By Ceez and Tenmaso. Released in Japan as “Leadale no Daichi nite” by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jessica Lange.
The Leadale series does something that I very much appreciate… well, to an extent. It knows that readers may not always remember what’s come before, so has a handy summary of the series before each volume. That said… perhaps the summary can be shortened a bit in the future? By the time I read through what had previously happened in the first 7 books, I was already nearly 30 pages into THIS book. It needn’t pad out the word count so much. As for the book itself, it continues to have fun with its main joke, which is that Cayna sees the other powerful players in her old group as eccentric lunatics, and they see her as the exact same if not worse. But really, Leadale is the ultimate book for folks who just want to read the worldbuiding. So much of this series is about game mechanics, both past and present, and how to abuse flavor text or what happens when your last boss monsters get unsealed. The gaming really is the plot.
Cayna is invited to help guard the princess as she and her fellows go out on an educational camping trip (a plotline also done, almost note for note, in Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear). Unfortunately, she also has a job she has to do for Opus, checking out the stability of a barrier holding back the last boss monsters mentioned above. The second mission quickly outstrips the first, and the school trip has to be rapidly cancelled. (The entire purpose of the trip seems to have been to introduce Exis’ little sister, who was also a player and thus is also in Leadale. That said, they need all the players and strong NPCs they can get, as the barrier is finally breaking, and bad things will overrun the kingdom if they don’t stop them. What’s more, if Cayna dies, the whole “game” part of this world goes away forever.
The connection between this world and Cayna has been its strongest mystery, still being revealed to us, and the most interesting part here is the fact that the players that have ended up inside Leadale is a figure much larger than the players who were actually active when the game shut down. Cayna has no idea why this is, and apparently Opus doesn’t either. As for the rest of the book, well, if you like Cayna being Cayna, it’s fun. She overreacts, she terrifies people, she will brings out a terrifying monster to act as a blanket so she can be warm when she sleeps. And, since the book is from her point of view, we as the reader don’t regard it as oddly as everyone else who deals with her. It doesn’t help that she’s now getting fangirls, thanks to players being too glib when creating their “children”…
The book ends with a cliffhanger, as our players are still in the midst of a big battle against a monster horde. Sadly, this is the final volume out in Japan as well, so we’ll be waiting a while before we continue. Probably long enough that I’ll need the 30-age summary for Book 9.