Call for review/thoughts on The Faraway Paladin
Hey J-Novel Club readers!
We just released the ebook for The Faraway Paladin volume 1, and I've so far been procrastinating from taking it down from prepub reading as well so you can still read the prepub edition (for now).
The Japanese licensor, Overlap, is interested in what everyone thinks of it!
If you haven't read it, I really recommend it! And then write your opinions here for me to help relay them back!
Here was my review.
One of the better first volumes of a light novel, The Faraway Paladin is the story of a man given a second chance at life in another world. This is a unique Isekai, a story that concerns travelling to another world / dimension, in a few ways. It's a posthumous story, and the character is neither super excited or super in despair about being in the Isekai. The protagonist, who is later dubbed Will, wasted his original life. When he is reincarnated as a baby in this Isekai with his memories intact, he decides to use his second opportunity to make something of himself so he doesn't regret anything.
The world Will finds himself is a land of undead. Fans of Dark Souls or other dark fantasy settings with undead inhabiting dilapidated or Gothic architecture in ruined countryside settings will feel at home here. Our hero has guardians in the form of a mummy, a skeleton, and a ghastly old ghost. These characters all have their own roles in Will's new life, and their own base personality.
In addition to races living within the earthly sphere, there is also a deep emphasis on the gods' roles in the world. The gods were split into good and evil, so it's a bit black and white, and though they at least explore the idea of ambiguity in conversations, that hasn't come into play much yet. These gods rule over the creations on their planet as well I believe. The evil gods rule over evil creatures, stuff that looks ungodly and animalistic, whereas the good gods rule over entities like humans, dwarves, and elves I believe. There's a real world there, the gods receiving names, the prayers and allegiances to them leading to benefits, again similar to a video game like Dark Souls where the gods imbue those who have prayed to them with powers. It just feels really well thought out, not just some stuff made up as the writer goes.
Overall, I thought it was really an intelligent tale so far. Will spends a lot of the first story questioning his existence, even bringing up ideas like the brain in the vat and delusions to seek to explain his situation. Again, I also appreciate the amount of world building contained within, a lot of info dumped about the gods, though it isn't likely to be too overwhelming. The few pieces of art are really good, and they kind of remind me of the same style Overlord uses, really imaginative. Good first volume, and I'm hopeful for more.
Someone told me that the review convinced them to give this a chance. Hope I didn't oversell it for them, but I'll take that as a positive that this is something people will be interested in if they give it a chance.
I just really enjoyed the world, the motivations, and the promise of a greater narrative to come. IIRC, there's hints of romantic elements being added down the line (the "make a family" aspects, wanting to show his caretakers his future family) which I appreciate. Not many MCs who have those kind of family goals in mind (see how it plays out in the future though).
Well, a few words about the novel- contains a few spoilers for the first volume:
For starters, “The Faraway Paladin: The Boy in the City of the Dead” (Paladin) is certainly not your typical light novel. Seeing the tag reincarnation, one might expect the protagonist to be thrown into a new world, directly starting his journey to become a hero, save the world and collect his harem on his way. Now, some recent deconstructions like Re:Zero and Grimgar emphasize that this whole being thrown in a new world can be a dangerous and bothersome – but Paladin is unique in that it portrays Will, its hero, growing up from a baby to a youth. This enables the reader to learn about the world alongside with Will. The resulting worldbuilding introduces us to world of Swords and Sorcery, with a pantheon of gods, divided into Good and Evil. Furthermore, having a growth-span of multiple years allows Will to aquire general knowledge of the world, mastery of close combat and insight into magic. This makes him a competent, albeit not omnipotent hero, without becoming a Cheat MC. In a light novel landscape full of Dei ex Machinis, this is a welcome change.
Why is Will so eager to learn and to accept his new world? Well, it is stated that his previous life can only be described as wasteful and void of drive and purpose. Having a recollection of his previous life inspires Will to become a bona fide son to his new parents. This is his intrinsic motivation to be, for lack of a better word, good. If the author were not careful, this would risk Will becoming a one dimensional protagonist, a lawful stupid Paladin. But the author manages to avoid it. For instance Will is shown to be not above Blood's influence, drinking alcohol and peeping on woman. More importantly, his wish to lead a better life than his previous one is not only stated, but reflected on and leads to some internal struggle.
However, simply watching someone growing up would make a boring story, so of course there is some conflict to put Will's aquired talents into use: The volumes conflict answers the question how Will's genuinely good parents became undead –generally a trademark of the more shady– and leads to a climatic fight against one of the evil gods. Not only does this fight act as the climax to the first volume, it is also important in setting up the stage for latter volumes:
- The events basically force Will to move on, and start his actual journey in the new world.
- Furthermore, Will becomes the enemy of the evil god, and pledges to support a good one. That is, it adds an extrinsic reason for Will to become a hero.
- Lastly, Blood, Mary and to a lesser extent Gus are removed from the picture. At the end of the volume, Will stands alone, has to stand alone and find his own way through life.
To sum it up, the first volume is an overture for the series: It introduces the hero, the Big Bad and the rules of the world. It also explains the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of the hero. What it does not is giving a clue what will happen next. Sure, Will will journey the world. But where this journey will lead in the end is left open, and there is plenty to be explored in the next volumes.
Now, a book is more than just its story. For a light novel, there are also language and illustrations to judge. I'll leave a stringent review of J-novel Club's translation to native speakers and just state that it was a pleasant read.
The illustrations are arguably gorgeous. Fittingly for a light novel which reads like a western Sword&Sorcery story, they are not at all mangaesque, but resemble artful etchings or the illustrations found in Jackson's Sorcery series.
At the end of the day, Paladin is an intriguing start to what will probably a great story. I'd highly recommend it to anyone remotely interested at all in Sword&Sorcery. However, one should note that this is certainly not for the light novel
enthusiast in search of another light-hearted story full of well-known tropes. Those should move faraway from it.
 blatant lie
 Typical as in what is “typically released in the Western market”.
 Note: Paladin is so far neither a deconstruction, nor is it grimdark. It has a serious tone, but hardships are shown to be overcome by the power of friendship/family, hard work and smart wits.
 I'm not an art guy, those are probably not etchings, but I've seen a few etchings which look similar, so I call them etchings, 'kay?.
Thank you for leaving this one up. I ended up using a credit to buy this volume AFTER reading it.
I also get the impression from the author's notes that this is a shared world where this is one viewpoint arc. I definitely am interested if the other Arcadia Garden setting books are also published.
A positive quality about the first book is that no character on the protagonist or the antagonist side is acting dumb for the sake of plot. I consider this straight fantasy setting to be a refreshing change from the endlessly parodic references to the same genre, but also, I actually like that the protagonist does not retain too much of their old wasted life beyond feelings. It also sets up a world where the protagonist is not necessarily a wish fulfillment vessel (people die with consequences and in the three parental cases, there is definitely a fate worse than permadeath that is established). Clearly, this setting is going to be grim with that implication in mind, but the protagonist's world discovery hopefully will be as interesting for us as it does for himself.
This is one of the two (with Realist Hero) that I can be counted on to use the Premium credit for as long as this quality is kept up.
@alocervancouver small remark, Arcadia garden is a separate world according to @Sam-Pinansky post at https://forums.j-novel.club/topic/160/the-faraway-paladin-vol-1-part-8-discussion-final/20
I read a ton of Light Novels last year (30-40) and Paladin was probably my favorite (though SAO 7 came very close).
What I loved most about the novel was that despite its well crafted fantasy setting it had very real emotional themes. It was all about the negative psychological and spiritual effects of being a shut in and how to heal from that. The villain represented a static state and so the action had real weight to it because I wanted to watch the main character take a stand against the sort of life he used to lead. It was very inspiring.
As someone who has off and on dealt with depression (though not for several years), it did me good to see the character get through it and not by being surrounded by cute girls but by being trained to be strong of mind, body and heart. Also by learning the value of family and friends and sacrifice. The sort of real lessons that helped me get over issues I've dealt with.
I also feel the prose and translation quality were too rate on this. I feel this series could be big, I certainly hope so!
All that said I'm not going to start reading volume two right away because I want to either read it when it's all published or at least a chunk of four parts.
A breath of fresh air, Faraway Paladin avoids the lazy writing and shameless pandering of the stale reincarnation/otherworld genre. Unlike its peers, there are few references to fan culture, no stereotypical stock characters, and no wish-fulfillment fantasy harem. There isn't even a potential love interest in sight! In the afterword, the author discusses his inspirations, and you will notice a conspicuous absence of anime and video games. Instead, he talks about Western fantasy novels and pen-and-paper roleplaying. This isn't your average web novel fare.
While I would not call Paladin a deconstruction of the genre, it certainly takes its premises far more seriously than its peers. Reincarnation into an otherworld isn't just a narrative convenience for audience surrogacy, it is central to its worldbuilding and mythos. Nor does it take cheap shots at the shut-in phenomenon for comic relief; The author goes to great lengths to help the audience relate to the shame and self-loathing of shut-ins, and understand the motivations of the protagonist. Unlike the lazy Mary Sues of the genre and their endless treadmill of effortless success, Paladin's readers are taken along the Bildungsroman and witness the protagonist's growth through struggle. Growth that never feels unearned.
Perhaps it is an indictment of the genre that the first volume surprised me by demonstrating the rare quality of craft. It has a beginning, a middle, a climax, and a resolution - All the basic ingredients necessary for a satisfying, self-contained read - Yet leaves hints for careful and savvy readers to where the series is going. I hope that future volumes continue to be as well-crafted as this one was and look forward to Rushton and Ashby helping to bring them over.
(x-posted to goodreads)
I don't know if it's due to the translating team or the nature of the tale being in a westernized setting, but the writing is actually good, it isn't filled to the brim with cliches and the writing isn't as lazy as the other isekai novels in circulation.
The MC has relatable flaws and reasonable and well thought out obstacles that fit in the narrative of the world. I feel this would be best isekai series if the author could flesh out the world with more clarity and wit. Like really think it through with aspects of decay and stagnation and effects on a crumbling society. The simple dichotomy between good and evil god's and beings are a little too simple for my taste, however, in the 2nd book some nuance is added via complicated characters having redemption arcs. Perhaps I have been spoiled by high fantasy novels and sci-fi books that explores complicated themes of morality and purpose.
I do not know the direction of where this tale is heading, however I am looking forward to this series development. This series is a flawed gem, but a gem nonetheless.