By Yukiya Murasaki and himesuz. Released in Japan as “Haken no Kouki Altina” by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Roy Nukia.
We start things off in this volume with the the battle Altina and Regis came to at the start of the fourth book. They win, but it isn’t pretty, and there are a lot of casualties, which briefly devastates Regis, who until now has been fairly lucky in his plans having minimal fatal consequences. They also lose Eric, who gets an arrow to the shoulder and has to be left behind. But they are able to muster a force and set out to help fight against Brittania, whose main force are the villains we met last time – Oswald, the eccentric tactician, and Margaret, the bored and changeable queen, who are likely meant to be a dark counterpart to our hero and heroine. Regis and Altina both must deal with the other companies of soldiers looking down on and belittling them. Can they survive what turns out to be a fierce battle? And, most importantly, can Regis survive meeting up with his sister?
Meeting up with Vanessa is probably the highlight of this book for readers who aren’t here for the combat. She’s a lot of fun, and I love her husband (he’s a blacksmith who is tasked with fixing Altina’s massive sword, which she broke in the initial battle of this book, and he’s also a sword nerd who will no doubt make it 800 times better). That said, I was intrigued by the serious core of her story, as she reveals just how Regis got his superhuman lack of self-confidence. It’s rather sad, and fits very well with a twelve-year-old girl who’s trying to be the adult in the family but is still emotionally growing and does not take kindly to having a younger sibling who’s brilliant. It also shows that words matter, and things that you teach kids can leave lingering scars even after you no longer mean them.
As for the battle itself, it’s a classic case of “we are arrogant and will listen to our arrogant tactician’, which sadly leads to piles on piles of dead soldiers and a tactician who has his mind broken by events. Luckily, Regis is there to ave the day, though I think he’s going to need to learn how to think about battles that are not related to a fantasy book he happened to read a while back. And the battle is won at great cost, while the war is still going. I expect this war will continue into the 6th book. One interesting feature was showing us a brief look at a common soldier, charging into the enemy. He’s a farmer and sets off several death flags, including mentioning wanting to see his wife and kids back home. Imagine my surprise when he shows up at the end to be the one soldier who was not beaten down by the battle and who wants their fight to actually mean something. I wonder if we’ll see more of him.
It may be a bit – Book 6 has not yet debuted on J-NC’s site – but I will definitely be sticking around for the next book in this series, an underrated military history where the only fantasy element is that it’s set in “not-France”.