Book Review: Rising of the Shield Hero

cover_1_engThe Rising of the Shield Hero

By Aneko Yusagi

“Naofumi Iwatakni, an uncharismatic Otaku who spends his days on games and manga suddenly finds himself summons to a parallel universe! He discovers he is one of four heroes equipped with legendary weapons and tasked with saving the world from its prophesied destruction. As the Shield Hero, the weakest of the heroes, all is not as it seems. Naomi is soon alone, penniless and betrayed. With no one to turn to, and nowhere to run, he is left with only his shield. Now, Naomi must rise to become the legendary Shield Hero and save the world!”

I stumbled upon this book quite by accident at my local Chapters. I had a gift card from christmas to use up and while looking in the fantasy section I found this very colourful manga looking book. It caught me off guard, not expecting such a book in the fantasy novel area. At first I thought it was a mistake and a full manga novel, but it turns out to be a written novel with a dozen or so manga pages inside. I was hooked instantly! The back cover was just the frosting.

The story is all written in first person from the perspective of Naofumi, starting with a brief look at his life before being transported to this alternate reality. We learn he’s an otaku, how he likes having fun, goes to college but spends all of his time on manga and games. In games he tends to lean towards the jack-of-all trades, more about making money than fighting all the bosses. He is also very practical and when he doesn’t have the money to spend on manga and the like, he goes to the library to read manga there. That’s where he stumbles upon and odd book called “The Record of the Four Holy Weapons”, and went into detail about four destined warriors spent to a realm to fight the waves of destruction that came. There were the Sword, Spear, Bow, and Shield. He began to read the book, considering it all fantasy and enjoying the first bit when it talked about the first three heroes and their personalities. There was also a princess who played and toyed with the heroes, causing them to fight amongst themselves. Naofumi instantly dislikes her but to his surprise there was no information on the shield hero – the pages were blank.

That is when he is transported to this magical realm. The next moment he is on an altar with three other guys around his age. And on his arm is the Shield. The monks/priests, whoever did the summoning takes the group to the King for further details and clarifications.

Now at this moment, I found it odd how everyone just shrugged and followed the priests. There were a few questions from the others but when the priests ask them to save them from destruction only Naofumi agrees to hear them out while the others began to nitpick about rewards. Seriously, if this happened to me I would be freaking out a whole lot more and asking several questions about how to get back.

Anyways, onto the story. So they meet the king who tells them their destiny and the waves of destruction that wrecks this world. They happen once a month and in the meantime they are to level up (as they all start at level 1) in order to prepare. Here we also start to learn the mechanics of this realm, which is very much like a video game. In each of their vision there are menu items to the corners that they can focus on and open, reading up on their own stats and weapons, as well as the world and anything else they come across. The other three accept the King’s propose, as does Naofumi and all are given a shared quarter to rest until the set out the next morning with guides that the King will provide.

It’s the only time the four heroes are together for a reasonable length of time. We learn that not only are they from another reality, but all are from different realities, they are all Otakus, and all besides Naofumi have played games similar to this. They understand the mechanics better and tell Naofumi how weak the Shield class is once he reaches the higher levels. They also discover another difference amongst them, how previous to their transportation, all the others besides Naofumi had been in some accident, that they were about to die before arriving here. It was enough to put distance between Naofumi and the others. They gave him some advice, but not a lot, coveting their own knowledge for themselves. The bitterness Naofumi has grows at that moment.

The next day, the King has the guides pick their hero, and nobody wants the Shield hero. Unable to go on the offence, Naofumi complains and a young woman offers to go with him. Naofumi is grateful as it means he can protect her while she handles the monsters. All seems to work out that first day, the woman – Myne – take shim to an armoury, upgrades their armour and weapons and discovers that he can’t even hold a sword in battle, only the shield. Disappointed, Myne takes him out to the fields to beat up on the lowest monsters, that he can only punch – but their bites don’t inflict damage due to the shield.  It was a slow first day, the two find a tavern to sleep in, Myne asking for two rooms where Naofumi falls asleep in one right after supper. The next morning he finds himself robbed, of his chainmail, the remains of his silver, only his shield and underclothes remain. He is instantly captured by city guards and taken to the palace where Myne betrays Naofumi by claiming he attacked her sexually in the night.

Nobody believes Naofumi, the girl plays the victim quite well and there the Spear hero Motoyasa is wearing his chainmail. Unfortunately, he asked to be sent back if nobody wants him, but that is impossible. The only way they can get a new Shield hero is if all the heroes die and they have to summon a new group. Everyone is quiet at this, but Naofumi is outraged at the injustice. Being the Shield hero, they cannot lock him up as he is the legendary hero, but the entire town has heard the story and for the rest of the month before the first wave, they judge him. Myne joins Motoyasa’s group, leaving Naofumi on his own. Nobody will join him, and he becomes more bitter inside.

Eventually he knows that he needs someone to fight the monsters for him, the simple ones in the field are too much, but he uses them allowing them to bite him and hide them under his cloak to use as intimidation tactics against the townspeople who try to give him a rotten deal on loot. He gathers a few coins from the few monsters he can take care of, and is then met by a slave trader who offers him three miserable demi-humans, all weak, ill or having some deformity. He picks the little girl – a girl who reminds him of Myne and his hatred for her. She’s the cheapest, but also coughs and looks battered. Still, he needs someone and the slave contract magic would prevent her from betraying him. With the spell on her, he takes her immediately to the armour to get her a sword and some basic armour and forces her into battle. The girl is frightened and has night terrors but Naofumi needs her to make it to the first wave. He gives her medicine he made, food, and shelter even. He doesn’t rebuke her – only when she refuses to fight. The demi-human is a racoon humanoid, named Raphtalia, and she begins to grow attached to Naofumi, finding a good master in him and giving her a strength to fight.

I’ll end my synopsis there, this is really only the first half of the book and there is more on the story with Naofumi, Motoyasa, Myne and Raphtalia. I will say that I’m glad the ending was happy, and that the bitterness and hatred Naofumi feels for the majority of the book is cleared away by Raphtalia’s respect and I will call it love. But I don’t want to give too much away, it’s a great ending.

I really enjoyed this book, it was light-beat, easy to read and a lot of fun. It only took me four days at the most to get through it. The book looks large, but the lettering is larger than most fantasy novels and is double spaced. I’m not sure if that’s typical for these type of books or not. There were a few issues that I found that could just be due to translation, but mostly what made it such a simple read was that it was all direct and to the point. There was no long drawn out explanation for scenery, or history. We are expected just to pick things up and go with it – which can be typical for any fantasy story. But I felt that with this one in particular it was even more condensed than usual. I had no problem following the course of events, but I did miss some of the long-winded expositions, or maybe I felt something was missing because they weren’t there. Either way, the story still has an emotional tie behind it – which is all you need to connect the readers.

This is a first book in a series, and the author included the first two chapters in the next book at the end. I am extremely excited to find the next book and hope to find it soon. For anyone looking for a light, fast-paced fantasy story with a manga twist – this will be a great read of you!

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