By Kumo Kagyu and so-bin. Released in Japan as “Blade & Bastard” by Dre Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sean McCann.
I will give Blade & Bastard some credit: the author is not afraid to state right up front that every woman in this book is the author’s barely disguised fetish. In the first volume we were introduced to the feral redhead who only communicates in barks and yaps, and here we see she’s also fond of stripping naked to clean herself in the middle of the street. There’s a nun who’s constantly trying to get people to be more religious, but she also really, really really REALLY loves violence. And in this second volume we mete a massive dojikko, and by massive I mean that she is six-foot-six. The book starts by describing her as “Tall, with big eyes. Big muscles, big boobs, and a big butt too.”. She also has the self-worth of a peanut. Really, you have to hand it to Kumo Kagyu. He knows that anyone who stays past that opening sentence is here for the long haul. And, to be fair, there is still a lot here to like as well.
The big everything girl is Berkanan, whose corpse our heroes find in the dungeon towards the start of the book. She’s been killed by a massive fire dragon that has taken residence in the dungeon, and is stopping adventurers from going through it, as the dragon is well-nigh unkillable. Upon revival, Berkanan begs Iarumas, Garbage and Raraja to help her go back into the dungeon and kill the dragon, out of a combination of anger that she was killed and a sort of desperate need to prove herself, probably as she’s a mage who’s trained for years but she only knows one low-level spell. Still, SOMEONE needs to kill the dragon, or this town that is surviving only because of this one dungeon is doomed. Why can’t it be her?
The author knows how to write atmosphere, and a good fight scene, which is still probably the main reason to get this. Despite being a walking stereotype, Berkanan is quite likeable, and you root for her to succeed. Garbage still only barks and yaps, but she’s also a bit less feral and more domesticated, and we get more evidence that she’s secret royalty – mostly as assassins keep trying to kill her. Iarumas, alas, remains a walking NPC, though it was nice to see him almost show an emotion during the fight with the dragon. On the down side, aside from Berkanan being a walking fetish (the artist also enjoys emphasizing this), there is a small little man named Bank who deals in money… I can’t call anti-semitic just yet, but I feel like the moment we get any description of him he will be anti-semitic. Though that may be down to the source material.
And perhaps the biggest drawback, the translation seems wedded to reminding us this is based on Wizardry. We here someone has the power to survive, and then we see (hit points) after the word survive, as though it’s translating from novel to game. Spells are also used, and it just types the acronym (I assume) for the spell, such as HALITO. I get this book is meant to sell to Wizardry fans rather than light novel fans, but it does not make life easy. That said… despite everything, I also really liked Berkanan, who is simply a very sympathetic character, and I hope that we get more of her gaining confidence. I also hope she does not end up in a romantic rivalry with Garbage over Raraja, but I’m far less optimistic about that.