Thursday, June 30, 2022

Snow White with the Red Hair volume 7 (read for fun)

I watched the anime before reading this and I wanted to continue with the series. This volume appears to be the end of that adaptation. It covers the end of the Claw of the Sea arc, its aftermath, and the events that follow, such as Mitsuhide getting hypnotized, and the palace exhibition. 

What appears to link them is the contrast in Shirayuki and Zen's relationship. While they grow closer together romantically, the social distance is still an issue. Shirayuki is a court herbalist and official "Friend to the Crown" and this brings her tantalizingly close to Zen, but he is still royalty. There is some drama about that, and it is handled sweetly. 

Overall, this is a chill volume. Perhaps something of a breather after the high stakes in the previous arc.

The art is beautiful, as usual with this series. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Snow White with the Red Hair volume 7" B+

 


Click here for my previous book review Ultra Kaiju Humanization Project volume 2

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Ultra Kaiju Humanization Project volume 2

 Ultra Kaiju Humanization Project volume 2

I picked up this volume at the same place as the first, my local library. It is much the same as the first. It has more short "episodes" of cute monster girls doing cute things, and also more hints at something bigger building behind the scenes. 

This volume has more of a plot structure than the first. Mephilas and her group plot to takeover the earth by "stealing its heart", which they plan to do by becoming an idol singer group in Japan (Akibara, naturally). So many of this volume's hijinks take place on Earth. 

It is still cute, still funny, and still shallow. And bad things still happen to Jamilar. They're played for laughs but they're a major buzz kill for me. 

 Trickster Eric Novels gives "Ultra Kaiju Humanization Project volume 2" a C


Click here for my next book reviewSnow White with the Red Hair volume 7 (read for fun)

Click here for my previous book review I've been killing slimes for three hundred years and maxed out my level - light novel volume 2

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

I've been killing slimes for three hundred years and maxed out my level - light novel volume 2

The second volume of the series. It was interesting to see how the author expanded the plotline after the initial developments of the premise. Azusa's life at the start of volume 2 is very different from her start at volume 1. She is returning from a red dragon wedding with her family of four; two surrogate younger sisters and two young daughters. Despite these changes, she is determined to continue her quiet and easy life in the Flatta highlands. Then "elder sister" Beelzebub stops by and announces a new development.

The Demon Lands want to honor Azusa for her role in ending the Red Dragon/Blue Conflict, which happened at the wedding she so recently returned from. So, the Demon King has invited Azusa and her household to attend a ceremony and receive a medal. That is the plot for this volume. What I like is how it structures this volume. 

You see, each chapter is more or less its own story. They map pretty well as individual episodes from the anime. The idea of the Demon Medal Award enables them to link up in a way that works for a slice of life story. Beelzebub arrives during the Witch House Cafe story, and helps out before making the announcement. Because the event is still a ways away, it fades into the back of everyone's minds for the next event, the trouble with the corrupt governor. Then it pops up again when the household gains a new member, the ghost Rosalie. Even this event contributes to the meat of the Demon Medal Award plot because the Highlands Household is now aware of how...er.. vulnerable Halkara is to political trouble. As an author, I like this device. It is a flexible sort of structure that adds to each story without breaking the sense of slice of life. 

As someone who read this after watching the anime, I want to point a few things out. 

The Witch House Cafe happens later in the anime's timeline than in the light novel's, so many characters who were present for this event in the anime are not here. Also, there is a second part of the event that is not adapted into the anime's episode, probably for this same reason (i.e. exchanging content). 

The trouble with the corrupt governor was not adapted at all. It was a funny event and shows the Highland Household do stuff other than combat, but I understand why. It is basically the beginning and ending of a story idea, no middle or development.  What happens is the household flexing on this corrupt governor in a non-combat curbstomp. 

Finally, there is a bonus story at the end. It is simple and adorable. It is too short to be its own episode, which is a shame, because Halkara is more than a comedic relief character here. She is still the butt of jokes, particularly at the end. 

This is a light and fun read, just like the first. It is relaxing, and also has a few danger! moments too. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "I've been killing slimes for three hundred years and maxed out my level - light novel volume 2" an A+



Click here for my next book reviewUltra Kaiju Humanization Project volume 2

Click here for my previous book review The World's Strongest Rearguard manga volume 1

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The World's Strongest Rearguard manga volume 1

It's like D&D + isekai, and it is a lot of fun.  

This is a story that I've seen at bookstores and then at my local public library. I decided to give it a try because this is the first volume in the series. I understand that it is the manga adaptation of the first light novel volume. This is a reincarnation isekai, and it has a number of aspects that make it an interesting example in the genre. 

The first of which is that the place which the protagonist, Arihito Atobe, reincarnates into appears to be something of an afterlife. Labyrinth country is full of people who have reincarnated after dying in other worlds. A psychopomp even appears to explain to Arihito that exploring Labyrinth country's various labyrinths is something that the recently reincarnated are expected to do. The local seeker guild's (basically a guild for adventurers) has a whole system set-up and ready for him to enter in order to start his new life. So, he may have reincarnated but Arihito is not special. This leads to the second interesting part of the premise. 

Arihito did not reincarnate alone. He died in a bus crash, and so many people reincarnated at the same time as he did. One of them is his boss from his previous life, and she wants to start a seeker party with him. In this way, Arihito's new life might have continued the same as his old life. It is an interesting point of contrast, since reincarnation isekai generally have more radical breaks and differences between the two lives. Not just with this scene either. This is a plot point developed throughout the volume. 

There are other parts, but I won't speak on them. I want to mention other parts of the volume, like Arihito's first adventure in a labyrinth. 

In this verse, a "labyrinth" is basically a wild area where monsters can be found. It is similar to how "dungeon" is used in fantasy stories. It is not literally a maze. So, in this labyrinth, Arihito and the mercenary he hired encounter a monster. I have to give the author and artist credit for this. They took a monster that appears harmless, and kind of silly, and make it into a scary and competent threat. Then, building on that encounter, they use it to set up the volume's climatic fight. The anticipation, the danger, and the stakes involved, it all builds up to a truly satisfying climax. And a satisfying resolution too. 

Falling action is a crucial part of making a climax successful, and this volume succeeds there. The aftermath of Arihito's first seeker adventure is explored, both in terms of material loot and the relationships with his budding seeker party. It reminds me of a game master for a tabletop role-playing game granting rewards for the successful completion of a quest. I think that may be why I like it so much. 

The art itself is also great. It establishes the aesthetic of Labyrinth country, and fully conveys the emotions of the characters. The fight scenes are dynamic and easy to follow. The panels set a pace that can be peaceful or energetic, and it keeps me turning pages. 

I'm definitely going to look for future volumes. I might even follow this story in both light novel and manga formats. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "The World's Strongest Rearguard manga volume 1" an A+



Click here for my next book reviewI've been killing slimes for three hundred years and maxed out my level - light novel volume 2

Click here for my previous book review My Hero Academia - Vigilantes - volume 1

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.




Sunday, May 29, 2022

My Hero Academia - Vigilantes - volume 1

The first volume of the spin-off is off to a great start!

The core cast is entirely separate from the main series, yet the author and artist have no trouble establishing them quickly. Koichi is immediately established as the Nice Guy he is, a fact cemented by his first hero/vigilante name actually being "Nice Guy", because his initial heroics are things like picking up trash and giving directions to people who are lost. He also benefits from comparisons to main series protagonist, Midoriya, as someone who wants to be a hero but isn't born with a combat quirk. He has a great character arc in this volume alone. 

Knuckleduster is, likewise, a meaty character from the get-go. The afterword in this volume describes him as the MHA version of Batman, similar to how All Might is MHA's Superman. I say that is an accurate comparison. He operates in the shadows, punches out thugs with mundane strength, and recruits a talented boy to be his Robin counterpart. He is also used for comedy, which surprised me. He and Koichi have a Straight Man and Wiseguy routine, with Koichi as the straight man reacting to his over-the-top antics. 

Finally, Pop-Step, the third member of the trio, is developed from the same time as Koichi. In fact, the two of them are contrasted in the very first scene. Koichi's quirk requires him to assume a crawling position, and this makes him look creepy. Pop-Step's quirk enables her to jump high, and so people literally and figuratively look-up-to this independent idol. Yes, she is an idol singer. She performs song and dance routines on city streets, which is illegal, and not only because she uses her quirk without a license. At the same time, she is a selfish attention seeker and also a budding hero. She does, after all, go on vigilante patrols with Koichi and Knuckleduster on top of her schoolwork and independent idol biz. 

The plot itself is quickly set-up and established as meaningful. These vigilantes do hero work even if they are not professional heroes. Side - note; Present Mic has a scene where he states that vigilantes like Knuckleduster were heroes before "hero" was a profession, back in the early days of the super-hero society. 

Someone is passing out a Psycho Serum. It is a drug that amplifies the power of a quirk while at the same time diminishing the user's ability to reason. In short, it creates "instant villains" out of ordinary people. Making it more insidious, some users aren't aware that it is a drug at all, and it doesn't have to be taken voluntarily. It is called "Trigger". 

Knuckleduster recruits Koichi to help him track down users and find the source. 

Strangely, all the users of this Trigger become monstrous after using it. They literally transform into monstrous entities that would surely be seen as villains by civilians. I wonder if this is intentional, in-universe, that is. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "My Hero Academia - Vigilantes - volume 1" an A+


Click here for my next book reviewThe World's Strongest Rearguard manga volume 1

Click here for my previous book review Ultra Kaiju - Humanization Project - volume 1

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Ultra Kaiju - Humanization Project - volume 1

A Cute Girls doing Cute Things series, where the cute girls used to be large monsters. Yes, that's what it is. This is a story where giant monsters are reincarnated as cute human girls and gather in a high school just for them, where they have harmless fun with each other. If you find this a silly situation, then you are not alone. The protagonist, Meflias, agrees with you. 

After his canon fight with Ultraman, Meflias wakes up to discover that they have become a human girl. The mysterious principal of the high school she is expected to attend offers little in the way of explanation. The school doesn't even have any actual classes. Meflias is expected to live a life that consists of self-study, school club activities, and hanging out with other kaiju reincarnated as human girls. No conquering of earth or fighting Ultramen. 

As you can expect, this is a silly and cutesy series. Its chapters are stand-alone comedy skits. Those are funny, definitely, but also kind of shallow. There isn't much of a plot going on, except there are hints that something is going on behind the scenes. I get the sense that someone is trying to tame/domestic/redeem/ etc. the various kaiju that the various Ultramen defeat. There is also a scene that implies Meflias-chan the human girl might have more to her than "defeated by Ultraman as in canon".  These and other things make me think that "Humanization Project " might be more than a subtitle for the series, and might be something in-universe.

The art is cute, for sure. It makes the light read even lighter. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Ultra Kaiju - Humanization Project -  volume 1" a B+


Click here for my previous book reviewMy Hero Academia - Vigilantes - volume 1

Click here for my previous book review:  Lizzie Newton - Victorian Mysteries V1

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Lizzie Newton - Victorian Mysteries V1

This is something I picked up on a whim while browsing my local library. It stars a mystery novelist and her steward/fiancé/personal barrister solving real mysteries during the Victorian era of England. 

It is a fun read. The art is great and the story is good, too. Perhaps that is a good way to put it, the art is better than the story. 

The art is consistency good through the volume. It can't be easy to draw all these Victorian era outfits on every page, and the staging of the cells in a manga is always an artform itself. So, the art is great.  I enjoy the character, the setting, and the presentation of the mystery. The chemical experiment in the climax is worthy of being the climax when it is presented like this. 

The story is good. It makes sense internally. It develops naturally. It has a suitably mysterious start and a great establishment for its protagonist. I think, for me, the issue lies in how the book feels disjointed.

 It's like it is half VIctorian-era romance and half mystery. First, it's all about gossip, marriage matches and the expectations of gender and social class, and then it's all about the mystery. Then the mystery is dropped entirely for the two leads to bicker about what is and isn't appropriate behavior, and the mystery might not have returned if not for the police visit.  Which has its own issues. 

I'm not speaking poorly of the story. Like I said, it is a fun read. It just feels like I'm reading two genres separately. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives Lizzie Newton -  Victorian Mysteries V1 a B+


Click here for my next book reviewUltra Kaiju - Humanization Project - volume 1

Click here for my previous book review:  Scarlet Soul volume 1

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Scarlet Soul volume 1

In which Shoujo is mistaken for Shounen. 

This is something I found in my local library. It sounds like a shouen fighting story given its premise, paraphrased as "girl from a family of exorcists literally takes up her big sister's sword to fight off an invasion of evil demons". It's not.  Maybe this is due to a slow-paced start, but the first three chapters aren't like that at all.  The actual content of the chapters give far more weight to the heroine's relationship with her best friend / love interest, so it's more like shojou. I suppose the cover should have been indicative of that. 


Anyway, the first three chapters establish the situation of the heroine, Rin Shirano. She is an outcast from her household for a number of reasons, and feels directionless in life. Her only supporters are her best friend, Aghyr, and her big sister, Lys, who, incidentally, is the only living member of her family. Then ominous news arrives, and Lys disappears. It is one of the longer uses of Call to Adventure that I have seen. Until the end of chapter 3, there isn't much of the premise to be seen. A lot of smoke but no fire. 


This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, just not what I was expecting. Even the climatic scene of this volume is light on the fighting, and places more emphasis on Rin's emotional growth. That is definitely a good scene. Rin has great character development in this volume. 


The art is beautiful. That is unqualified. The characters look great, the environments looks great, and the scenes of tragedy have this vividly gruesome vibe to underscore the tragedy. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Scarlet Soul volume 1" a C


Click here for my next book review:   Lizzie Newton - Victorian Mysteries V1

Click here for my previous book reviewBOFURI - I don't want to get hurt so I'll max out my defense - light novel volume 2

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

BOFURI - I don't want to get hurt so I'll max out my defense - light novel volume 2

 Welcome back to New World Online! It is surprising how much fun it is to read about someone else playing a VMMORPG. Yuukikan does this very well.  

This volume is different from the first in that its scope is entirely the Second Event. It is a treasure hunt across a massive area, seeded with boss areas, dungeons, and puzzles for the players to find. The rewards are silver medals, which can be exchanged for special skills.  There are other rewards, for those players skilled or lucky enough to find them. 

The main charm of this series, for me, is how it can be exciting and chill at the same time. When you read about Maple and Sally exploring a haunted forest and encountering ghosts, it is like reading about an adventuring team on a mission. The battle with the uber-boss Silver Wings is tough even for broken builds like theirs, and so it is fun to read and relaxing at the same time. This is just a game, not even a high stakes game. It is two girls having fun, which allows the reader to share in their chill fun even when things are challenging or fatiguing for them. Everything about this story is about having fun.

It's not just that. The fact of the game world itself is used to good effect. Part of this is the subplot of the game's admins being driven mad by Maple's antics. Our charming protagonist frustrates them with her unconventional build and out-of-the-box tactics; she breaks their game's balance. A couple interludes are reserved for them and their reactions to what Maple does. Another part of this is Sally.

Sally is a veteran gamer. This volume serves to more fully introduce her, since she was unavailable for much of the first volume. Her build is not so unconventional as Maple's, but her skill is such that she is just as broken. She terrorizes other players to the point that a rumor starts of her being a secret field boss, and she roleplays that for fun, because this is a game. 

This volume is a great follow-up to the first.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "BOFURI -  I don't want to get hurt so I'll max out my defense" light novel volume 2 an A+



Click here for my next book reviewScarlet Soul - volume 1

Click here for my previous book reviewNo Game No Life - Practical War Game

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

No Game No Life - Practical War Game (read for fun)

 "Practical War Game" is basically a second a second look at Disboard's Great War era. Volume 6 was about the Human perspective, and this volume includes the Elves and the Flügels

For the Elves, the situation is pretty stable. Their high skill with magic enables them to build many great cities and keep them in existence, mostly safe from danger. There's always the possibility of some living weapon flying by and blowing you up, as if they were pouring water down an ant hill, but that is a remote possibility. Battles are won and lost, and any one of them doesn't mean much in the long term; wins are celebrated, and losses are troubling, but it all evens out in the end. The Great War continues much the same. Like with the humans, this is just how the world works. 

It is in this situation that Nina Clive meets Think Nirvalen. The latter believes she can end the war by killing everyone, including the elves, and she is serious about this. She's also crazy. Her reactions with Nina form the bulk of their story, and it is like a Straight-Man and Wise-Guy routine. 

For the Flügels, their situation is the most stable. As a race of living weapons, they delight in the chaos and the bloodshed of the Great War. Yet they live on a floating homeland far from the destruction. Jibril spends her time searching for challenging opponents and couldn't care less about the deeper issues that occupy the minds of humans, elves, dragons and even her own creator. 

As I read this book, it sounded like Yuu Kamiya was using "ways to respond to existential crisis" as a theme for all the stories here. It is the only thing I can think of that links all the stories here. 

Finally, this volume includes raunchier material than previous volumes. The book says, "ages 16 and up", and it is not kidding. Nothing is explicitly sexual. That line isn't crossed. But the bar is higher than in previous volumes. This is hinted at by the book's cover page, which is why I'm not including it here. I'm not factoring this into my overall rating because I don't know how to do so. My rating system was not made with this sort of thing in mind. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "No Game No Life: Practical War Game" an A+

Click here for my next book review: BOFURI - I don't want to get hurt so I'll max out my defense - light novel volume 2

Click here for my previous book review Princess Juniper of the Anju (read for fun)

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Princess Juniper of the Anju (read for fun)

I picked this up at a public library book sale because it sounded like fun. A good little adventure. Seeking help from your mother's tribe to fight off an invasion of your father's kingdom, and undergoing formal trials to acquire that help, that does sound like an adventure, doesn't it? On one hand, it deals with heavy stuff. On the other hand, the actual content is pretty tame. What I mean to say is, the premise of this book is violent but the events are not. They're rated PG, at highest. 

I'm having difficulty being concise about this book because of how well the author takes adult-level issues and makes them acceptable and/or palatable for children. Ammi-joan Paquette does a great job on that. 

An invasion of one's homeland is a serious issue, and it is treated seriously in this book. Juniper has to make a decision about what she should do, as a princess of Torr, as the queen of Queen's Basin, and what she can do realistically. She has to be diplomatic with people she doesn't like and also with strangers. She has to work through anxiety and uncertainty. These are all adult-level things. 

Yet, the book is not grim. It is not violent.  It has a steady stream of optimism. Be confident. Take things one step at a time. Focus on what you can take care of now, and don't worry about all the other things in the future just yet. Make friends, not enemies; if you can, find common ground with enemies so they might become friends. These are all great messages for children, and they come in a gentle but firm fashion. 

Also, I want to mention the world-building, landscapes and culture, that sort of thing. The author does a great job with this as well. The layout of Queen's Basin, the path to the Anju community, and then the Anju community itself are all gorgeously described. These are the three major areas where the book takes place, and they are expanded to the extent that they feel like real places; like fully realized environments. The culture of the Anju is built up magnificently as well. It is developed over the course of the book, bit by bit, and becomes an essential plot-point. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Princess Juniper of the Anju" an A+


Click here for my previous book review: No Game No Life - Practical War Game (read for fun)

Click here for my previous book review The Irregular at the Magic High School - light novel volume 1

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Irregular at the Magic High School - light novel volume 1

I looked into this because I watched the anime on Crunchyroll. It is a fun show, but I got the sense that I was missing a lot of content. It was in the way events were presented and exposition was delivered, they hinted at much more. So, I picked up the first volume out of curiosity.  I was right. There is a lot more going on than the anime shows. 

The anime shows the events that take place and the outward relationships between characters. It doesn't show all the world-building and magic theory that the author, Tsutomu Sato, put into the light novel. Just as an example of the former, Tsutomu Sato uses several paragraphs to describe the evolution of the train system in Japan, and the effect this has on human life and relationships. The magic system gets even more space. 

Indeed, one could say that this story is not so much about the Shiba Siblings as much as it is about this modern magic system that Tsutomu Sato has devised. Chapter 0 is entirely about magic, and various points about it and its terminology are re-iterated to enforce understanding or introduce something new. The Shiba Siblings, standing at opposite ends of this magic system, serve to illustrate various mechanical and social effects of it. 

Overall, I found this to be a somber and technical story. It doesn't have many highs or lows, simply progressing at an even pace. Even fight scenes are like this. It is kind of like Tatsuya Shiba's mood, stoic-leaning-dour. It is a very interesting story, but I can't say I enjoyed reading it. Then again, this is the Enrollment Arc, and this arc isn't as much fun in the anime as the following arcs are. I'm thinking the next volume I read will be the start of the Nine Schools Competition arc. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Irregular at the Magic High School -  light novel volume 1" an A


Click here for my next book review Princess Juniper of the Anju

Click here for my previous book review:   Tasha's Cauldron of Everything - Dungeons and Dragons 5E (read for fun)

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything - Dungeons and Dragons 5E (read for fun)

I was really excited to read this one.

I picked it up because I heard that it did interesting things with character creation, and that it provided a leg up for the Ranger core class. It does all this and more. First, character creation. 

Lots of options here for customization. Unlike previous books, which provided generators and tips for adding flavor, there are numerous mechanical options here. When I heard that TCoE would allow players to mix and max race options, I was afraid that it would open the door to illogical powergaming, without respect to lore. While powergaming is definitely an option, as it always is, the lore is still intact. For instance, if you wanted to build a wizard in the past, then it was recommended to go High Elf, Tiefling or Human to get a bonus to Intelligence. A dwarf wizard would always be inferior for lacking that, which discouraged roleplay possibilities. Now, with TCoE, a player can officially state that "my dwarf character was more studious than other dwarves, and so he is more intelligent, but he's not quite as hardy as other dwarves." There is no official way for non-dwarves to get explicitly dwarfish racial abilities, like their poison resistance, so that is reassuring. 

Also on the same subject, is the idea of changing class features and even archetypes mid-campaign. I'm a dungeon master, and so I've had my share of players who want to change things up about their character or even start a new character. I've struggled to find ways to accommodate those requests within the story. Again, I'm a lore guy. I want to keep things consistent and make sure that those things have an in-universe and lore-based reason. This book helps with that by providing mechanical ways to allow and, at the same time, regulate character changes. It also has fun lore-based reasoning examples. 

Next is the Ranger core class update. All the classes received new archetypes or other options, but the Ranger is the only one that got a total overhaul. Seriously, these aren't additional features so much as they are replacement features. I understand that there is some disappointment over how the official overhaul isn't as powerful as the Unearthed Arcana, but I feel that is to be expected. In my experience, UA is always really powerful and then it gets toned down for official rules after playtesting. 

Finally, Sidekicks. The last thing in my review is going to be about the rules for sidekicks. I'd like to do more, but I'm trying to keep this review short (ish).  Sidekicks/pets/etc. have long been on the fragile end in 5E. There's a lot of roleplay potential in them, and interesting character build options for them, but they're only viable at the lower levels. These new rules make them more viable, because they can level up with the PC and gain other benefits. I say this from a place of experience. In my home game, a player befriended a pseudo-dragon, and I used these rules to make the tiny creature less squishy. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Tasha's Cauldron of Everything " an A+


Click here for my next book reviewThe Irregular at the Magic High School - light novel volume 1

Click here for my previous book review:   The Trials of Apollo - the Hidden Oracle (read for fun)

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

The Trials of Apollo - the Hidden Oracle (read for fun)

God of Prophecy, save the future! Literally, your oracles aren't functioning. 


I picked up this book at a book sale hosted by my local library. It sounded interesting. I haven't read the other Percy Jackson books. All I know of the series is from Pop Culture Osmosis. So I was unaware that two series preceded this book, and that made for a fun experience. 

I didn't feel lost at all. The author did a great job on adding relevant info from previous books without being exposition heavy about it. Evidently, the premise of this book, the god Apollo being punished with mortality, is a direct result of the outcome of the previous series, The Heroes of Olympus. So there are a lot of Late Arrival Spoilers. That is not a problem from my perspective.

 It actually made me interested in going back to those earlier books and learning the full story of the snippets. Like what happened with Leo and why he's wandering a sea of monsters and some such. Basically, the past books are treated...casually, for lack of a better word. They're like fun pieces of series lore. What you need to know for this particular series is presented neatly. For fans of the series, I imagine they are fun call-backs. 

Apollo himself is the first-person narrator, and he is obnoxious. He is prideful, self-centered, and doesn't like taking responsibility for things etc. However, the narration itself is fun to read. It's lively and comical. While full of himself, Apollo is, I wanna say, "harmless". The times that he was malicious are played up, like that satyr he flayed or the cyclops he killed, but in this story, Apollo is not mean to other people, not even in pursuit of his own goal. It is more like he is thoughtlessly selfish.  Thankfully, he gets a good dose of character development. It helps that three of his demi-god children are part of the cast. They bring out the best in him. 

The plot in this book is essentially Apollo traveling to Camp Half-Blood, learning of the situation with the Oracles (because the God of Prophecy wasn't paying attention to them), and finding a solution. That solution being a "hidden oracle", as the book's subtitle suggests. None of the characters know how to go about doing that, and what moves the plot forward appears to be prophetic dreams that Apollo receives from SPOILER. And Zeus. At many times in the story, Apollo suspects that Zeus is mucking with his memory to hide certain knowledge from him, and only allowing him certain godly power at certain times. It makes me think that Zeus has some sort of In Mysterious Ways kind of plan. 

It was a fun book to read, and its has its serious moments too. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "The Trials of Apollo -  The Hidden Oracle" an A+


Click here for my next book review:  Tasha's Cauldron of Everything - Dungeons and Dragons 5E

Click here for my previous book review:   No Game No Life volume 6 (read for fun)

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

No Game No Life volume 6 (read for fun)

This is an intense volume.  That is because its story is the final days of The Great War. Yes, that terrible and seemingly endless conflict in Dishboard's ancient history, which gave rise to Tet's ascension as the One True God, is the subject of this volume. 

It is just as bad as everyone in the present says it was. I have to give the author credit for that. Yuu Kamiya really conveys how shitty the situation was for humanity back then, when the Ten Commandments of Tet didn't exist to prevent war.  As an example, an entire human settlement has to pack up and move when a battle between higher ranked species starts near them, because the entire settlement could be wiped out in an instant by a single, stray shot.  All of them could be killed by accident without either warring party even noticing them. The emotional toll this takes is excellently conveyed. The first chapters convey the sort of survival mindset needed to exist in this world of endless war. 

That is not to say that the story is endless doom and gloom. There is levity spread throughout this story. Some of it is between the two leads, Riku and Schwi. Some of it is in the interludes, which move back to the present day, where Tet is telling this story to Izuna. Yes, the God of Games is taking a turn as a storyteller.  And, by his own admission, he is not a reliable narrator. He may have some hidden purpose for doing this, as Izuna suspects, or it may just be to amuse himself while he waits for Blank to challenge him again. 

Now, in comparing this volume to its film adaptation, No Game No Life Zero. I want to discuss, in vague terms, the resolution of The Great War. No spoilers, so don't worry about that. I'll just say that the movie does an excellent job of showing the plan in action, but not explaining how the plan works. The dual concepts of how The Great War started and how to bring it to a definitive conclusion take a bit of explaining. A novel is simply better as a medium for that exposition. It is a satisfying explanation. 

Trickster Eric Novels gives "No Game No Life volume 6" an A+


Click here for my previous book reviewThe Trials of Apollo - the Hidden Oracle (read for fun)

Click here for my previous book review:   A Certain Scientific Accelerator V2

Brian Wilkerson is an independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor's degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

His fantasy series, Journey to Chaos, is currently available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.