(Picture shown up top is the Japanese edition, but the review/image shown here is for the US/English edition) Picture rights belong to the copyright holder and whatnot, I am just using it for review purposes.
Anyway, I am skipping a review for Sword Art Online Light Novels 1-2 on here, as I have read those a long time ago and honestly forgot details except they are similar to the anime.
My reviews for them are already on Goodreads, if you want to read them:
In this post, I am reviewing Sword Art Online: Fairy’s Dance (book 3), by Reki Kawahara.
As a disclaimer, I have seen the anime, so at times I might compare them.
Here is a brief summary of the book, though events might not be in order or explained well because it’s a summary.
The book takes place after Kirito/Kazuto is freed from Sword Art Online. He has problems adjusting back to real life, and does sometimes act like he is still in SAO. And wonders what became of Asuna. We also get to see some of the sister he mentions, Suguha. Eventually, Agil contacts Kirito, saying a girl that looks like Asuna has been spotted on top of a tree in a game called ALfheim Online, or ALO. He immediately starts playing, and meets/saves a girl named Leafa who tells him the basics of ALO and parties with him. Kirito tells Leafa he needs to get to the top of the tower, and she agrees to go with him. She tells her race, the sylphs, that she isn’t going to raid with them, and one of their higher ups doesn’t like it. Or, at least, one doesn’t. In between this, we get to learn about the real person behind Leafa, Suguha, and learn that she’s Kirito’s IRL sister. But she doesn’t know that the person she’s partying with is her brother. And that she has a crush on Kazuto (yes, that Kazuto..), but knows nothing will come of it. But it doesn’t stop her. (Yes, this is creepy..). They fight some things, Kirito defeats an attacking Salamander party (they are the ‘bad guys’), and eventually, they learn that the sylph guy who acts like he’s the leader despite he isn’t was teaming up with the Salamanders, effectively making him a traitor to his race. He plans to stop the sylphs from making an alliance with the Cait Siths, another fairy race in ALO, by having the Salamanders attack them. The alliance would make it so the Salamanders were no longer the most powerful race, which for some reason he doesn’t want because reasons (he’s a sylph himself.. why wouldn’t he want his own class to get stronger? I didn’t get this part). Which Kirito stops, fighting the Salamander leader in a dual and winning. They leave, he gives the sylphs and Cait Siths money to give their forces armor, and I think the book stopped there. In between this, we also get to read about what happened to Asuna. It turns out she is, indeed, trapped in ALO by Sugou/Oberon, an employee of her father’s (without his knowledge), so he can marry her by force and inherit her family’s fortune. Asuna tries to get free, but the result isn’t told in this book, so I won’t spoil it. This is a shorthand, basic summary, so is missing things.
Now, for the review itself:
I actually liked the ALO arc more than the SAO arc in the anime. I like magic based things, and thought the gameplay parts in there were more interesting than the ones in SAO. It also reminded me less of .hack. I also enjoyed the IRL parts the anime gave. The novel, though, not so much. Why?
Because the novel basically keeps going on about how great Kirito is. Seriously. Kirito is constantly stated to be too fast for a newbie, shown to have some odd inhuman speed, can beat players way higher leveled than himself, has almost no learning curve for flying while other players can still struggle with it despite being in the game for awhile, and he mysteriously has enough money to pull out of thin air to pay for the Sylph’s equipment. He can also defeat monsters higher level than himself, and doesn’t seem to need Leafa/Suguha as anything other than a guide. He’s TOO powerful. I don’t care that Kirito played SAO, and his stats carried over. He would have a learning curve for ALO, especially the flying part. And there’s no way that if his stats carried over that no one else wouldn’t be able to see it and KNOW he’s way too high level. It’s like in the novel, he could do no wrong. He was always right, always beat everything, and there was almost no doubt he’d win everything. And was always some super strong show off player. Kirito almost ruined this novel for me. He just gets worse and worse. I know the novel is at the core the same, but it seemed less obvious in the anime that Kirito was overpowered. Probably because it can’t go on about how great he is verbally as much.
This isn’t the only gripe I had with the book. The book seriously shifts perspective, from first to third person, early on in the book. If Kawahara wanted to make Leafa the focus of over half of the novel, he should have written it from first person as well. It’s distracting to switch perspectives in a novel, especially from first to third. And I know he can write first person perspective for female characters (Lisbeth’s chapter was written in first person), so why did he switch it for Leafa? Probably just to show how cool Kirito is, or something. Ugh. I also did NOT like the fanservice illustrations. They were not major plot points in the story, so why did we need them? I also was NOT fond of Yui returning. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t like Yui in the original SAO. D:. And still don’t like her. Also, as a heads up, Suguha has a creepy crush on her brother Kazuto (Kirito), and it is just that. I don’t care if they are cousins, it is still creepy. That was one of the creepiest parts of the whole ALO arc, and it’s worse in book form because we get to read about it from Suguha’s perspective. I still don’t like that part.
I did like some things about the book, though. The plot itself is actually pretty good. I liked reading about Suguha (though not her creepy crush on Kazuto.. D:), and found all of the gameplay exploration very interesting to read. The book did a great job of setting up the world of ALO, telling about the characters, how the game played, which race was good at what, that they were supposed to fight other players but could form alliances, had politics, etc. It felt like it could be a real game, it was set up so well. And reading about IRL Suguha was interesting. I wish there was more of that (OUTSIDE of her Kazuto crush D:), and wish her relationship with Recon was more like the anime in that she might or might not like him as opposed to being one of those people who is ashamed to be seen with the ‘nerd’, like she is in the novel. She isn’t even friends with him in the novel (she seems to pretty much just be using him for game stuff). I did like that they went over the ‘new’ version of the Nerve Gear in the novel, and don’t even remember them mentioning that there was one in the anime except maybe in passing.
The Oberon plot was interesting to read, though creepy. Sugou/Oberon is a creeper, and I hate that Asuna just becomes some prize for Kirito to rescue/win. Asuna does try to get herself out, which I like, but whether or not she does is to be revealed later because that is a spoiler.
Overall, I found myself bored at times with the book, probably because it was a ‘Kirito is great’ version of the anime. Some things were exciting, like the dual with Eugene (the Salamander’s strongest player), and the fight against the Salamanders in the first place. And the stuff with Recon was interesting. But I guess that’s just me kind of liking Recon. But a lot of it felt like it was just glorifying Kirito, and I didn’t like the jumps in perspective. If I hadn’t seen the anime, I would have probably liked it more.
Three of Five stars.