Vampire Hunter D: Fortress of the Elder God book review

Being an avid Vampire Hunter D fan, I was pretty ecstatic when this latest entry in the novel series came through the NR pipeline. Fortress of the Elder God is the 18th volume of the lengthy series about everyone’s favorite vampire hunting badass, and like the books before, it doesn’t slack off on proving why the dhampir puts modern day vampires to shame.

The story starts off with a small group of travelers getting on a skybus that’s en route to the Capital. Along the way, the pilot ends up dying at the helm, and the skybus is forced to crash land in an area referred to as The Playground, an area that was once Noble territory, and has since been forbidden to human entrance, since those that have ventured into the region were never heard from again.

Fortunately for our motley crew, D shows up while on an assignment from a client that required him to travel to this dangerous place. D is seeking a fortress that had originally been the site of a major battle between the Sacred Ancestor’s forces, and a group of Noble cultists worshipping a demonic god. The vampire hunter is tasked with investigating the fortress, and the group of humans, fearing for their own safety, decide to follow him. After a bit of coercing, D agrees to help the group get out of the Playground, but only when he finishes his own business first.

The novel has everything you’d expect from a Vampire Hunter D book and legendary author Hideyuki Kikuchi. Being originally published in Japan, the translations are flawless, bringing the scenery to life with every page, and the action is as vibrant as ever, with hacked limbs and clashing blades reverberating inside your mind so clearly you could swear you were watching the events unfold in person. D is also his enigmatic self, batting back opposition with his expert sword skills and array of clever tactics, while his parasitic left hand is as snarky as ever, injecting humor occasionally to help balance out D’s stoic nature, at the expense of its host. Yoshitaka Amano’s illustrations, meanwhile, never fail to impress, leaping from the pages with impressive detail and portraying the various situations our favorite anti-hero gets into with bravado.

What this chapter brings differently to the table, is the heavy focus on the interactions with the human survivors, each coming from different backgrounds in the Frontier. Maria is a brash, boozing, foul-mouthed woman, and the obligatory attractive female lead for the book, while Jan is a small-time thug who’s not afraid to get vicious. Mr. and Mrs. Stow are an elderly couple heading to the Capital to visit their sons, and end up looking after a “quatra-autistic” child named Toto, who was abandoned by the nun escorting him sometime before. Shrive and Weizmann are police officers, tasked with escorting a suckling, a man that was bitten by one of the Nobility, and is being taken to the Capital to be used as a test subject for experiments. And finally, we have Bierce, a hardened warrior well past his prime, though still able to launch arrows with incredible speed and accuracy without the need of a bow.

Each of these humans have their own troubled history, as well as their own desires, and all of it comes out in the open during the course of the story, as they learn to put up with each other and work to survive. Although this is what they try to do, there is always a lingering feeling that someone is going to die somewhere, as is traditional in these kinds of scenarios. It sounds like the book is filled with clichés, but the ones that do bite it at least do so in ways that can still surprise you.

As for learning more about D himself, you can forget about those kinds of hopes. As usual, the dhampir is as mysterious as ever, and getting anything about his personal history is like pulling teeth from an alligator. We are, however, treated to a bit of information about the Sacred Ancestor, and just what exactly he is capable of, as he alone was able to take down the cult’s demonic god five millennia ago from where the story takes place. The confrontation itself took an entire year to complete, and took so much out of the Sacred Ancestor, he was forced to rest for another century afterwards. Of course, such an accolade should come as no surprise, as the Sacred Ancestor has been touted as the strongest Noble to exist since the beginning of the series.

The book itself is relatively short, since it’s not as much of an overarching story as the previous chapters, with the tale itself reaching just under 150 pages long. Because of all this, it can be seen as a kind of filler, meant to give a bit of extra space between now and the next major arc, while not being as obnoxious as filler episodes in Naruto or Bleach. There are also a couple unanswered questions that get raised, and while I can’t bring them up here, you can probably tell which ones I’m referring to once you get through the actual story. Most everything gets answered in one form or another, but the rest you kind of have to think a bit harder on to completely understand.

That’s not to say that this volume still isn’t an enjoyable read, especially if you’re a big fan of the series. The various twists and turns, as well the look at the human psyche, creates a more interesting setup, as we learn why each of the survivors behave the way they do. Although D is forced to share the spotlight, particularly with Bierce and his arrow flinging skills, he does so in a way that doesn’t feel forced upon the reader.

Overall, it’s not as grand a story as previous entries, but it’s engaging all the same. The shorter length also allows it to be snuck in between your own reading backlog, and it can help satiate your thirst for more until the next book comes out, which is due in spring of 2013.

 

Final Grade: B

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Michael Revis
Michael Revis 219 posts

Michael is a man of many things. Journalist, writer, gamer, professional procrastinator, cosplayer, super hero, whale wrestler, evil mastermind, and robot master. And that's just on the weekends.