Mora Chester by Potekichi
The second volume got out in English recently, so of course I had to check it out: the first Rokka no Yuusha was probably the best thing I’ve read in 2017, so I had great expectations for the sequel. I approached it carefully, bracing for a disappointment. After finishing the book, I’d like to say that maybe it’s not as great as the first volume. But it’s still pretty damn great… [Spoilers have been whited out, beware]
Just like the first volume, it starts with an in-media-res prologue that jumps the shark: Hans is killed by Mora. That would suggest that it’s her who’s the villain this time. However, Auntie Mora seems to have killed her fellow Brave reluctantly, so the reader is left to contemplate “how and why will this murder happen?” for the entire remainder of the novel.
Chapter 1 brings us back to the exact point where the first novel ended. The six heroes successfully emerge alive from a trap set up by Nashetania, the Evil God’s spy among the Braves. Yet, the moment they do, yet another person with a brand of a Brave appears. It’s Rolonia, a blood-manipulating healer in a cow-themed outfit. And so, there are seven Braves again, and the question of “which one is the evil phony?” reemerges. Since time urges the heroes on, they end up entering the Evil God’s territory anyway, putting the search for the Seventh on hold out of necessity. For a big part of the novel, the action seems to have stopped. All the characters are doing is talking. About fiend politics, old chronicles, a historical fiend called Zophrair, about the Saints and their powers… It made me suspect that maybe the series gave up the mystery angle completely. Maybe the author decided he’s ran out of mystery fuel and went the Tatakau Shisho route instead. That would explain all the worldbuilding. The fleshing out of the conflict between two sides – fiends and humans, with Braves beings the representatives of the latter. And the Yamagata Names, more unreadable than ever. But no: all this exposition was only laying the bait for a later session of riddle solving. Although the question of “Who’s the Seventh and is there even a Seventh?” never really becomes forgotten, it soon loses its priority anyway, when more pressing matters emerge – like surviving in the Howling Vilelands. Or in case of a certain someone – struggling against time, passing mercilessly…
Although the enemy has been a hardly-defined evil force in the first volume, we get to learn much more about the Evil God’s servants this time. The prime antagonist in the second volume is Tgurneu, a cunning commander of the fiends who likes to eat figs. We also get to explore the personalities of some of the good guys. After the tumultous events of the first volume of Rokka no Yuusha, Adlet’s position as the party’s leader becomes an undisputed fact. He’s suffered enough for everybody to acknowledge that he’s not the Seventh. That’s why the cowardly warrior isn’t the main character in this volume – this time it’s Mora. She’s on the cover for a reason. We learn plenty more about the Saint who seemed like one of the prime suspects in volume 1. Mora has a daughter who became a target of the evil forces’ plans long before the Spirit of Fate decided who its chosen warriors would be. Tgurneu planted a deadly parasite in her and promised to remove
it at a condition: Mora, when she becomes a Brave, will have to kill one of her comrades before a set time limit. Mora and Tgurneu formed a magical pact with the help of the Saint of Words to make sure both sides keep their word. Of course, Mora had been keeping this agreement a secret the entire time, certain that she would kill the fiend commander before her time runs out.
Deeper into the Howling Vilelands, Tgurneu ambushes the Braves. After a long, unresolved fight, the villain escapes. A move which was supposed to be certain death to fiends seems to have failed. Adlet becomes heavily injured and the party has to retreat to a safe spot. After a while, the heroes make a second attempt at defeating Tgurneu. One that’s the last ditch effort for Mora: her deadline, after which her daughter dies is fast approaching. She puts up a magical barrier to trap the fiend commander and sets out to kill him, while Adlet does his little investigation on Tgurneu’s invincibility elsewhere. Adlet figures out the truth too late, while Mora, after the book’s climactic battle, fails to kill her enemy, who escapes, telling her that he managed to obtain a seventh Brave’s crest and that she’s the Seventh, as his parting words. Tgurneu can’t lie, as a term of their magical contract, so Mora, at peace with being with the bad guys now, decides to kill one of the Braves, as it’s the only way to save her daughter now. Mora turns coat and kills Hans. Mora is now free from her contract. However, Rolonia manages to bring Hans back to life with her powers – this too-good-to-be-true turn of events prevents the heroes from losing a party member and frees Mora’s daughter of the parasite. And so everybody lives happily ever after. The Braves, together with the reader, experience catharsis – a great feeling of relief and improvement, now that Mora has been through hell and emerged alive out of it. Just like in the first volume. And it turns out she’s not the Seventh after all. Solution of the mystery: that little trait giving the villain some personality wasn’t just a decoration. The fig did it. Turns out Tgurneu could lie after all – what they thought was him was only a disposable puppet steered from the shadows by the actual fiend and his power. It wasn’t Tgurneu who made the magical oath. It wasn’t him who was killed by Adlet.
And so the second volume, which I was afraid might not even be a mystery, but typical monster-slaying shenanigans, actually did deliver. Now I’m anticipating the third volume, afraid yet again of a disappointment. The epilogue to the second volume reveals that Nashetania is alive, and a minion of Dozzu, a fiend commander whose existence had even been doubted. This best be good.