Reign of the Seven Spellblades, Vol. 1

By Bokuto Uno and Miyuki Ruria. Released in Japan as “Nanatsu no Maken ga Shihai suru” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Alex Keller-Nelson.

This was one of the two “big names” licensed a while back, and it had a huge amount of buzz to live up to. It not only lived up to the hype, it sailed over any other hurdles. This book is good. Really, hard-to-put-down good. This is all the more surprising given that it runs on some very common fantasy novel themes. Our heroes are first-years who are arriving at a prestigious magic school in not-Britain. Most of the characters will be a recognizable type, but this doesn’t make them annoying or boring, rather it makes it easier to identify and sympathize with them. The exceptions are our two lead protagonists, both of whom clearly have a lot more to their backstories than our first meeting would initially suggest. They go to school, learn magic, learn swords (more on that in a bit), and end up in trouble about every 30-40 pages or so. That said… this is surprisingly dark.

Our group of first years are: Oliver, the main protagonist, a serious young man with a talent for intricate spells; Nanao, the other main protagonist, a foreign student who knows nothing in the world except fighting to the death; Katie, the daughter of demi-human rights activists who shares their activism; Guy, a goofy everyman sort; Pete, who comes from a nonmagical family and is here to study and prove himself; and Michela, the noble girl with princess curls who, for once, turns out to be the nicest person in the book. They get into adventures right off the bat when a troll goes berserk at the run-up to the opening ceremony, and can’t seem to stop stuff happening to them after that, from getting trapped in the labyrinthine hallways after school to fighting a duel that goes horribly awry to finding that most of their upperclassmen are completely, 100% bonkers.

As I said, this book is darker than you’d expect. It’s made very clear at the start by the headmaster that a lot of the students die. We also see several fourth and fifth years who are happy to torture, battle, or experiment on anyone that catches their fancy. It’s also a school that combines swordsmanship with magic, after a magical duel in the past ended in death because the mage was no good at up-close fighting. The “spellblades” in the title are legendary blades that are essentially “one hit kill” blades, and there are not many on the world at all. It’s not hard to guess who’s going to be spellblading by the end of this book, but that’s OK. Plus there’s a lovely twist at the end that throws a lot of what we were assuming about one of the characters out the window, and makes me wonder if this cute romance I was hoping for is going to end at all well.

There’s more I could talk about. Nanao is, as I said, trained only for battle, but she’s surprisingly innocent and goofy otherwise. There’s a nasty rival character who appears to be set up to just be a constant antagonist, but then is dealt with and starts becoming a better person. There’s everything about Chela, who may be my favorite character in the book, despite essentially being Rin Tohsaka with Luvia’s hair. (There are a lot of characters who you could say are “essentially __________”, and you will note I have avoided mentioning a certain series that will come to mind.) Most importantly, the book is gripping and makes you want to read fast and immerse yourself in the world, despite being pretty lengthy (it’s over 280 pages). This is absolutely worth the hype.

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  1. After Alderamin’s ending, I’d better wait to see where this series goes before getting invested.

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