By Fujino Omori and Suzuhito Yasuda. Released in Japan as “Dungeon ni Deai o Motomeru no wa Machigatte Iru Darou ka? Gaiden – Sword Oratoria” by Softbank Creative. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Andrew Gaippe.
After a first volume that was good but a bit too much side story by the numbers, the second volume of Aiz’s book series ups the ante, and really shows us how similar and yet totally different Aiz and Bell both are. This is less tied into the main series than the first book was – we can tell it’s at the same time as Book 2 due to Aiz giving Bell a lap pillow (at the suggestion of her companion) when they find him collapsed. And that’s all for the best, as we begin to develop the rest of Loki’s badass crew, including Loki herself, who is allowed to become a bit of a detective as she tries to track down who’s responsible for the plant monsters we saw in the prior book. That said, the core of this book is all Aiz, as she finally finds someone she can’t defeat, and it nearly breaks her.
Frustratingly, at last for the reader, we never get a name for this mystery assailant, who is clearly set up to be an ongoing antagonist. She’s definitely in charge of the plant monsters, though, and is strong enough to take out Aiz, though to be fair she’s already injured when they fight. Their main battle happens barely halfway through the book, though, so it’s not the point. The point is not just that Aiz lost but that Aiz lost to someone who knows the name of her mother, Aria. Aiz’s past is a mystery to the reader, though we know she’s been dungeon crawling since she was seven. Here we see a flashback to happy family times before that, and can sense there’s a tragedy here we haven’t quite heard about. More to the point, that trauma combined with the loss drives Aiz to make a suicidal charge on one of the lower floor bosses, which she insists on taking out all by herself. It’s an absolutely brutal sequence, and it’s also fascinating to see Aiz actually struggle given how perfect she’s seen to be in the main series.
As for the rest of the cast, they all get their cool moments. Lefiya still has a tendency to need rescuing, but is less self-deprecating here, and helps out Aiz more than once. (She’s also still very gay for Aiz, something I doubt will ever go anywhere but I also suspect will continue as the books go on.) They have their own murder mystery to solve, but unlike Loki’s the murder is not that mysterious, just gruesome, and the culprit shows herself almost immediately. There’s also some nice little world building and ties to prior books – Hermes’ follower who pops up here as an incidental part of the murder investigation reveals that Hermes is having her hide her higher status, something that doesn’t surprise me at all knowing him, and we meet Ouranos, the God who rules the city, and he’s one mysterious character.
Honestly, not much else to say beyond this is a really good, enjoyable book from one of my favorite light novel authors. Also, lots and lots of cool fights. Fans of the series have to pick it up. It does have a typo in regards to Lefiya’s level at the very end (she’s a 3, not a 5), but I’m ignoring that because the book was so much fun.