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.
The first three volumes of Slayers are filled with humor and wackiness, but they are also very, very dark, with the third one ending in the destruction of an entire city and everyone in it. It often feels like a fantasy version of Dirty Pair, with Lina and Gourry accidentally spreading chaos as they go from town to town. This volume, which introduces another one of our “regulars” (I use the word in quotes because everyone in the novels except Lina and Gourry tends to be mostly absent half the time.) also features a lot of dead bodies, and has Lina almost die at least three times, to the point where her waking up in a hospital bed is almost a running gag. Despite that… this feels like an attempt at a lighter, fluffier volume of Slayers. Sure, there’s assassination attempts on royalty, assassination attempts on Lina, betrayal, and lots of death… but any book with Prince Phil and Amelia in it is by definition lighter. Even if Amelia feels a bit odd at first.
When this book was first published, both in Japan and North America, it had a much more serious cover, featuring Lina and Gourry. But J-NC has licensed the updated reissues, and they know what readers want, and so we get Amelia pointing at us for justice. As for the plot, Lina, Gourry and Sylphiel arrive in Saillune and are caught up in a royal struggle, as someone is trying to kill Prince Phil. Lina, who has met the prince before, is underwhelmed, but she and Gourry quickly agree to help him try to resolve things, despite the fact that his brother seemingly has a mage on his side who can do all sorts of lethal things to our heroine. But how many “sides” are there in this battle? And why would the villain be trying to kill Lina personally as well?
As stated, Amelia shows up here for the first time, and seems… surprisingly savvy and clever. Honestly, it feels like her characterization takes a step back as the book goes on, with the author realizing on the fly that she’s funnier when she’s goofier, hence the additional cries of justice and the pratfall towards the end. The book is funny, though sometimes it’s not as funny as it would like to be – the way Sylphiel is written out of the book is simply dumb, no two ways about it. I was also very impressed at the traps that are created for Lina in the book, with the endless corridor you can’t get out of (which Lina promptly does), the evil bug that nearly succeeds in annihilating Lina and puts her in the hospital, and an assassin that really, really wants to kill her. We do get some reasons as to why this is happening towards the end, but a lot of it is still vague, and no doubt will be examined in the next book.
This book is very 1990s at times, and “ha ha, it’s funny because he’s not handsome!” is not the laff riot it’s meant to be, but this was a very solid Slayers, and introduces one of my favorite regulars, even if she’s not quite cooked characterization-wise. Next time we’ll meet another regular, a certain “priest”, and things should get even more chaotic.