Originally Posted: October 4, 2020
“A slave’s mark needed to be visible at all times, but it didn’t need to be branded on their skin. That he was about to put this chunk of glowing red metal on Flum’s cheek was nothing short of his own twisted, personal desire.” – kiki, on Flum’s branding ceremony(?)
With the Reversal Affinity, curses are turned into blessings. Now kicked from the party of heroes, Flum is sold into slavery and soon sentenced to die. But, alongside her cursed sword, Flum’s mark comes with a blessing of its own – freedom to chase for an ordinary life.
ROLL OVER AND DIE: I Will Fight for an Ordinary Life with My Love and Cursed Sword!, Vol. 1 is the first entry to a darker fantasy light novel series featuring sinister heroes, powerful demons, unconventional monsters, and oppressive religions. Following Flum’s forced ejection from the party chosen by Origin, a near-death experience brings ties her path with an Epic-class cursed sword and a bandaged girl – Milkit. Thus begins Flum’s journey from a forsaken slave to a normal adventurer. Will the dark realities of their world crush their dreams? Or will Flum and Milkit rise above the chains with which society has bound them? This story of redemption and revenge by kiki and illustrated by kinta is full of exciting battles, light sandwich-eating, and gruesome depictions of injury and death. Action, horror, and romance are all contained in this fantastical world of despair.
How did you like my introductory section? Did it perk your interest? It certainly did for me! I was so excited to read this, that I bought the e-book even with the paperback pre-ordered. ROLL OVER AND DIE, Vol. 1 is my first dive into darker fantasy as I continue to broaden my horizons. And I’m glad to have taken it! This book manages to create exciting fights that tug on the most basic of urges – survival. It is this, the oppressive atmosphere, and juxtaposition with more light-hearted scenes that create a unique experience. If there are any recommendations for similar titles, I would love to hear them! Now, we will make some comparisons to Reincarnated as a Sword (review here) and The Alchemist Who Survived (review here) for some RPG-based mechanics, the slice-of-life vs. adventuring sections, and battles. For this spoiler-free review, we will look at the premise, the characters, the world-building, plot structure, and action + slice-of-life sections. With that, I hope to give you some good information about this series~!
To start, it has to be the first impressions. And the cover design is great! The colourful palette, fantastical outfits, and blood-splattered text tell you almost everything you need to know about the book. It’s a gruesome tale set in a fantasy world starring several young heroines. The lively colours will be nice on a bookshelf and hide the dark realities underneath. Moving on, the next interesting feature is the length of the book. The Reincarnated as a Sword, Vol. 1 paperback is ~370 pages & 66,000 words, and the ROLL OVER AND DIE e-book is 77,000 words (according to Kobo). For a standard-priced light novel, this is quite the value. Of course, this isn’t a necessarily good thing, and one should remember quality vs. quantity. Hopefully, the rest of this review will help you decide. Then, after opening the book, you’re greeted by three coloured-inserts: (1) a clean cover, (2) the featured banner, above, and (3) the ogre-thing, below. The latter two are particularly nice as they showcase the contrasting sides of this story. And now, with the mental conflict between slice-of-life sandwich-eating and horrific faceless beings in your mind, let’s get into the text!
Like another Seven Seas series’ review, we will start with the premise. Flum is a hero-turned-slave who finds a girl (Milkit) and a sword (Epic-ly cursed) that will change her life forever. From an outcast of the party of heroes, this fateful meeting has Flum narrowly escape death and kicks off their trajectory to an ordinary life – at least, whatever is ordinary for them. But their status as slaves and Flum’s zeroed stats put them at the bottom of society. This is a perfect setup; there is a clear start, end, and collection of obstacles in between. And the motivations pile up, for the reader and Flum; love, revenge, and overcoming evil are all present to see Flum and Milkit’s situation improve. The driver for such changes is Flum’s odd Affinity, Reversal. It is as the first two chapters have us believe; it flips the effects of curses and blessings for Flum. Such an idea isn’t unheard of, but it is put to some creative use by kiki. Overall, the premise produces a solid framework for the story and allows for interesting (though mildly cliché) twists in equipped curses. And in this story, the hook is subtle but powerful – Flum is a good girl in a bad world. One is drawn in hoping she succeeds to avoid feeling a sense of hopelessness. The only improvement I would suggest is a greater focus on Reversal later in the story. After halfway, Reversal acts more like a tool than a concept to be explored. Like… are there only certain blessings and curses that it affects? How about blessings that are hindrances? The list can go on. Of course, this can be left for future entries but, with 400+ pages, there was certainly a possibility for more exploration.
With the premise out of the way, let us briefly talk about the characterizations of our cast. There isn’t too much special about the heroines (Flum, Milkit, and Sara) or the people around them (chosen hero party included). Everyone is trope-like to start; although, this is not necessarily a bad thing. More complex motivations for the main three are established but only for them. This implies the harm inflicted by others is simply selfish: money, survival, sadism, etc. But for a story filled with evil, it feels absurd that so much of it comes from individuals (rather than an Eldritch horror or a dystopian society.) This may be the point – “the real monsters are the people” – but it takes away from the believability of the world. The fix here is complex, but hammering home the scarcity of resources or giving a reason to the bad deeds would be a start. And only then would I accept that evil dwells in the hearts of man.
Now, what ROLL OVER AND DIE does decently is show change in the main cast over time. Even if left physically unscathed, Flum and co. are certainly affected as they experience the terrors of their world. Such changes come about in situations of extreme stress and from new evidence conflicting with their world views. Seeing their adventures shape their characters is a treat and I hope to see more of it in the future.
The world of ROLL OVER AND DIE is one easily imagined for those with fantasy RPGs or other similarly inspired light novels. Stats, weapon-classes, and monsters of all types are present in this story. This allows for a variety of concepts to be implemented, but the best stories are those that focus and expand on a few.
ROLL OVER AND DIE has two main ideas: Affinities and stats. The background conflict is fought between humanity (backed by the church of Origin) and demon-kind (led by the Demon Lord and Chiefs). The tools of battle come in the form of conventional magic (tied to Affinities), superhuman physical feats (granted by stats), and prana – internal energy that allows for temporary reallocation of endurance into other stats. People are born with an Affinity, granting them a special ability. But despite the flashy magic and skills(?), it’s stat totals that tend to decide the outcome of each battle. The two main methods of increasing these are self-improvement and enchanted equipment – for Flum’s Reversal Affinity, this would be ‘cursed’ equipment instead. It is explained that such items come into being after an angry spirit refuses to let go after its body passes. For a world seemingly full of death, this might be a plus of our protagonist. That’s it… I think. See how things are connected and expanded on? These connections are a strong point for ROLL OVER AND DIE. Compare this to Reincarnated as a Sword, where new concepts are piled onto each other and create an endurance test in mental juggling.
Now, what sets it apart from series like Reincarnated as a Sword is not the tighter mechanics but the tone. ROLL OVER AND DIE goes for a darker perspective on fantasy and awards itself the horror tag. This amounts to some grim uses of magic (slave marks) and graphic depictions of injury (melting flesh, amputation, spilling internals, etc.) Additionally, there’s an abundance of people with less than admirable desires and methodologies. The combination of the two creates a somewhat hopeless atmosphere for ROLL OVER AND DIE. It is this which makes for a unique reading experience. The overarching presence that is the church of Origin and demon-kind then add layers of intrigue and mystery. This gives the reader more reason to stay in this dark world – in addition to the desire to see Flum and Milkit succeed. What ROLL OVER AND DIE lacks then is a deeper exploration of those mysteries. It is clear these factions are foundations to the despair but ROLL OVER AND DIE fails to explain much in Vol.1, leaving things for future entries. But, in doing so, these concepts become disconnected and take away from the depth.
For now, the world-building has strong mechanics but lacks depth in the background conflict. This is likely to be resolved with further reading but makes the single volume experience weaker.
As hinted in the world-building discussion, what ROLL OVER AND DIE chooses to do differently is what makes it interesting. This extends to the monster choice and design. For that, let us look at the ‘ogre’ in the colour-insert above. Such a creature twists our expectations just enough to make us curious and excited. We all have stereotypes for the ogre, and they dictate that ogres have a face. The uncanny change that ROLL OVER AND DIE introduces shock, interest, and fear into the story. And despite our reservations in interacting with such a beast, we know that it must be dealt with to protect Flum’s ordinary life. This dive into the unknown keeps the reader on their toes and tugs on a thread that unravels secrets of the world – one that allowed for such a thing to exist. And I can confirm that this thing strikes fear and awe when first encountered. Now, aside from this ogre, there are other unconventional creatures from standard RPG fantasy (werewolves, blue-skinned demons, anzu, etc.) All of them let kiki lean on RPG tropes but allow for a greater degree of creativity than, say, slimes. This adds more variety to the world and sets it apart from others in the genre. In summary, the monsters present in ROLL OVER AND DIE are decently interesting with some bearing unique traits.
For this RPG-esque story, we have a plot-structure reminiscent of others of its kind: a vague overarching goal with potential for adventure. In ROLL OVER AND DIE, the subtitle says it all, “fight for an ordinary life with my love and cursed sword.” It is this goal that pushes Flum to become an adventurer and make a living. The simple goal reminds me of Mariela in The Alchemist Who Survived, and the similarities between the two show why both series do it well. Though the result is something normal, the journey is far from it. This is because the world uses everything in its arsenal to break any sense of normality; slave marks, corrupt guilds, and monstrous abominations are all equal in their attempts to stop Flum in her tracks. You get the best combination of a relatable goal and fantastical adventure. And while the ambiguity risks having an unfocused plot and clear progression markings (as in Reincarnated as a Sword), we have a good grasp of what it means to live an ordinary life. One should aim for a stable income, sort out their housing situation, make some friends, find love, etc. With every little struggle towards this ideal, we get a sense of growth and continue to root for Flum. And in between conflicts, we grab a glimpse of normality with some slice-of-life + set-up. Without diving in too much, this structure works well for ROLL OVER AND DIE and I had great fun following Flum’s adventures. The action and slice-of-life sections complement and support each other; they are opposing palette cleansers. Now, the one major gripe I had was with the ‘Intermission’ chapters where we cut to the party of heroes post-Flum-enslavement. They mostly describe the effects of Flum’s departure and feel like revenge-pie. But their timing and lack of conclusion make them unrewarding and unnecessary to the plot. If they were placed later (after we got to know Flum more) and maybe had one more chapter to wrap it up (for Vol. 1), they would be worth the read. To summarize, the goal of an ordinary life serves as a great backbone for the fantastical adventures and subconsciously marks natural points of progression for the reader. But the parallel plot with the party of heroes needs a few changes in timing and closure to improve the overall experience.
Now with the foundations discussed, let us talk about the core aspect – the action. Flum has many obstacles on her travels to an ordinary life. And if it isn’t a societal issue, it is likely a monster or two. As an adventurer, such creatures can be as unique as a faceless ogre… or one wearing the skin of a human. It is when they are openly hostile that Flum decides to fight back. All the battles in Flum’s story are graphic and descriptive. You feel every cut appendage, hear every broken bone, and smell the rotting innards of those previously dispatched. These descriptive consequences add weight to every action in the spectacle. Such a focus on the harm brings a real sense of danger to each encounter. And with the world’s constant reminder of death, no character truly feels safe. It is through this method that ROLL OVER AND DIE creates impactful battle sequences. The unique monsters and spectacular feats then further add to the experience. However, what these sequences lack are deeper, personal motivations. This is particularly hard when dealing with (literally(?)) faceless creatures. Other than completing a quest, why are they there? Is this monster a direct threat to Flum’s ordinary life? Is it a long-lived beast that has terrorized her village for generations? Answers to questions like these would create a more lasting impact beyond the current shock and awe. As a final point, there is an instance or two where an ability/equip comes without much foreshadowing. This creates undeserved wins and breaks the flow when explained. In short, the action is generally great. It is more than pure spectacle and achieves this with a combination of graphic descriptions, unique monsters, and an ever-present sense of danger. But adding just a little more in terms of build-up and personal motivations would make it perfect.
After the action, we have the supporting aspects: the horror and the romance/yuri.
Firstly, the horror in ROLL OVER AND DIE is almost entirely graphic. As mentioned before, this comes in the form of bodily injuries and horrific creatures. Although shocking, no lasting fear is created. This is a cheaper form that easily helps the action but finds difficulty standing alone. The greater horror comes from the treatment of slaves by society. Flum and Milkit have to live under a fear of mistreatment and disdain. However, as it is mostly individuals who commit the crimes, it isn’t scary at all – i.e. people can be maimed and/or killed. Having a solution available to Flum negates any true fear from existing. Thus, with only shocks to contribute to the horror, ROLL OVER AND DIE is only so in name.
Secondly, we move to the romance/yuri. As hinted by the premise, Flum and Milkit are a pairing… somewhat. Flum is Milkit’s master after their near-death experience. And they act more like co-dependents joined by circumstance rather than lovers of any sort. Their relationship is as follows: Flum provides income and protection, and Milkit creates a light-hearted atmosphere with dialogue and sandwiches. In a way, Milkit is symbolic of the ordinary life Flum wishes to protect. This manifests as thoughts of Milkit that help motivate Flum in her adventures. Unfortunately, the shallow romancing and weaker characterization of Milkit makes her into an object of affection. This results in the reader feeling less invested and more annoyed when thoughts of her break up the action’s flow. Fortunately, there is a side-story that has a more romantic perspective on their relationship, but it comes far too late to be any use. In short, the romance/yuri leaves a lot to be desired and is more like bait instead of a supporting aspect.
To summarize, the horror and romance/yuri somewhat support the strong action but fail on their own. The horror needs more than shock, and the romance/yuri needs to be explored earlier (and in more depth).
Finally, with everything else discussed, let us go over some additional details. Firstly, the writing is simple and quick; there is lots of dialogue and small pockets of exposition/descriptions throughout. This makes up for the missing density that makes Vol. 1 so thick. Although, there were some times where I had to reread a sentence to catch the speaker and/or the meaning. Overall, the pace feels quite fast but the longer chapters slow you down to a reasonable completion speed. Secondly, the use of ‘Scan’ to create pages to summarize Affinity and stats is decently implemented. Unlike Reincarnated as a Sword, where it’s filled to the brim with skills, ROLL OVER AND DIE has everything neatly packed into seven lines. One gets a sense of strength and available abilities without being bogged down with meaningless info. Lastly, the art is fantastical and detailed (see below.) Illustrations are skillfully placed at critical moments to accent the scene. Whether it is a hectic anzu battle, introducing a faceless ogre, or being sold into slavery, kinta works wonders at showcasing excitement, despair, and joy alike. And even for 400+ pages of text, there are enough inserts to keep them reasonably spaced. There are even some reference sheets at the back! In conclusion, I believe the series is in good hands. kiki and kinta have proven themselves capable of creating a fairly complete and unique experience – though not without many paths of improvement.
Overall, ROLL OVER AND DIE, Vol. 1 provides an interesting story set in a darker fantasy world. The hero-to-slave-to-adventurer premise is well-designed, creates opportunities for twists with Flum’s Reversal, and motivates the reader to see it through. Its chosen RPG mechanics (Affinities and stats) are thoroughly expanded and connect to the story and her progression. Grim uses for magic (slave-making) and graphic descriptions of various injuries and horrors help create a hopeless tone. And unique monster choices and design add to the shock and excitement. All of this culminates in spectacular action scenes where each cut is felt and every drop of blood accounted for. However, there are weaknesses in the base characterizations of the cast and disconnected world-building. This results in shallow horror (shock only) and almost non-existent romance/yuri (until the end). kiki’s writing is quick and simple – as expected for a light novel – and kinta’s art is used purposefully to illustrate important scenes (see above). I would recommend ROLL OVER AND DIE to readers seeking a more visceral approach to action. For now, I’m hoping to see deeper exploration into the world and characters in the next volume. See you next week~!
4.1 / 5 – Moderately Recommended
To readers of fantasy looking for battles with some extra *squelch* with a sprinkling of (very) light yuri on top.
To lovers of young heroines of all types: knights, clerics, mages, and… maids?
To haters of the irredeemably corrupt and the two-faced (and the no-faced!)
Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read my review (even if you scrolled straight to the bottom). I hope that you take home even a little of what I’ve written down. This time we have another e-book! What do you think is better? I just love the feel of a nice paperback. <3
If action, horror, and yuri aren’t for you… then how about battle-ready nuns? Sara (see featured) is an adorable blonde set on helping Flum and Milkit on a certain mission. Though, as a cleric for Origin, perhaps there’s more than she lets on…?
I’m 春華 or Haruka, aspiring novelist, light novel reviewer, and the recently titled “Effortlessly Effervescent Embodiment of Eloquence.” I’ve only started diving into light novels, so please bear with my naiveté. You can follow my Twitter for updates on my reviews and writing progress. And if you want to talk about light novels with me and many others, consider joining our Discord here! Let’s all get along!