Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
A quest takes Goblin Slayer, Priestess, and the others to the northern reaches of the realm to investigate not only the loss of a party of novice adventurers (including a young noblewoman) but also unusual goblin activity. They discover the unthinkable – a goblin with powers previously unattainable by non-prayer people, but still manage to innovate a solution. Then Goblin Slayer and his party are back in town, not so much taking a break as seeing what's next for them. That turns out to be a young red-headed wizard boy, determined to become the next goblin killer to avenge the death of his older sister. His presence and past force both Priestess and Goblin Slayer to think about their own lives and actions, even as the building of a training facility for new adventurers on the ruins of Goblin Slayer and Cow Girl's village stirs other emotions.
While the story arcs covered by the 2018 anime adaptation begin the work of showing how Goblin Slayer's new party helps him recover some of his lost humanity, the events of volumes five and six really kick that job into high gear. What's also interesting is that Priestess' role, while still firmly centered on how she helps humanize Goblin Slayer, also gets some closer examination, giving her the character development she needs to stand on her feet as the secondary protagonist of the series. That truly began with her interactions with Noble Fencer in the previous novel; Noble Fencer's captivity at the hands of the goblins made Priestess think back to her disastrous first adventure and how that continues to gnaw at her despite the fact that she came out physically unscathed. It's the idea that not all wounds leave physical marks that continues to drive the story's character development, and Noble Fencer's role in that in volume five is very important.
Noble Fencer is, at least in part, why Goblin Slayer and the others head north in the first place, but it is what she endures and survives that's more significant. The only survivor of her party, Noble Fencer is captured by the goblins and made to suffer the usual tortures that befall women. As per usual, the novel does not go into any detail – in fact, the entire scene is cut off with “but we don't need to see what happened to her next” – making the emotional impact of being a survivor more relevant to the story. And Noble Fencer is a survivor. Unlike Priestess' former party members, she manages to come through the trauma, although it is made very, very clear that it isn't easy. The fact that she has Priestess there is really the key factor. Because Priestess has spent almost a year (a full year has passed since the story began when volume six opens) with Goblin Slayer, watching and getting to know him, she is able to recognize that Noble Fencer is at risk of going down the same route herself. While Goblin Slayer's done alright, no one could really say that he's unscarred by his past and that his coping mechanisms are suspicious at best and ineffective at worst. This time, however, Priestess is there, and her presence, compassion, and understanding are able to bring Noble Fencer back from the brink. It's something she could not have done without her own trauma or spending time getting to know Goblin Slayer, and without High Elf Archer, Lizardman Priest, and Dwarf Shaman she wouldn't have had the courage to act on what she knows. Her help in saving Noble Fencer is the culmination of everything she's gone through, and the actions of Guild Girl and Cow Girl at the end of the fifth novel indicate that they recognize her particular strengths.
Goblin Slayer sees them as well, although he may not be excellent at saying as much. The sixth book brings his own version of Noble Fencer into the mix – Wizard Boy, a young man who ran away from school in order to become an adventurer and kill goblins. His motivations are startlingly similar to Goblin Slayer's – his older sister was killed by them. In Wizard Boy's case, however, he was not involved with the actual attack and is at least partially motivated by the fact that everyone made fun of his sister for getting killed by “weak” monsters. Despite this, when Goblin Slayer hears the boy's reason for his actions, he has what can only be described as a panic attack, something so out of character that Spearman remarks on it as he's shoved out of the way by a fleeing Goblin Slayer. From that moment, Goblin Slayer is very conflicted about how to handle Wizard Boy, especially since he's not particularly nice to Priestess. (Priestess comes through with aplomb thanks to her growth in volume five.) This is compounded when he learns that the Guild is building a training ground outside of town – on the ruins of Goblin Slayer's village and the site of his trauma.
It would be too easy, and therefore not effective, to resolve Goblin Slayer's issues in this book, but a very important step in terms of self-realization is made. Goblin Slayer more fully understands how what he went through as a child has affected him, which makes him think more about what he can and should do. He's not fully able to answer those questions, but to see him make a start at understanding that they exist is important. Cow Girl proves to be a rock for him here, with she and Priestess filling very different, but equally significant, roles for him across the two novels. Although the answers will eventually have to come from Goblin Slayer himself, we can see how those who care about him are helping to move him towards that point.
Emotional content aside, volume five is the more exciting of the two books, with more detailed battle scenes and gore. Kagyu doesn't skimp on non-sexual violence description, and this is helped by Goblin Slayer's increasingly intricate tactics as the party fights in different locations. (The ancient dwarven fortress in volume five, as well as its snowy exterior, makes for some good fights.) That the goblins seem to be getting a little wilier, or possibly smarter, also ups the stakes, and after the climactic battle in volume six we may see people taking them a little more seriously as a threat. Location description also continues to be well done here, with the only two major annoyances being carry-overs from previous books: Witch's speech patterns and the constant need to remind us of the bust size of each female character.
As a series, Goblin Slayer is moving into more introspective territory without losing the dark fantasy edge that made it interesting in the first place. These books do feed into each other, perhaps more so than previous entries, and while the plots are the same, the novels take a different approach to presenting them than either the manga or anime adaptations. It's just good old-fashioned dark fantasy in the TSR vein, and both of these books work well with that genre.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Good character work for Priestess and Goblin Slayer, nice battle descriptions and sense of place
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