Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Banished From The Heroes' Party
Before he was the adventurer known as Red, he was Gideon, older brother of the Hero and a knight in his own right. But because of his unusual Blessing from the gods, his level growth stopped at a certain point, and the Sage Ares told him that he was becoming a burden on his sister. So Gideon, not wanting to drag his sister and her important mission of saving the world down, left the party (not entirely of his own free will) and settled in the backwater land of Zoltan. But was it really necessary for him to be banished from the Hero's party? And at this point, does he even care?
Banished from the Heroes' Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside is a book best enjoyed by reading what isn't there. Because most of the first volume is told through Red's first-person narration, the initial picture we get of him and his reasons for being “banished” from his sister the Hero's party is definitely skewed based on his own perceptions and assumptions about himself and the people around him. He may not precisely be an unreliable narrator in the strictest literary sense, but he's clearly not seeing the entire situation for what it is, and it's in trying to figure out what Red's missing that the book distinguishes itself from other RPG-inspired fantasy light novels.
It perhaps needs to be said at this point in light novel publishing that Banished From The Heroes' Party isn't an isekai story. It's a plain old swords-and-sorcery fantasy novel, albeit one that draws some of its mechanics from the realm of role-playing games. Mostly this is in a strictly world-building sense: everyone in the story's world is given a Blessing at birth, a gift from the gods that helps to determine the course of their lives. While Blessings come with the usual levels and skill trees, there's no indication that anyone has status screens that they can call up and there are no long lists of stats to bog the narrative down, meaning that author Zappon appears to be using the idea more as a shortcut to making their point about the characters' strengths and skills rather than a base upon which the entire story is built. It probably wasn't strictly necessary, but given the publishing climate in which this book is being issued and the uncertainty of a first-time author, it is forgivable, especially since it doesn't actively drag the story down.
Red's story revolves around the fact that his Blessing is an unusual one. He's a Guide, a class that no one had ever seen before, and while it doesn't come with skill trees like most other Blessings, he does have the bonus “+30” to his level. That means that he was born at level 31, which is ludicrously strong in the story's world. But as far as anyone can tell, it also meant that he stopped growing his level at a certain point, leading him to guess that “Guide” was a support class to get the Hero, his younger sister Ruti, started on her quest to defeat the demon lord Taraxon, but not to finish it with her. Or at least, that's what he allows himself to be convinced of by another party member, Ares.
Despite the threat of Taraxon, most of the conflict within the novel is interpersonal. Burned by Ares' insistence that he leave the party (as well as the old standby of witnessing only part of a scene between Ares and Ruti and assuming the worst), Red retreats to an infamously rural and dull country, Zoltan, where he sets himself up as an apothecary. Since Ruti no longer needs him, Red's perfectly content to just disappear and throw away his prestigious life as the second-in-command of a knight regiment, an action mirrored by the princess of Loggervia, whom he met when he was still with Ruti's party. Rit (short for Rizlet) has also retreated to Zoltan for her own reasons, and she and Red have what would be considered a whirlwind romance in terms of timing if they hadn't already sort of been in love with each other and just sort of eased into a partnership. It's sweet in an underdeveloped way.
More to the point of what works about the novel is the way that in each of Red's memories we can see that Ares was certainly up to no good when he decided that Ruti's brother had to go. Despite Red's belief that he was pretty useless as Gideon, we can read between the lines to see that he was actually the cornerstone of the party: he may not have had specialized fighting skills, but he cooked, negotiated, planned…he was essentially the Lili (Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?) or Yun (Yona of the Dawn) of the group, keeping everything moving smoothly. When we check back in with Ruti and the gang in the present, that becomes even clearer, as without Gideon no one has the practical know-how to get things done…or to support Ruti emotionally.
While Ruti may be way too attached to her brother in ways that won't sit well with all readers, the fact of the matter is that her class of Hero makes it difficult for her to emote. Having grown up with her, Red can understand her on a fundamental level, and therefore provided emotional support that no one else can give because they didn't know her prior to her Blessing fully taking hold. With her brother missing, Ruti has no one she can lean on, and that's taking a toll on her well-being. Ares certainly had plans when he talked Red into believing that he was being banished, and whether or not everyone figures out what those plans were, and if they come to fruition, stands to force Red to make a decision about whether he wants to continue with his newly peaceful life or return to his days as Gideon.
There are still some questions beyond that remaining to be answered by subsequent novels, such as how precisely the Guide Blessing affects Red's other skills – does he have +30 to cooking, for example, and if so, how is he unaware of it? – but on the whole, this is an appealing combination of soothing slice-of-life and fantasy adventure. It still works best if you read between the lines, but with attractive illustrations and a plot with room for development, this is an enjoyable read, even if it's not the most original.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Nice illustrations, world isn't entirely stat-reliant. Room for world and plot to develop.
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