By: Hajime Kanzaka
Release Date: (Original) January 1st 1996; (Translation) September 7th 2004
Series: Slayers #1
Slayers: The Ruby Eye is the first book in the Slayers series by Hajime Kanzaka. Originally published in Japan in 1996, the translation was published eight years later in 2004 by Tokyopop. The story is centered on fifteen year old sorceress Lina Inverse and her newfound traveling companion Gourry Gabriev, a swordsman. A simple plundering of a bandit’s hideout for some loot has unforeseen and far reaching consequences for Lina, including a whole lot of people that would really rather see her dead.
Lina’s a heroine I admire. She’s clever, a skilled sorceress, and has knowledge of swordsmanship, but she isn’t infallible. While she can use a sword, Lina knows that she is by no means as good as many of her opponents and needs to rely on her other skills or her companions in a physical fight. While strong and spirited, she’s not infallible, with a healthy dose of greed and a bit of a body image problem. Lina feels her age, which I like. She has her clever moments, she has raw firepower behind her, but she’s not infallible.
The book is written in first person point of view from Lina’s perspective. Very often Lina’s narration smashes through the fourth wall, giving asides to the reader and answering our internal questions in real time. This works in the books favor, giving us the sort of very personable narration we don’t often see within in high fantasy.
There are some familiar tropes that slip into the story, but all are included rather purposefully. There are dumb, ugly bandits. Gourry is a less than smart swordsman, which, to be honest, can get a bit old as his lack of knowledge seems to be used as an excuse for several info-dumps. However, all of these and others are called out by Lina who laments the facts, pokes fun at them, or else comments on the oddity of the situation. This is a book that knows exactly what it is and isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself.
The story did feel a bit slow in places. A few conversations dragged on a little too long. Explanations on how magic works and pertinent world history are stuffed in the context of teaching Gourry things he should already know. While the story has its comic moments and Lina has a fair dose of wit and snark, there are places where the jokes fall a little flat – sometimes on purpose, sometimes not.
Slayers: The Ruby Eye is a fun read that any fantasy fan should pick up. It’s quick, it’s easy to read, and it has some memorable characters. While the exposition could have been handled with a little more finesse in some places, we are provided with a solid magic system and enough history of the world to make it feel thought out without interesting yet unnecessary information. If you like fantasy or books written in a strong first person voice, give this one a read.