This is more than just a review: it’s a Review Plus! There’ll be a review, and at the end I’ll throw in a short extra takeaway for Christians to think about.
Title: Banished From the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside, Vol. 2
Translator: Dale DeLucia
Review copy provided by English publisher: Yen Press
“I DON’T WANT TO BE A HERO”
Red and Rit’s cozy life is interrupted as a strange new drug called False Prophet begins spreading among the people of Zoltan. Word is that it can make you into an entirely new person, but all it seems to be doing is changing folks into murderers! Tensions mount when a poor half-elf family is attacked. With the situation moving toward mass turmoil, Red and Rit’s slow and easy days may have come to an end…
In the afterword to this volume, the author writes that they wanted to make this a story about the “slow life.” Having read several actual “slow life” light novels, though, I can definitely say this is not one of thosel. The majority of the novel is fairly tense as Red and Rit deal with a crisis involving dangerous drugs and an attempted uprising. The chapters that look at what the current Hero’s party is going through also add to this tension. All Red and Rit want to do is chill and flirt and not worry about having to save the world, but the world simply will not leave them alone. In that sense, though, this novel, while not being a “slow life” novel itself, is ultimately about trying to live that slow life when life keeps trying to speed up.
As with the last volume, what helps make this story more interesting than just another fantasy romance is how the worldbuilding incorporates the idea of “blessings,” the special abilities unique to each individual. These “blessings,” which are directly given by the “God” of this world, have two notable aspects: one, they can actually affect your personality (for example, a Warrior blessing makes one more battle-hungry), and two, they dictate your expected “role” in life. It is this latter part that is the focus of this volume, as we see that a number of people are not satisfied with what role their blessing seems to want to put them in. I will go more into this in the “Plus” section of this review, but for now, suffice it to say that this aspect helps make the whole conflict of this volume quite interesting to read and think about. There are also some other interesting developments that show that the anti-Demon Lord party may have some “allies” that one might not particularly want.
That said, maybe you are just here for the developing romance between Red and Rit. The good news here is that their relationship is progressing well in this volume, too. Things go at a nice pace that is neither rushed nor painfully slow, and is full of sweetness. Some readers may want to be warned that the relationship does start getting physical here, and while they do not go all the way here, they do get rather close. There is definitely more to their relationship than just that, though, and their support for each other is still one of the highlights of this series.
Overall, this series continues to be a nice story with a nice romance and some nice themes to go along with everything. Those who enjoy typical fantasy light novels will very likely enjoy this, and even those looking for something more above the typical might like how this novel makes use of the classic “individual special ability” trope. Of course, with an anime adaptation coming up later this year, you could just wait to watch that to decide whether to read this, or you can read the novels first and see how the adaptation handles things later.
Plus: God’s Plan for Our Lives
In the world of Banished, people are giving “blessings” from “God” as a way of directing them towards that god’s intended purpose for them in life. This will likely sound familiar to Christians, who have heard much about how God has plans for our lives and we are to follow His will for us rather than our own desires. Likewise, the novel’s conflict revolving around people who do not like their divinely-ordained purpose in life sounds like the human desire to rebel against God’s will. That said, while the themes are similar at a surface level, there is one key difference here that separates the novel’s “divine blessings” from God’s will: relationship.
As far as I can tell, there is no real concept of having a “relationship” with the “god” of Banished‘s world. This makes the assignment of this god’s desired role for each person feel very arbitrary, as if this god is just setting up the world to his own whims. In fact, the author of the novel even says as much in the afterword: He wrote this system of “blessings” as a way to make a sensible world that runs on RPG mechanics, where characters have different stat increase rates on level-up. The end result is that in this world, the “god” is basically just a game designer, choosing each character’s role solely based on how he wants his “game” to work. No wonder there are people who want to rebel against their roles, who do not like how some impersonal entity known as “god” has chosen their fate in life.
With Christians, however, we have a personal relationship with God, and that means God’s plans for our lives are more than just arbitrary assignments. We understand how God loves us and wants the best for our lives, and as we learn more about what God wants to do in the world, we learn to make His will our own as well. In addition, we do not simply just wait for God to tell us what His will is and then do it; Romans 12:2 invites us to test out things ourselves in order to discern God’s will. All this makes following God’s will a lot less like just playing out a role in a game.
Now, given that we are still only 2 volumes into Banished, there may indeed be more to “god” and the “blessings” that we will learn about in later volumes. Whatever may happen, it does make for an interesting system that allows for thinking more about how we choose to follow God’s will for our lives.