Banner of the Stars: Destiny’s Refrain

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.

I admit, I frequently have difficulty plowing through these books. I enjoy the plotting and characterization, but the writing is a bit on the dry side, not to mention all the bolded vocab. Usually I have a lot of banter between Jint and Lafier to hold me over, but in this book they appear less than they have in any of the others – and for good reason. If you ever looked at the massive Abh Empire and thought “wow, they seem arrogant, I wish they’d lose everything they have”, well, wish granted, my friend. We get an awful lot of dead cast members, though most of the ‘current’ younger generation, including our two leads, are fine. But it does mean that you’re reading an entire book about the downfall of an entire people, which can be… bleak. Honestly, it’s at times like this that I’m grateful for the Abh’s blase attitude towards everything, as this would be a lot worse if people were screaming and crying as they died.

Picking up right where the last book left off, it turns out that the Hania Federation has pulled a fast on the Empire (and indeed on its own negotiators), joining with the Three Nations Alliance. The Abh very quickly realize that they are screwed, and a good deal of the book is seeing them trying to evacuate to a safe haven as many people as possible while also having those in change (including the Empress, Lafier’s grandmother) nobly try to hold off the enemy as long as possible. Lafier’s brother Duhier also gets a subplot as he tries to be a soldier despite the entire world working to make sure he can never do anything productive – it would normally be funny, but we feel his frustration. As for Jint, he’s busy moving gravestones, which to the Abh are far more important than his own life or Lafier’s.

The book is not entirely a downer. Sporr makes a welcome return towards the end, as does her aide, and they’re as hilarious as ever, as she is essentially the Abh version of the princess-curled ojousama. Jint manages to talk to the old Baron who helped them escape from his son’s clutches, and there is some amusing teasing about his relationship with Lafier – literally everyone assumes that they are lovers, though if they are neither one communicates that to the reader. But for the most part this book is about last stands and picking up the pieces, and I suspect that the next book, when it comes (which is also the most recent book, having come out in 2018), will have the Abh taking on more of a freedom fighter sort of role. In the meantime, this is good space battle stuff, assuming you don’t mind the technical banter, the bolded words and, of course, the piles of death, most of which, like the Abh, is communicated to us very matter of factly.

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