Tag Archives: shapeshifters

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.

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.

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.

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.