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.
At last, I have something to talk about. That is not a good thing. The Slayers novels are fast-paced, action-packed, have some interesting fantasy plotting, and Lina and Gourry are fun, but let’s face it, the reason this series is beloved is that the anime took the characters and fleshed them out, made them human. Character development and deep emotional pain is not something that Kanzaka specializes in or is good at. And that’s going to be a problem with this book, whose second half relies entirely on the death of a beloved character and said death driving another character to an extended murder spree, one that I suspect may continue in the next book. There’s just one problem. The emotional impact is taken as read. The author assumes we will be devastated when this character dies, but mostly we’re merely surprised at how fast and pointlessly it happened. And the roaring rampage of revenge is more of a mildly simmering rampage of revenge. Slayers runs on snark and fighting. When there isn’t either of those, it gets into trouble.
Lina and Gourry come to Selentia, a city where religion is the biggest mover and shaker. There’s a high priest as well as four other slightly lower priests. Unfortunately, the high priest has just burned to death in an “accident” that no one thinks is an accident. Lina and Gourry are hired by the Sorcerer’s Guild to investigate, and find that there’s a lot of motive but not a lot of evidence. That is until we get more killings happening. What’s more, Luke and Mileena are here again, being hired bodyguards for one of the priests. Can Lina and Gourry figure out what’s happening and stop it before the entire city turns into a blood-soaked canvas? Answer: no.
Kanzaka apologizes to readers in the afterword for Amelia and Zelgadis not being in this, but for the wrong reason. He states that if they’d been there, they could have healed the fatal wound and thus avoided everything that came after. That said, I think the bigger problem is: this should have been Zel and Amelia, not Luke and Mileena. After being introduced in Book 9, the two of them have had “replacement scrappy” written all over then, despite occasional attempts at depth. Frankly, if Kanzaka had simply used Amelia and Zel in Book 9-14, and had Amelia killed off and Zel go on a rampage, the impact would have been much greater because we actually care about them. And, see, I say that, but I can’t bring myself to believe that either. Because Mileena’s death is so fast, so lame, and so emotionally void that it took me a while to realize it had happened. Kanzaka cannot write depth. And that means this book winds up suffering terribly, because it’s where depth is needed the most.
This second “arc” in the S;layers series will end in the next volume, and I suspect will wrap up Luke’s plot as well. I hope it’s filled with cool action sequences and magical battles. Because really, why else would you read this?