Jun 12, 2021
Saying "Hooray! It's competent!" is a textbook example of condemning with faint praise, but such is the state of fantasy light novels that even checking off the most bare basics of storytelling is enough to be noteworthy.
The plot of the first novel is an origin story and those tend to be the weakest parts of a long running series, so I'll cut it a little slack. As an origin story, it does check all the boxes of establishing the main characters' backstories and motivations, setting up a solid framework for future installments. I do have a complaint about the world-building, however, in that it's extremely
bland. Tolkien was a professor of linguistics and mythology, Mine seems to have played a few fantasy video games and the difference shows. As an example and without giving too much away, a significant portion of the story is spent exploring some ancient ruins and all we are told is "These are ancient ruins" with no further detail. Ancient ruins don't exactly come in just one flavor, and while I don't need a 10 page infodump on the civilization which built those ruins, I at least want enough description so that I can imagine the scene a bit better. If things go well, this story could be a fun, swashbuckling tale of a pair out to make a buck and the fantastical adventures they keep getting roped into - but there is still the possibility of this story turning into somebody reciting their "thrilling" D&D campaign.
Given that there are only a few illustrations, I'll keep my comments here brief. The art is competent for a professional work. The illustrations are all character-focused with little to no background detail, and image composition was straightforward without anything unexpected. I do like the two main characters' designs, but a major part of that is simply personal aesthetic preference (I'm a sucker for the leading lady's archetype, such as Kotori from "Sweetness and Lighting" and Yuki from "Oregairu").
Main man Loren can best be described as "We have Guts at home". Huge hulking he-man mercenary with a gigantic sword (that's even described as nearly dull on a few occasions) and has a special ability where he goes berserk - anybody want to take bets on where Mine got the idea? But hey, if you're going to copy, copy the best. At least Loren has to put some effort and strategy into his wins, although I hope his berserk ability doesn't become the story's instant Deus Ex Machina in the future, it mentions some possible negative trade-offs for using the ability but has yet to follow through on those consequences. Lapis is established so that it appears her story will be the one pushing the plot forward. It's a very similar to "Dororo", but it does give our pair a reason to go and do things. The two have a functional set-up for their working (and inevitably romantic) relationship, but I hope that they will develop strong chemistry going forward. the other cast members shown so far are as straight-off-the-shelf as characters come, but they stay in the background and do their jobs.
I read this book over the course of two days. After the first day I was halfway through and while I wasn't about to consider it the end of the world if I didn't know how the story ended, I at least DID want to see the story through to the end. Considering that most fantasy light novels can't get me to read more than the back cover blurb (and some not even more than the title) that's a small accomplishment on it's own.
"Broke Mercenary" hasn't yet achieved excellence, but it has at least demonstrated the potential.
Reviewer’s Rating: 6
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