking to change in the near future. Once he’s prepared enough to go back to the demon world, things should get very interesting. Because two Heroes means it’s highly likely there’s an additional Demon Lord to deal with . . . and if the one Artpe remembers was some kind of counterbalance to Maetel, the unknown one is likely to be a great deal more threatening as a counterbalance to HIM.

Overall even though I’m not fond of the “all the girls fall for Artpe” angle, I’m still enjoying the rest of the story. I rate this book Recommended.