Log Horizon VI: Lost Child of the Dawn
By Mamare Touno
Here we are with yet another Log Horizon review, in case you somehow missed the last couple books or reviews let me sum up the series. Log Horizon is the story of a group of Japanese players of a MMO game that found themselves trapped in the game when a new expansion was released. They found themselves in the bodies of their characters with full access to their character’s abilities, only now when they fight the many monsters in the game, it was real and painful. As real fights tend to be. They have no idea how this happened or why. While there are subplots that focus on the many, many characters that have become part of this world, the main plot focuses on a young man named Shiroe who takes it on himself to organize a government and a society in the city he woke up in. He has to do this because frankly everyone else lost their damn minds. Thankfully once Shiroe got moving we swiftly found out that the other characters not only have minds but are capable of using them. So the story avoids the trap that Sword Art Online fell into of only the main character being allowed to do things (that's right, I said it and I'm not sorry!). Log Horizon actually started out as an online novel that was being posted by the writer Mamare Touno and it exploded as part of the current light novel obsession running across Japan.
Having said all of that, Shiroe is “sir not in this book” except for one chapter, instead this book focuses on a group of the ladies of Log Horizon. In this case the book is mostly told from the viewpoint of Akatsuki. Akatsuki is a young lady who, like Shiroe and the others, was pulled into the world of the game and woke up in the body of her male character. She was what old-timey folks like me called a cross gamer (apologies if this is the wrong term but I haven't heard it called anything else) where you play a character of a different gender than your own. From what I understand a number of ladies do this to avoid harassment. While there's nothing wrong with playing a character with a different gender, I do find it sad that people have to resort to this to just play Secret World (look you have your MMOs, I have mine) without some jackass texting them to send nude pics. I'm just gonna say… Don't do that. It's just kinda sad, not to mention just flat out rude.
Anyway, Akatsuki was a cross gamer and it was thanks to Shiroe sharing a potion with her that she was able to transform back to her own gender and build. In return, she swore to repay Shiroe through unswerving service (editor’s note: Oh Japan…). Over the course of the last five books, that service has grown into a real emotional attachment which is foiled by her inability to communicate her feelings to Shiroe like an adult. She's also a very small, slender young woman, which leads to most people treating her like a child. Mr. Touno does well here by not fetishizing Akatsuki but by examining the drawbacks and the impacts it has on a person when they are simply never really taken all that seriously. Akatsuki is feeling that especially now as she realizes her weaknesses as a person and an assassin. Despite being a player of MMO's Akatsuki has avoided membership in guilds and large groups. This meant she's never been on raids or fought high level boss battles. Which in turn means she is suffering a severe lack of high level equipment. If you've played games like this you know that equipment is a major source of firepower, so despite being high ranked on paper Akatsuki is at a pretty harsh combat disadvantage against players that have tackled a lot of raids.
Akatsuki is not the only one struggling with growth in this story. Princess Raynesia, granddaughter of one of the leading families of the People of Earth (the natives of this world who in the game were NPCs and Quest givers) has been posted to Akiba, the city of Adventures, as an ambassador. Her leading worry is preventing a break between the Adventures (which is what the natives called the gamers) and the People of Earth. This is despite having next to no diplomatic training and difficulty understanding even the basics of Adventurer culture. For some perspective: even people from a society as restrained as modern day Japan look like a bunch of free flying maniacs with no regard for rank or class to someone from a full blown feudal structure. Add in that Princess Raynesia really just wants a quiet easy life where she can nap everyday, and you have a young lady really struggling. You might be asking why she was posted here? Simple, she was able to whip up an army of adventurers to fight off a monster invasion in the last books and has the best track record when it comes to dealing with adventurers. At least among the nobility. Shiroe and the others saw problems coming though and asked a number of young ladies from the adventurer population to drop by regularly for tea, hoping to build up connections and friendship through repeated contact. The Princess is gonna need those connections because there is something that threatens to make the city of Akiba explode.
There's a murderer running loose in town. He's faster and stronger than even the top leveled adventurers, he appears and disappears at will, he strikes at night, and no one can stop him. Now granted, death isn't really a big problem for the adventurers, if they die they wake up the next day in a temple in a nearby city but... Violence is supposed to be impossible inside the city walls. Peace is enforced by super powerful guards clad in magic armor that enhances them beyond the ability of even adventurers. Meaning anyone who initiates violence within Akiba is almost instantly imprisoned. So who is this man, what does he want, why is he attacking every adventurer he can find alone and what happens if the truth comes out? Raynesia and Akatsuki will have to learn to grown past their limitations. They and the girls of the tea party will have to work together and fast to find the murderer, solve the mystery behind his rampage and end the situation before it becomes a scandal that could undermine the government of Akiba and the peace between Adventurers and the People of the Earth.
This is actually an interesting look into characters who usually play more of a supporting role in the story, giving them time in the spotlight. Not only do we learn more about them but we get to see them grow and improve in response to a problem. I enjoy character development like that honestly. The book stays within the the bounds of the city with one exception but tells an interesting story-within-the-story and gives us something new. The plot is fairly well self contained, although if you haven't read the other books, you're not going to know who any of these people are and why this is important, so I am deducting points for that. That said, the plot is pretty straight-forward; it's well done mind you but I felt that it actually avoided a number of twists or turns that would have made things more interesting. Still Log Horizon VI: Lost Child of the Dawn by Mamare Touno gets a B-. I really liked it.
Next week. The greatest army in history approaches the gates of the greatest den of sin and terror in the world. Are we going to see the salvation of the world or the fall of a new dark age which may very well mean the extinction of mankind? Join me next week, for the Unholy Consult by R. Scott Bakker.
This review edited by Dr. Ben Allen.