Crest of the Stars: The Return to Strange Skies

By Hiroyuki Morioka and Toshihiro Ono. Released in Japan by Hayakawa Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Giuseppe di Martino.

The final book of the trilogy, though not the final book in the series overall. This wraps up getting Jinto and Lafier off the planet they’ve been stranded on and back to the Abh Empire, where he can finally go to quartermaster school an she can be a pilot. In between, we get cops chasing them, soldiers chasing the, the resistance desperately trying to get them to behave like hostages, a wild chase through an amusement park with animatronic animals, space battles galore, getting shot into space in a coffin, and an epilogue that neatly wraps everything up. If there hadn’t been more of the series, you’d still be pretty satisfied. That said, I am very happy that Banner of the Stars is to follow, as I think this was the best book of the three, despite a few battle scenes that were overfilled with vocabulary, this series’ Achilles heel.

The best reason to read this third volume is the introduction of Sporr, who is essentially that princess-curled high school bully girl from every anime ever put onto a spaceship. She even does the Ojousama Laugh (TM). The back and forth between her and her beleaguered assistant is pure gold, and you also greatly enjoy it when she’s the one who rescues Lafier and it turns out they hate each other, because of course they do. Unlike most princess-curled anime girls, though, Sporr is also tactically clever, and you can tell her rank is not just for show. Speaking of ranks, I also enjoyed the scene near the end where Lafier has to go before a commission to see if she can be a full-fledged pilot. They enjoy making her twist in the wind a bit, magnifying every error she’s committed along the way before mercifully admitting that she did fine and passes. The amusement park was also a hoot, with the behavior of the robot animals possibly being the comedy high point.

As for Jinto and Lafier, they are still not quite a couple by the end of the book, but Jinto does admit he wants to spend the rest of his life by her side, and even after he’s made crew on her new spaceship, she still asks him to call her Lafier. You get the sense that for these two reserved kids, this may be as explicit as you get. They do continue to be awful at being on the lam, and it’s a relief that the comedy resistance fighters are still capable enough to take care of them. he local police force also helps. One of my favorite bits of characterization in the book was seeing Kyte, the military liaison who’s been a prick ever since he arrived on the scene, gradually loosening up, revealing backstory, becoming sympathetic… and then losing it and becoming a prick again when he sees Lafier in person. Sometimes your tragic backstory isn’t enough to redeem you. You have to actually put in the effort. He did not.

The epilogue of the book sees us jump forward three years, and I suspect Banner of the Stars will feature even more space battles than we’ve gotten already. Still, this final volume was excellent. If you can get past the tortured vocabulary, Crest of the Stars is a great space opera.

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