Goblin Slayer‘s seventh novel follows the same basic formula as its direct predecessor: Goblin Slayer and his party are busy doing something unrelated to a goblin killing quest but somehow end up killing goblins anyway. In this case, they’ve been invited by High Elf Archer to accompany her back to her forest home for her older sister’s wedding, something pretty much everyone other than Goblin Slayer himself is excited to do. His issues, however, stem from more than just a stereotypical masculine dislike of weddings – instead they’re tied up with his own deceased elder sister, and the realization that she’s never going to have a wedding he can bring his friends to.
As always, this sort of character detail remains one of the strengths of the novel series overall. While it absolutely does dabble in tropes and stereotypes (the firm D&D roots make that very clear), it also has room for the characters to develop in their own ways based upon who they are and what they’ve experienced. Goblin Slayer can’t quite get out from under his own tragic past, something he’s only sort of begun to think may be a worthwhile endeavor in recent volumes. Priestess has a hard time escaping her own sense that she’s not as good as the rest of her party and that they somehow just tolerate her and let her tag along, and in this book we find out that High Elf Archer’s longevity is her sore spot – as in, if you prod it, it hurts her. Nothing quite drives that home for her like returning to her village, where three thousand years is considered a relatively short amount of time and a year is like a blink. None of her friends, she realizes with more clarity than she’d like to, is going to live nearly as long as she will, and ultimately the fifty-to-eighty years she might spend with them will be the total of their lifespans but only the equivalent of about a month for her. They’re essentially aging before her eyes, and her sister and brother-in-law are very much worried that she’s just asking to be hurt by staying with them instead of returning to the forest. Although High Elf Archer doesn’t talk about it much, we get the impression that it’s because of their short lifespans that she can’t bring herself to leave them – she wants as much time as she can have, even if in the end it will leave her crying.
We see this most clearly in her bonds with Priestess and Dwarf Shaman, although it’s clear that she feels a lot of affection for everyone, Guild Girl and Cow Girl included. Priestess, however, brings out the best in all of her party members and friends, and it’s in their interactions with her that we can often truly get the measure of a character. She goes through her own difficulties in this volume, however, that really only she herself can work through, although everyone does try to help. She’s still suffering from the trauma of their encounter with the goblins lead by their own version of a paladin, as well as the goblin quest that first introduced her to Goblin Slayer. Constant exposure to similar situations isn’t always the best way to work through that sort of PTSD, and she’s been relying a lot on her party members to keep her as stable as possible. This time, however, they run into a situation with a goblin mage in an old castle fastness, and the similarities to the incident in the snowy mountains are almost too much for Priestess. When she finds herself virtually alone against him, she does find the strength to do what she has to, but it comes with a price for her conscience. Goblin Slayer specifically tries to help her through it, but ultimately we need to see Priestess cope with the fallout herself in subsequent books; given Kumo Kagyu‘s willingness to engage with that sort of plot point, that does, fortunately, see likely.
What’s perhaps more interesting in the long term is the way that Goblin Slayer and Priestess have become each other’s support system. Cow Girl absolutely also functions in that way for Goblin Slayer, but on a different level; their relationship is in some ways based on who Goblin Slayer was rather than who he is. The way Cow Girl, with her too-obvious crush on her childhood friend, acts around Guild Girl and Priestess (her ostensible rivals) shows that she’s probably aware of this and accepts it, which is a major plus, as it keeps silly catty antics out of the women’s dynamic and simply allows them to be friends. In fact, Cow Girl and Guild Girl feel mostly like afterthoughts in this novel, which isn’t great, but does show that Kagyu isn’t likely to go down any sort of rivalry path anytime soon.
As always, the scenes with the goblins being hunted are dark and gruesome. The gore is strictly limited to violence; although there are allusions to rape, we never see it on the page, with Kagyu once again stating that we don’t need to see that. The fights are easy to follow, and if the inclusion of an elevator in the ancient forest fortress feels odd, it’s fortunately the only off note in the battle sequence. The illustrations also focus more on the characters instead of the grim moments, so any horrors you see from reading are based on your own imagination.
Goblin Slayer remains an engaging dark fantasy series. The characters change and develop enough to keep things moving forward and this volume adds in some good world building about the elven settlements that helps solidify the world. If you’ve been enjoying the series thus far, there’s nothing here that is likely to change that.