Reviews May Contain Minor Spoilers

If you're reading a review you should expect to hear some spoilers. I try to keep them to a minimum though.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Vampire Hunter D: Raiser of Gales

The second D novel is only slightly shorter than the first, but with far fewer interesting characters.

Night 2
Vampire Hunter D: Raiser of Gales (1984) By: Hideyuki Kikuchi; Illustrations By: Yoshitaka Amano

A funeral congregation trudges slowly across a bridge with burly men carting a child-sized coffin wrapped in chains. A hand bursts from the coffin and one of the men goes to restrain it. The coffin struggles mightily and both go over a bridge. All of this happens in broad daylight: a time when the dead should not walk.

This novel oversells itself right off the bat. The setup is one of the best hooks of the series, and this novel does its damnedest to live up to them. The novel involves a mystery noble with all the nobility's strengths and seemingly none of their weaknesses. It is all potentially connected to an event a decade in the village's past when four children were thought abducted by a noble then three returned mysteriously. Thus, this novel shifts genres from action-horror to mystery-thriller. The expansion of the lore is solid in this volume with the ever expanding horrors including a pseudo-arachnid, a lightning beast, and redcap faerie-goblins. Unfortunately, they become part of the problem as the audience in any decent mystery should be able to try and solve it. With only one book to fill the read in, this novel is forced to explain things while keeping the mystery solidly in things unexplained.

Lina can't believe her mistreatment.
Our Heroes
Lina is a plucky young girl who was among the abducted a decade in the village's past. She's immature, childish, and cocky. She's meant to be a dreamer who focuses on a better future rather than her her horrible present and past. Thus, she's raped by her adoptive father every night... something that says more about his character than hers. She's also constantly the victim, and few of those who do her harm get what's coming to then. When they do, it's never by her hand. She's used by almost everyone in the novel, which is especially depressing after the high bar set by Doris and Larmica. Bye-bye good will from last novel.

D is hired by the mayor to solve the mystery of the recent disappearances, including that of his colleague the Vampire Hunter Geslin. D is far more vocal, and far further behind the plot this time. At least that's the way it seems. D is still ahead of the read, but it Holmesian fashion refuses to reveal it until the end.

Abandoned Observers
Mr. Meyer is Lina's teacher and one of the four who was abducted. He spends most of the novel chiding Lina about her studies and being standoffish with D. He is tremendously uninteresting and is a good representative of the revolving door of villagers who show up in order to either mysteriously vanish or become vampires.

Curore is the third child who returned with Mr. Meyer and Lina. However, his mind was damaged beyond repair, so he has become Lina's hulking protector. A great idea for a character who ends up in the same boat as Lina. He's used by the powers in and around the village to achieve their own ends though notably he's sexually abused less than the attractive woman.

D needs a drink for this shit.
Shadowy Foes
The Mayor is a rapey douche. He does even less to drive the plot than the previous mayor while being even more reprehensible.

The Youth Brigade are a bunch of rapey douchebags who get to do what they want because they're big and strong. Not enough of them get what they deserved.

The Shadow is exactly who you think it is, but he's doing it for even more foolish and deluded reasons. He is set up to be such a cool villain, yet he loses his steam by the end. His psychic attacks start cool, but become tired filler dreams that interrupt and confuse the narrative. He ends up being the only active plot device who's determined to make this book reach a page count rather than let the plot unfold.

Obfuscating Atmosphere
The novel suffers from fewer flaws than the first volume. The incessant reminders of D's beauty are still there, but the narrator questioning things is far fewer. Sadly, another flaw becomes more prominent in the descriptive language. More than once I had to reread passages to try and figure out what I just read, The jumbled word salad that results from the use of a thesaurus to create variety without concern for reader understanding. Kevin Leahy should have used more synonyms for beauty rather than using big words to inflate this lame mystery. There is a blessing that Amano brought his A-game to the art for this novel as represented by the samples.

In the End
The end would be touching if it centered around a character who was more interesting and proactive. It is meant to be a big dramatic end, but the story before it was too strung out and frail to support it.

When you replace the action with a young girl's dreams and a high amount of murder and rape, this series takes a dive. There are good moments in this. I loved the mythology expansion, especially the rain's effect on the frontier. The tamed monsters were another great addition to the universe as is the space loop. Too bad the rest of the novel stretches the mystery to the breaking point. It is easy to see why this was passed over when the second D film was made. If you can put up with a lot of gross filler, you might get through this one.

Next Time: D's Debut!

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