Review: Overlord, Vol. 1: The Undead King

Overlord, Vol 1: The Undead King
By: Kugane Maruyama
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Publisher: Yen On
Series: Overlord, Book #1

When I saw Overlord, Vol 1: The Undead King by Kugane Maruyama sitting on the shelf at the book store I just had to have it. I couldn’t help myself. It isn’t every day you find a translated light novel with breathtaking artwork (and hardcover no less!) just sitting around in the wild like that. Not unless you’re at a specialty book store. Sure, they have manga most of the time, but they’re usually usually way in the back and resigned to only one shelf, two if you’re lucky. And even they usually only have the old standards.

Okay, so, first. For those who don’t know, light novel is a term for a Japanese novel which is more or less the length of a long novella or a short novel, and is almost always part of a series. Overlord is one of these. This is the first volume, and, as of the time of writing this review, the only one available in English. Now, on to the plot!

The story follows the ‘trapped in a video game’ idea, but with several twists. Momonga, our hero, is one of the last people logged into Yggdrasil the night of the server shut down. But when the server goes offline he, the rest of the NPC’s in his guild, and the physical guild headquarters itself are transported to … Well, Momonga isn’t sure. It sure isn’t the in-game world of Yggdrasil and the townspeople nearby seem to have no idea where that place is. This is the story of Momonga and his previously non-sentient NPC followers as they try to survive in an unknown world, find other Yggdrasil players who may also be stuck here, and, just maybe, find a way home.

There is a lot I love about this book. Momonga isn’t your stereotypical hero. The character he played was an undead lych king. He isn’t really human anymore, and quickly begins loosing sensation of things such as human emotion and morals. For all purposes he now is a lych king. Of course this makes it a bit difficult to make contact with the locals and not have them terrified out of their mind when they see an undead warrior with his monster-like minions coming towards them.

The art. The art is gorgeous. Fully color pages are sprinkled throughout the novel. They aren’t they stereotypical anime art either. Everything is in a very beautiful almost watercolor like style. The last several pages have more art along with stats for the main character and other important characters.

The main issue I had with the book is this. It’s slow. The book starts out well; the first third touches on a lot of interesting concepts, some of which aren’t always handled or talked about in your typical ‘trapped in a video game’ story. The next third sort of meanders along until it stumbles its way over to the plot, which, after it gets going, is really very intriguing.

Now, I did watch the anime, also titled Overlord, so I basically knew how the story was going to progress. But the ending still made me curious; it still made me want to go pick up the next book and keep reading. If the next book carries the same momentum that the last third of Overlord: Vol 1 did, it will prove to be a truly excellent sequel. As it stands, I just couldn’t give Overlord as many stars as I wanted due to the slow pacing for a large portion of the book. However, it was a good read.

Read If:
you like ‘trapped in a videogame’ stories, are a fan of manga/graphic novels/light novels, want a main character who really isn’t a hero

Don't Read If:
you dislike slower pacing, are tired of ‘trapped in a videogame’ stories, like your main characters to be knights and princes as opposed to undead overlords

About author

Kathleen Townsend

Kate writes things, reads things, and writes about things she reads. She’s had a few short stories published, and works as a freelance editor. Favorite genres include epic & high fantasy, science fiction, time travel stories, video game related tales, light novels, and manga.

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