Last Round Arthurs, Vol. 3: The Snow Maiden & The King Who Killed Arthur

By Taro Hitsuji and Kiyotaka Haimura. Released in Japan by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jan Cash.

I must admit up front: I did not enjoy this book as much as the last two. There’s a big reason for that: Luna, who is probably the best reason to read the book, spends most of it sidelined by the latest villain, and the series is simply far less fun when she’s not around being the Big Dumb Girl With A Good Heart. The other reason is an odd one, as the afterword explicitly lays it out for me: Rintarou changes over the course of the book, becoming far more of a shonen hero-type of character rather than the grumpy cynic he’d been so far. The author says this is a common development in manga and light novels, but I’m not sure it’s as common as he thinks, and I’m not sure it fits the character well. I don’t really want to see Rintarou become Touma. Other than that, though, the book is doing what it does best: lots of Arthurian backstory, lots of big shonen battles, and lots of betrayal.

The titular snow maiden is Nayuki Fuyuse, who readers may have forgotten was introduced in Book 1 as Rintarou’s mysterious classmate. The fact that she’s part of all this is not that much of a surprise. The fact that she’s secretly in love with him is also not that big a surprise. What *is* a surprise is that Rintarou, who is usually fairly clever, does not immediately realize who she is when she says the one thing she can’t do is tell him who she is. All he has to do is think of the person who betray4ed Merlin back in the day and bing! There’s your answer. In any case, she’s more support here. The actual King candidate is a whiny young creep named Hitoshi, his Jack Sir Tristan, and a mysterious young woman named Reika, who seems to be a mass murderer but there’s more to her than we think. And, as always, Elaine is pulling all the strings.

Apologies for spoiling a bit, but to be fair, it is in the book’s subtitle: the best part of this book is the subplot with Mordred. There is rare subtlety in the writing at her portrayal, and I particularly liked her own Jack, Sir Dinadan, casually mentioning that all the King candidates she’s supposedly murdering are not actually dead yet. It also reminds us of the story’s Arthurian background, and the fact that Arthur basically fell from grace, as it were. Unfortunately, there’s one more big minus in this book, and that’s the villain, Hitoshi. If Last Round Arthurs is a Fate ripoff, then here’s Shinji, whining, demanding, and threatening to rape the cast. What is it with light novel writers and their desire to make all the villains super, super, SUPER bad?

This is still a quick, easy read, and I might get the next volume, if only to see if Kay (barely in this book) will do anything at all. But I must admit this volume is no more than a C+.

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