Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers
Many years ago, a great hero sealed away the greatest evil to ever threaten the world. From time to time, this Fiend will once again rear its head, and when it does, six Braves will be summoned to subdue it once more. That time has come, but there's just one problem – it looks as if seven Braves have been summoned. One of them must be a fake, but which one? Most of the group casts a grim eye on Adlet Mayer, but is it really him? And even if they find the seventh, will it be possible for them to fulfill their duty?
Unlike many other fantasy light novels that have seen recent English-language releases, Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers does not take an ordinary guy and transport him to a fantasy world. It doesn't feature just one “chosen one,” and it doesn't rely on fantasy game tropes. Instead, Ishio Yamagata's light novel, the first in an ongoing series, is a swords and sorcery fantasy adventure, centered on a group of disparate heroes who have to not only band together to defeat an ancient evil, but also to root out a counterfeit hero within their midst. It's a fun, albeit dark, story, and one that relies more on the characterization of its primary hero, Adlet Meyer, than on genre tropes.
The basic premise of the story is that in a fantasy world a great evil was sealed away years ago. But the seal is relatively imperfect, and since the original hero didn't kill the monster, she arranged for her power to be broken into six parts. When the fiend escapes, as happens every so often, a specific seal will appear on the bodies of the chosen Braves (heroes) who will be able to once again subdue the monster. There's no set formula for how the Braves will be chosen, but common wisdom says that they'll be the strongest fighters, so when eighteen-year-old Adlet Meyer wants to become one, he sets out to crash a royal tournament in hopes of claiming a seal if he wins. Things don't go particularly well and Adlet ends up in prison, but he manages to become a Brave anyway, and since the princess of the realm, Nashetania, another Brave, has deliberately befriended him during his time in prison, she is able to spring him from jail and they set out to meet up with their companions. There's just one problem – when they show up at the meeting point, there are seven people with floral seals, and when things quickly go sideways, it becomes obvious that whoever the seventh is, they're not here to help.
Based on his initial characterization – the headstrong, slightly goofy young man who breaks into the final round of an official royal event – Adlet seems to be the logical choice for number seven. That makes it particularly interesting that Yamagata goes out of his way to let us know that he's not it. Adlet is our primary point-of-view character, and we're present when he receives his seal. As the story progresses, we also come to understand that Adlet's seeming brashness is at least half an act – he's sought out training to become the (self-proclaimed) strongest man in the world because of tragedy in his past, and his constant repetition of his title is less a brag and more a way for him to keep reminding himself that he's got the power to make sure that the tragedies of his life don't get repeated. He's got a surprisingly open personality, making him an engaging protagonist and detective, as well as one of the few truly likable characters in the story.
This may be a deliberate decision on the part of the author. Since we know that Adlet isn't the traitor, Yamagata needs to make all of the others as suspicious as possible. This works particularly well with Chamo and Mora, both of whom are what are known as “Saints” in the story's world, essentially meaning that they were born with specific magical abilities. Chamo is actually intensely annoying, even to the other characters in the story, which is an unusual tack to take. Fremy, the potential romantic interest for Adlet, is the only character who isn't immediately suspicious, which is suspicious within itself. Each character has enough clues dropped to give us a decent sense of mystery, which will, as it turns out, be more important than it at first appears.
The mystery of who the seventh is does get solved within this volume, although the entrance of a new character at the very end once again raises it. (For anime fans, this stops just shy of the ending of episode twelve.) Once you know the identity of number seven, it is possible to look back and see all of the hints, and even without the knowledge of who it is, you can solve the mystery mostly on your own, although a few pieces of pertinent information are kept back until Adlet makes his big reveal. It does feel fair to say that Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers is a fantasy/mystery hybrid, which makes the book more appealing. Unusually for a light novel, the only illustrations are the chapter covers, which allows us to focus a bit more on the text. The pictures are a bit too perky to really work, but with them limited to chapter title pages, they aren't much of a distraction.
The continuation of the mystery at the end of the book is unfortunate, as it would have been nice to move on a little ways before raising the same specter. Beyond, that, however, this is a solid entry into the catalog of English-language light novels, and worth reading if you're looking for a little more substance and less isekai in your fantasy.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : C+
+ Engaging story that blends mystery with fantasy. Interesting character development, possible to solve the mystery for ambitious readers
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