By Yu Okano and Jaian. Released in Japan as “Nozomanu Fushi no Boukensha” by Overlap, Inc. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Shirley Yeung.
My readers by now should be well aware that it doesn’t take much for me to be happy with what I’m reading. Usually, particularly in the case of light novels, I either really like a unique take on the standard premise, or I like a book that is the standard premise but with a twist that surprises and pleases me. This new series definitely falls into the latter category. Despite the fact that I can’t really remember a book over here that begins with the hero dying and becoming undead, the execution of most of the book is pretty much what you’d expect. He tries to come to terms with his new unlife, he fights monsters in the dungeon and levels up, he meets the occasional newbie adventurer and helps them, and he tries to see if there is any way that he can somehow evolve enough to regain his humanity. Where I feel the book really succeeds, though, is in showing the reader the disconnect between our hero’s perspective of himself and the rest of the cast.
Our hero is Rentt Faina, who is a bronze-level adventurer hunting monsters in the lesser of the two dungeons his village has. He’s one step above newbie, but still a bronze level adventurer – after ten years of trying. The problem is that he has a little talent in everything but not a lot in anything. What’s more, he accidentally finds an uncharted part fo the dungeon… and immediately runs into a dragon, who essentially kills him. When he wakes up, he’s a skeleton, but still retains his memories – and powers, which is surprising given one of them is basically godly blessings against undead. Everything that Rentt narrates about himself paints him as a useless, somewhat stubborn schmuck who should have realized he’s just not any damn good at adventuring and retired ages ago to find something better to do.
Except we then slowly learn about the village Rentt lives in, its adventurers, guild, and other associated parties. And to them, Rentt is not only one of the most important people in the village but the reason the village is so successful at all. He’s only a bronze level adventurer because he has low abilities, but his KNOWLEDGE is that of a 10-year-old veteran. What’s more, he’s a decent, moral person. The Guild essentially relies on Rentt to train all the newbies so that they learn and grow the proper way. The higher-up adventurers who travel through the larger, more famous dungeon in town all got their start with Rentt. The idea that he hasn’t returned from the dungeon worries and upsets them. I cannot say enough how much I loved this. There’s a scene where Rentt visits the blacksmith and his wife, who knew him before, and tries to pass himself off as this cowled, mysterious OTHER guy who happens to have Rentt’s exact power skill. From Rentt’s POV, he feels bad he can’t say anything but is happy he can at least get a new sword. From the POV of the blacksmith and his wife, it’s “why isn’t he saying anything? Doesn’t he trust us?”.
This is, honestly, one of the two reasons to read the book. The other is Lorraine, one of the three women on the cover (don’t worry, it’s not really a harem), a young mad scientist and Rentt’s best friend. Her mad science is amusing, as is her devotion to the (of course) clueless Rentt, to the point where she’s willing to let him bite and drink her blood in order to save him, and is rather sad when he heals her completely later. I like female mad scientists in general, b ut the other thing about Lorraine is that when she’s giving exposition about the world and its mechanics, it actually sounds interesting. When Rentt is doing it in his monologue – which is sadly a great deal of the book – it reads like, well, the other 85 light novels you’ve recently read where the lead takes one hundred pages to explain the mechanics of dungeon crawls to the reader.
So yeah, there’s a lot of Rentt, and Rentt’s own monologue makes him seem like someone you would not want to read about. However, the alternate story being told around Rentt is fantastic, and I want to see more of it. As such, I’d definitely recommend carrying on with this series.