Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers, Vol. 2

By Ishio Yamagata and Miyagi. Released in Japan by Shueisha. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Jennifer Ward.

(Despite the fact that this isn’t a whodunnit beyond page 1, I won’t reveal the culprit’s name in the first paragraph of the review. After that, though, I will. FYI.)

The first volume of this series was strongly concerned with the ‘whodunnit’, and did a decent job, but also left us with a cliffhanger that made me worry we’d have to go through the whole thing again. Sensibly, the second book dispenses with the ‘who is the traitor’ question right off the bat, for the most part (there are still hints there’s yet ANOTHER traitor, but I’ll leave that for now) and tells us on the very first page. And then we get a flashback as to how we got to that situation, though there’s no record scratch noise, nor does the guilty party look towards the camera. So instead of whodunnit, or why did they do it, we have a sort of ‘how are they gonna get out of it?’ situation, as a very nice person has been personally put through the wringer the past three years and may have to commit the worst act to save those they hold dear.

Mora was presented to us in the first book as an overly serious woman, perhaps a bit stubborn, but determined to fill her role as a Brave and defeat the Evil God. And to be fair, she really IS a Brave, rather than a fake. That said, she’s being blackmailed, and being (I think) the oldest of the Braves, she has to deal with a very old and familiar form of blackmail. Do what the villain says or your daughter will die horribly. The strongest part of the book is taking us into her head and her tortured motivations for doing exactly what she has to do to save her family and yet also try not to take a life. Tellingly, the book still keeps some information secret from us, but it’s obvious why, and I don’t blame it a bit, as suspense novels need, well, suspense.

As for the rest of the book, there is still a ‘who is it?’ aspect to the book, and lots of debate about same, but as with the first book, the debates are interspersed with enough action so as not to be tedious. Also, unlike the first book, we get a great number of scenes of our heroes fighting demons… though they don’t do as well as they could, given that they still suspect each other of being a traitor. Adlet remains the ‘hero’ type character, but is a bit more likeable here, possibly as he refers to himself as the Strongest Man in the World slightly less. I did have one egregious moment of “OK, I call no way” involving searching for a ludicrously tiny thing across the ruins of a battlefield, but every book leads at least one time when the disbelief suspension bridge breaks and you plummet to your death.

The main reason I’m still interested in reading this is that it’s not very much like a lot of the other light novels we’re getting these days. Yes, it’s a fantasy with fiends, magic, etc. but style-wise we’re a long way removed from ‘I am in another world and dungeon crawling’. That said, I do wonder how many volumes it will drag out “one of us is a traitor”. But overall, well worth your time, and if you missed the insane bunny girl, there’s a cliffhanger here with your name on it.

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