For general information on the series: Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers entry
This review is for the first volume of Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers by Ishio Yamagata (with artwork by Miyagi). The English edition was released by Yen Press in April 2017. The second volume will be released in the following months (August 22, 2017). The series ended in Japan, after six volumes.
Mysteries can be set in any locale, but rarely do they put a setting’s full potential to use to create such an engaging story. Fortunately, Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers delivers an ingenious fiction filled with both suspense and fantasy.
The novel unfolds as a group of heroes assembles to fend off the evil that will be resurrected on short notice. But while the legend states that six valorous fighters will do the job, a seventh enters the fray and instils doubt within the group. This leads to a story of psychological detective work to find out who’s the intruder.
And this mystery is truly intriguing. There’s a wealth of elements contributing to the premise, some of them drawing heavily from classic fantasy–for example, the use of magic and concoctions to subtly replace forensics. Repurposing those elements is refreshing for both genres, though things do feel a little too convenient at times.
Ishio Yamagata also isn’t shy of subverting fantasy tropes (the whole “seven instead of six heroes” is just the tip of the iceberg), breaking apart the usual clichéd characters. No one is almighty and perfect, and everybody can be considered a threat, especially under the conditions of this volume. And thanks to the constant profiling, readers can delve into the backstory and motives of every “hero,” grounding some basic behavioural patterns into our minds to start searching for the possible culprit.
The story thus manages to place a usual premise (find the traitor inside a group) in an unusual setting. By pulling this off, it also sets the tone for future volumes where a feeling of mistrust will linger on the group. All of this happens while actual relationships flourish in the background, serving as the hope for the heroes’ victory.
My only minor complaint, other than some of the overly-practical fantasy objects, would be the unpredictable nature of everyone’s abilities. While it helps mystifying the story and keeps the reader’s interest, I feel it amplifies the possibility of plot contrivances in later volumes.
Nonetheless, Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers is a pleasant and subtle story, and an essential read for both fantasy and detective novel fans. Hopefully, later volumes will keep readers on the edge of their seats just like this impressive opener.
Melody’s Rating: Strongly Recommended