Kobold King, Vol. 2

By Syousa. and sime. Released in Japan by Legend Novels (Kodansha). Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Amy Osteraas.

First things first: aside from the very start of this book, it is entirely devoted to warfare, with a large group of adventurers, mercenaries and soldiers marching to wipe out the Kobolds and their allies, and our heroes essentially turning into a jungle-based terrorist group to stop them. If this doesn’t interest you, you are not going to get much out of this book, as the brief characterization we had in Book 1 is left behind for the most part in favor of battle scenes. The good news is that the battle scenes are quite well written, and there’s a definite sense of tension to the whole book. Having killed off one of the main characters in the first volume, the reader is under the assumption that no one is safe. Indeed, while I wasn’t expecting the bad guys to win, I did start to suspect it would be a pyrrhic victory where most of the main cast sacrifice themselves. It comes close. That said, this is marked the end of the first “arc”, so presumably more books are coming.

On one side we have the evil obsessed Wyatt and his suit of magical armor, determined to destroy absolutely everyone on the Kobold side, especially Gaius. He’s attracted most of his force by offer of a large reward, but some others (the ones who were there the first time) he has to blackmail. The force itself is quite well divided between men and women, actually, which surprised and pleased me. Of course, this means that both men and women get their skulls caved in, hearts torn out and heads chopped off, because the mercenary force runs into Gaius and Sashalia’s Kobold guerrilla fighters. They have a force far, far smaller than the army’s, but are fighting for both survival and to make the other side give up and say it’s not worth the trouble. To that end, the Kobolds put out endless dangerous traps, use dirty and underhanded fighting tactics, and also have Gaius, who can kill dozens on his own. All this coordinated by Sashalia, who can no longer fight but can still be a tactician.

While I enjoyed this book, there’s not really much to say about it because it’s almost all action. I was thankful that the whole “I want to be the one to take Gaius’ virginity!” plotline was given barely a passing mention, and indeed there’s no love triangle here as was hinted in the last book, mostly as everyone is too busy fighting. Most of the cast ends up coming pretty close to dying – indeed, I was fairly certain that when Darke was hurled against a tree at full speed that she was dead. I was also certain that Emon was dead when Wyatt basically started hacking him to bits. And I certainly expected Gaius and Wyatt to kill each other in the final battle. Instead, the day is saved by a spirit from the dead returning and giving Gaius one final weapon. It’s unrealistic, but hey, we’ve had realism the whole battle, so I was fine with it.

As with other series from this label, we’re not sure when there will be more of it – it’s only two volumes in Japan for now. Still, if you want to know what Vietnam would have been like with kobolds, elves, dwarves and giant lizard creatures, this is a strong read.

Kobold King, Vol. 1

By Syousa. and sime. Released in Japan by Legend Novels (Kodansha). Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Fatuma Muhamed.

I find myself saying “this is a book of two halves” quite often, but it fits with this one as well, so I’m going to stick with it. Our hero is Gaius, a huge ex-soldier who has left his position in the kingdom for reasons that are hinted at but never quite fully explained, and gone back to his home village… which was destroyed long before. He’s come to put his relative’s ashes to rest. Then he comes across a monster trying to kill what sounds like a child in the woods, but turns out to be a Kobold, which is to say a cute puppy that walks on two legs and talks. She takes him to her village, which is recovering from an attack by humans, and he starts off as a prisoner. But gradually he endears himself to everyone there, and life is wonderful… at least until humanity reinserts itself into his life. From there, the book takes a much darker and more tragic turn.

Frankly, Gaius fits in much better with the kobolds than he does with other humans, and not just because he’s one-quarter troll. He’s a huge bear of a man, really sweet and nice but also tends to act without thinking and does not do well with politics or tactics… you can sense why he left the kingdom, in the middle of a tactical war, without really being given the gist. He’s also one of those “I smile but it looks scary” types. The best part of the book is the first third or so, which is just him and the kobolds, as he ingratiates himself and proves indispensable to them. The middle sags a little by adding a few “this is more like anime” sort of characters – his ex-adjutant is a half-elf who’s in love with him, something which everyone can see except him. There’s also his adopted daughter Darke, whose backstory is not revealed till the end, which means mostly she irritates, as she wants to be Gaius’ first lover. And there is a teenage dwarf, Emon (his name is a pun on Doraemon), who wants to be a strong and brave warrior.

After a middle third of these three joining the cast, the humans (who had already driven the kobolds from their first village and killed a great number of them) return to finish the job. I knew there would be another battle, but I wasn’t expecting it to get so dark – Gaius’ attempt at negotiation is an utter failure, and characters we’ve come to care about die or are permanently disabled. That said, it serves to emphasize the aims of the book, which is “war is hell” and “humans are bastards”. There’s a battle for a throne between two royal family members, and though we never see either royal, both sides look pretty bad to me. The kobolds are dismissed as “monsters” and therefore creatures to be exterminated. We meet a band of evil adventurers (an excellent part of the book that shows off the dark side of adventuring after reading all those isekais) and see how each one is individually the worst.

So in the end this is a good book in getting Gaius to stand up and fight again, rather than simply retreating, but it’s a downer, frankly. Fortunately, it does not seem like the sort of series that’s going to run and run, so things should resolve soon. Worth a read.