By Hajime Kanzaka and Rui Araizumi. Released in Japan by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Elizabeth Ellis.
So the title of the last book was Gaav’s Challenge, and as it turns out the challenge for Gaav was living past the first six pages of this book. Instead we get a new big bad, Hellmaster Fibrizio, last seen as the dead little boy Lina and Xellos came across. (You remember, the one where I praised Slayers for showing off how humans are irrelevant in a demon war? My bad.) Because this series has a main heroine rather than a hero, Fibrizio proceeds to kidnap *Gourry* and hold him hostage, forcing Lina and company to journey all the way back to Sairaag to rescue him. But wait, wasn’t Sairaag completely blown up, with everyone in it, in the third book? Yup. But it’s back, and so are all its dead residents. That said, the tree in its center has been replaced with a rather ominous temple. Can Lina save Gourry and defeat Fibrizio without using yet another universe-breaking spell? Eh, probably not.
This novel was adapted into the last chunk of Slayers Next, though readers will note quite a few changes. There is *some* romance here – Sylphiel is in love with Gourry, which is why she returns in this book to try to save him, and she spends much of her time trying to force Lina to admit she loves Gourry so that Sylphiel can move on with her life. Lina does not really do this, occasionally unconsciously realizing she wants Gourry around her, and making up an excuse at the end to keep adventuring with him (even as the rest of the cast break off and goes home), but there is nothing remotely resembling the kiss we got in the anime. Indeed, Gourry, much like the rest of the cast, is irrelevant for the final battle – this has always been Lina’s series, with the others as minor supporting characters, and that’s true here as well – she takes on Fibrizio on her own, though she gets a little possessive help at the end.
Other interesting things: Sairaag being populated by its dead residents, including Sylphiel’s father, is eerie, especially as Lina and Sylphiel can tell they’re fakes, and even THEY know deep down they’re fakes. I’d have liked to have seen a more emotional reaction to this from Sylphiel, but, like Lina, the author shies away from that sort of thing. The Sword of Light takes its leave here, as it turns out to be demonic in origin, so Gourry’s gonna need a new sword (expect this to be the start of the next book). And, as mentioned, Amelia, Zelgadis, and Sylphiel all split at the end, with Amelia returning to Saillune to report to her father (Lina watches the justice-happy Amelia and wishes her older sister is more sensible, a great in joke for those who know the alternate Slayers continuity with Naga the Serpent). Fans of the anime know they’ll all be back for Slayers Try. Fans of Slayers also know that Try was widely despised by the author of the books. Let’s just say, don’t expect them back for a while. (Indeed, I don’t think we ever see Sylphiel again.)
And so we’re now all caught up with the Tokyopop paperbacks from eons ago, the first arc of the series is complete, and we can move on to brand new (in English) content! As for this book, it was a good, solid ending, with a few good gags but mostly relying on battles and suspenseful writing to keep a reader engaged.