Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Goblin Slayer and his party have been asked to escort Sword Maiden to the capital city, where a strange flaming mass has appeared from the sky. Fearing that this means the return of the demons Sword Maiden and her party defeated in the past, and just feeling generally safer with Goblin Slayer around, Sword Maiden never expects that having the group will prove as important as it does, because when the princess is captured by goblins, that means that the right people for the job are on hand and ready to fight back.
As the Goblin Slayer light novels have gone on, the characters have grown in a variety of subtle ways. There haven't been any earth-shattering revelations or changes for them, but that actually works in the series' favor, keeping the characters grounded in their fears, issues, and other emotional work while still allowing them to evolve. In some ways it feels more organic than many other works, because people are more likely to change slowly over time as they have more encounters and experiences rather than undergo major epiphanies due to one substantial event or meeting. In the case of this particular series, there's also the fact that characters who have suffered trauma – specifically Goblin Slayer, Priestess, Noble Fencer, and Sword Maiden in this book – aren't magically cured. They carry their emotional baggage with them wherever they go, and if they're able, they might leave a small piece of it behind sometimes. But we always see how hard that is for them, and that gives the stories more weight than you might expect for a hack-and-slash gorefest, which this can absolutely be at times.
This particular volume owes a lot to the events of previous books. Although we never really saw what happened to Sword Maiden in the past, we know what those events were and how her acquaintance with Goblin Slayer has helped to make her feel more safe, and that's what gets the ball rolling this time – she wants him and his party to accompany her to the capital, where she has to attend a meeting with the king. Once there we meet up with Noble Fencer again, albeit in a new incarnation title-wise, and we see how she's doing after the horrors she faced at the hands of the goblins several books ago. Goblin Slayer himself finds that he has to go up against monsters that aren't goblins, which makes him question himself just a bit (could there be more to life than killing goblins?), and finally, Priestess has a new opportunity to face her disastrous first mission and to think about her role, both in the party and as regards Goblin Slayer.
There's an interesting comparison to be made between Priestess and Sword Maiden in this volume. Both women are arguably dependent upon Goblin Slayer to some degree; Priestess because he saved her in a literal sense and helped her to find her way in the world as an adventurer, and Sword Maiden because he helped her emotionally, allowing her to once again feel safe. What's worth examining is how they take his help and use it – where Sword Maiden simply falls for him (even as she feels it's slightly inappropriate), Priestess seeks to return the favor and to get stronger. She wants to become a more reliable party member, yes, and worries that her weakness in comparison to the other members of the group will hold them back (seemingly having no real idea of her value as a cleric), but she also wants to become someone Goblin Slayer can rely upon on a more personal level. Whether or not this translates to a romantic interest in him is largely up to the reader's interpretation, but what seems clear is that she wants to be able to do for him what he did for her – to be able to provide him with the support he needs to work on his own trauma. We have seen her do that in past novels, and the ending of this one may imply that she and Cow Girl both have the ability to, if not heal him, give him the support he requires to begin working through his issues. Between the two of them, Goblin Slayer seems to be considering things in ways that he wasn't able to before.
Among those “things” two stand out in this book: he fights monsters that aren't goblins and he truly begins to think of his party members as his friends. While the former isn't necessarily done as part of a solid plan (Guild Girl definitely deceived him on the whole sea serpent thing), the latter is something he's been working towards in the last couple of books, and with this one he really seems to almost accept it. Attachment is a real problem for Goblin Slayer, given that everyone he cared about in childhood except Cow Girl was killed, and with accepting that Priestess isn't just some kid he picked up and the rest of the party aren't temporary he's making major strides forward in his emotional life. Perhaps the biggest sign of that we see in this volume is when he lets Priestess hold his hand near the end of their dungeon delve (although holding her close to help her walk rather than slinging her over his shoulder also feels significant) – while it could be read as romantic, it's more important in that it is a permitted intimacy that shows his comfort with her and softer feelings for her. Even if he's just doing it to make her feel better, that's a level of consideration that he hasn't really shown before, as well as an awareness of Priestess' feelings that he might not previously have acted on.
Despite these positives (and the implication that the characters have actual names, which is the first time this has really been acknowledged), the book does have its issues, foremost among them being the lack of repercussions for Priestess using her miracle to kill someone in book seven. Even if the Earth Mother forgave her, it seems like Priestess should still be having some issues with her actions, or at least feel conflicted, something we see when she visits a former party member's grave. It's too big a deal for Kagyu to just drop it, and that he did feels very anti-climactic. On a similar note, the whole “demon hand from the corpse” thing also doesn't get quite enough plot-time; yes, Goblin Slayer is unlikely to care about helping fight against not-goblins in the future, but it's still a very big deal for the story's world, and will probably end up affecting him in the future no matter what.
Those things aside, as well as a slightly repetitive tone to descriptions, the eighth entry into the light novel series proves that it can hold its own even when the focus isn't solely on killing goblins. Sword Maiden might be a relatively one-note character in comparison to Priestess, but there's enough going on both internally and externally that even repeated descriptions of her sexiness or references to characters' bottoms can't hold the novel back.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Interesting character work, including parallels between Sword Maiden and Priestess. Continued growth.
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