Best of Light Novels 2019
How about to start the year with a "Best of..." where everyone is invited to share some thoughts about up to five most memorable light novels for you here, which can result in inspiration for others. If anyone likes the idea, go ahead and setup an equal thread for manga, games etc.
How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom: Volume 10
I naturally have to start with my favourite series. As a matter of course.
With the release of the 10th volume provided by JNC I am very happy to see that the franchise got yet another ending. A proper ending is what I miss most with long time ongoing series. That makes me especially happy when certain story arcs are concluded. However, with this volume it is similar to the fourth - it would be totally okay for me if the series just gets dropped here, since it now has a great ending. What I especially like with this volume - aside of it being a low paced, loosened string closing one - it provided an ending to the alternate timeline story. I am very happy how the story went so far and I am looking forward for more from the world of "How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom".
By now there is even a manga available for interested people to check the story out without diving to deep into text. Unlike most manga adaption I have seen, it sticks to the light novel incredibly close (and well).
The Alchemist Who Survived Now Dreams of a Quiet City Life
The second volume got released just yesterday - and it climbed my personal ranking quick to the top to become my second favourite light novel last year. While the story itself and the writing may not be that special (considering all the other stuff I read), I still fell in love for the writing. The atmosphere created by the author is quite unique and I really dislike to see it as a light novel - it feels to me more like a proper novel the way it is. It is no isekai, but the main protagonist has isekai traits. But it is also the main protagonist you can quickly fell in love with, by her innocent mind set. It is a series which in my opinion currently developes into a more sophisticated kind of novel.
Those are the two worth mentioning for me when it comes to Japanese light novels.
Which light novel left a memorable impression on you?
Most enjoyable series of 2019
I am gonna cheat a little with this one, cause technically even though V1 was released in 2019, J-Novel Club started translating it for members back in 2018.
Overall this is my favorite series not just on this site, but of every Light Novel I have read to date. This series has a lot going for it, romance, action, adventure, economic reform, world building out the wazoo and an unbridled appreciation of good food.
There are few Light Novels that go so deep into the character development of side characters as much as Cooking With Wild Game. With dozens of named characters appearing right off the bat in V1 you would think the development of anyone other then the main characters and a few sides would be impossible, but everyone shines so bright, get an established story and etches their own personality into the readers heart.
Biggest surprise of 2019
To start V1 isn’t even out yet, and we still aren’t done with all of V1 for members, but that is how surprised I was at how much I enjoyed this series...and it doesn’t even involve food or cooking really (most people on this site will know I always want more food related reading material)
What shocked me the most is that this is a super bloody, and very aggressive LN, tremendous amounts of fighting, and war, and violence. Personally I hate that in any LN, whenever I read fight scenes I get bored to the point of yawning, but this one was different. The fights were quick and too the point, the gore was intense but held my interest and then some. After a few parts we went heavy into world building in such a smooth transition that I forgot I was reading the same LN.
Even the latest part (part 8) keeps me on my toes for what will happen next...this definitely is a mature LN, which is something I have wanted for a long time, and I am enjoying every second of it so far.
Here's some favorites of mine that I can recall from the top of my head:
Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension, Volume 6: I'm so happy this series finally put out a new volume this year. Not only that, but it's easily the best volume in the series, as it makes important revelations as well as providing plenty of great character interactions.
Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki: I've actually still yet to read the second volume, but I hear good things about it and the first volume impressed me so much that I can't imagine the second volume being anything but even more enjoyable. Anyway, while the gaming references and life hacks are nice, what I really liked about this one is the characters, and how well the ones that get development are developed, while others that will probably be developed in later volumes have good base characterization to start with.
Ascendance of a Bookworm: If I had to name one light novel series that defined 2019, it'd definitely be Bookworm. From the license announcement at the start of the year to the four wonderful volumes released officially (with two in print) and the fifth released in pre-pubs (and of course an anime adaptation to complement it), this series really has shown what kind of story an isekai can be with good focus on worldbuilding and characterization without relying on many of the usual tropes. I have no doubt the series will only get better from here and will be among the "best of the year" for years to come, but as the year where its Western release began, I definitely would consider 2019 the Year of the Bookworm.
@rahul-balaggan After reading your thoughts about Cooking With Wild Game, I cannot help but feeling interested in the series which was already on my radar for quite a while. I just picked it up on amazon, since the bonus content via JNC - aside from the first volume - does not seem that interesting to me. Mainly because I have no idea what to expect from "Bonus Editors Columns". This will be my first read for 2020, I guess.
@serah I hope you enjoy it!
The general consensus based on the forum comments seems to be (and I agree) that V2 was the weakest and V5 was the strongest so far, perhaps your thoughts will match, if you decide to stick with it...
@rahul-balaggan Thank you for the the hint. I will take it to heart. I have gone multiple of light novels series already, which have changes in quality throughout multiple volumes. One worth to mention is "Reincarnated as a Sword" which has a very horrible start but got acceptable later.
The most impactful LN's for me in 2019 were:
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash volume 14+ - This renewed my love for the series and added strongly sympathetic new dimensions to characters I didn't think much of previously.
The Rising of the Shield Hero volume 15 - I dreaded reading this because I knew what was going to happen but it ultimately was one of the strongest parts of a series that I really enjoy.
Infinite Dendrogram volume 9 - the ending of the final battle really hit me in the feels.
Best New Series: Cooking with Wild Game and My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! (Bakarina)
@stardf29 I saw Hikyuu anime recently and it reminded me of Bottom Tier second volume. It had a similar atmosphere just different plot but still loved it.
2019 was a pretty good year for light novel, some of my favorite series got licensed and JNC gave us some great surprised.
- Ascendances of a bookworm
It's a bit hazy but I'm pretty sure I also start the wn this year too, overall a great series and now in my top 10 LN, the anime wasn't really good tho.
- Moushoku Tensei
One of the first WN I read and still one of my favorite so I was thrilled when Sevens Seas announce that they licensed it. I really like Rudeus, I know some people find him annoying or disgusting but I like his way of thought and how the author manage to keep him powerful but never op. Also, surprisingly, one of the best aspect of that the series is the family drama, the relationship between Rudeus, his father and sisters is great.
- There was no secret evil fighting organization [SRLY?!] so I made one myself.
I was expecting nothing from that series but It turn out different from almost everything I'd read so far and a great series overall. Unfortunately it seems like vol2 is gonna be the last so I really hope something can be done about that.
- The girl who ate a death god
It wasn't published this year but I read it this year so I'm cheating and Including it. The best series I discover this year and now part of my top 3 just bellow Grimgar and on par with The faraway paladin. I like almost everything about it but the characters and world building are especially good.
- Outer Ragna, Tearmoon, Teogonia
There not completely translated so there's still a chance they're gonna go bad but so far all of them were good surprise.
I hope 2020 is gonna be as good, in particular I hope Secret organisations can somehow continues. The girl who... Being licensed would also be great.
- Ascendances of a bookworm
I've read so many LNs this year I couldn't possibly remember them all. Instead I'm going to list a few that I find memorable.
This one might be my favorite of the year, if I needed to list one. I found the premise and setting interesting, and the dive into humanity's dark sides fascinating.
Picked up on a whim, out of the sea of isekai this one surprised me a bit. And older protagonist (the first older than me that I've read!), and a spellbook straight out of D&D.
The Holy Knight’s Dark Road
I was expecting a veritable cornucopia of chuunibyou, but this was surprisingly good. This hints of the dynamic between the main character and the goddess, while not showing the reader what exactly is going on, was enjoyable. It's left me speculating what is really up.
Altina the Sword Princess
I really enjoy the banter between the characters on this one. I'm a sucker for the lazy tactician archetype too, I suppose.
Ascendance of a Bookworm
Rarely does something as hyped as Bookworm live up to the pedestal it's put on for me. But I've really enjoyed this series, enough to read the pre-pubs as they come out at times.
A lot of great books came out last year that it's hard to narrow it down to my favorites, but the series I loved the most and eagerly anticipated the next part or volume were:
Cooking With Wild Game: The first volume was the weakest for me but won me over by the third volume and I've loved it ever since. The current volume has been particularly excellent. I highly recommend it for those that want a slow life sort of isekai without the usual trappings of isekai. Asuta and Ai Fa are definitely one of my favorites couples in a light novel.
Crest/Banner of the Stars: I do not remember enjoying the anime of this series as much as I have been enjoying the novels. True, the language jargon won't be for everyone but I love Lafier and Junt's relationship so much; they're another of my favorite light novel couples. The supporting characters are great too. Also, I love the humor in the books. This series is definitely underappreciated.
Record of Wortenia War: I had considered dropping this after a very lackluster first volume, but I'm so glad I didn't as the fourth volume finished the introduction to what feels like is going to be an epic story. I'm loving the politics, scheming, and strategies.
Others I really enjoyed last year were: Ascendance of a Bookworm, Invaders of the Rokujouma, 86, Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki, Der Werwolf, Altina, and recently Teogonia.
With a few exceptions, I've been enjoying J-Novel Club's books more than any other publisher and the recent addition of shoujo series is only confirming that for me. Of the 139 light novels I completed last year, 87 of them were JNC's, so kudos to them.
I read 196 LN's in 2019, so there is a lot to think about with what I read through the year.
For me, the big winner of the year was Seven Seas getting Mushoku Tensei. This was the first LN/WN that I ever read, and was the one that I wanted to have in my hands the most since I started reading LN's. I still haven't read something that I enjoy as much as I enjoyed this series.
New Series -
YP - There were quite a number of new series from YP this year that I enjoyed. Probably the one that I enjoyed the most was Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World. This one kept getting hyped up, and it didn't disappoint. I can't wait for the second volume to arrive soon. Bonus points to YP for also licencing DxD this year
JNC - There wasn't too many new series that were that good for me. The one that I enjoyed the most was Record of Wortenia War. I didn't know much about it when I started reading and really enjoyed it. Although I'm reading Altina at the moment and still have The Holy Knight's Dark Road to read, so this might change.
SS - Other than Mushoku Tensei, the new one that enjoyed the most was Reincarnated as a Sword. Although I also did quite like Skeleton Knight and Classroom of the Elite.
SP - Rakudai Kishi. This was the other series that I most wanted to see licenced after Mushoku Tensei and DxD. I haven't read it yet since the physicals haven't been created yet, but I read the fan translations years ago. I haven't read any of their other series yet because of their record as a publisher, however their new editor says that they are changing things up there. So this will be my test with them to see if they screw it up or not.
Continuing Series -
YP - Would be a tie between A Sister's All You Need and Konosuba. Reading these series is always a great time with many laughs and usually finish these in one sitting because I don't want to put them down.
JNC - There are always a number that I can't wait to read like Arifureta, Realist Hero, Demon Lord, Ragnarok, etc. But the one that I probably enjoyed the most has been Seirei Gensouki. The longer the story goes, the more I enjoy it, and now I usually finish these books within a few hours of starting because I can't put them down.
SS - Toradora. Only a couple more books to go until the conclusion, I'm looking forward to seeing how the author will finish this off since I went in to this series not now much about it, and have been enjoying it.
Licencing Hopes for 2020
There are a heap that I would love to see come to us in the next year, but here is the short list.
Gamers, Akashic Records, Data a Live, Oda Nobuna, Campione!, Hachinan tte, World Teacher.
I could keep going but it would be a really long list.