Originally Posted: November 15, 2020
Approximate Reading Time: ~14 mins
“There was no mistaking it. The bandit was dead. […]
I felt something flow into my body, followed by the echo of a metallic voice in my head. […]
Then the most wonderful, glorious sensation – that of an eternally empty stomach truly filling for the first time. I’d never felt so satisfied in my life.” – Fate, on his first ‘meal’.
In this world of ‘Levels’, ‘Skills’, and ‘Stats’, our protagonist finds himself cursed(?) with Gluttony – a Skill that leaves its holder eternally hungry. While food merely tided him over up to this point, it turns out souls taste far better (and are more nutritious!)
Berserk of Gluttony, Vol. 1 is the first entry to an action-fantasy light novel series with corrupt holy knights, talking blades, and an insatiable thirst for souls! All his life, Fate has been put down for his ‘garbage’ skill, Gluttony, until a fateful encounter with Roxy – the holy knight – and death changes everything. As it turns out, he can consume the stats and skills of anyone slain by his hand. Following this revelation and opportunity to join Roxy’s household, Fate’s life finally takes a turn for the better. However, with his first taste of souls, the desire to consume grows evermore. Will he be able to lead a normal life by holding back the monster within? And if so, what will it cost him to keep it shackled? In this story of growth, revenge, and love(?), Isshiki Ichika treats us to exciting battles of all types, an internal conflict, and an exploration of the corrupted kingdom of Seifort. Illustrations by fame then further reinforce the ‘cool’ and fantastical aspects of this world.
So, how was my intro? Does this series sound familiar? There are many similarities Berserk of Gluttony shares with the other Seven Seas titles I’ve reviewed: Reincarnated as a Sword and ROLL OVER AND DIE. (You can find their respective Vol. 1 reviews here and here!) And we’ll talk all about it and more in this (unfortunately) lengthy review. But before that, I would like to say a few more things. Reading Berserk of Gluttony was a whimsical choice by me; what caught my attention was the Japanese and English publishers. GC Novels and Seven Seas Entertainment brought over ROLL OVER AND DIE, a series I took a great liking to, and I thought to give this a try. I’m happy I did as it does action (and romance) well! With that, I hope to inform you on whether this light novel is a good choice for you. For this spoiler-free review, we’ll take a look at the premise, plot structure, characters, world-building, action, and more. And now, let’s jump into this review!
To start, let’s go through the first impressions. The cover is strikingly contrasted. The white and blue vs. the black and red evokes alertness in the curious book-shopper. Furthermore, the fantastical outfits, imposing sword-stance, and castle in the background tells you all you need to know: it’s an action-fantasy aiming for an edgier ‘cool’. Additionally, the colours will be a nice addition to any bookshelf (when its paperback is released). Moving on, the next notable aspect is the length. According to Kobo, Berserk of Gluttony is 59,000 words, which makes it shorter than both Reincarnated as a Sword and ROLL OVER AND DIE, but more than the average light novel. So, if you’re looking for a slightly smaller Seven Seas release, this is for you. Finally, after opening the e-book, you’re greeted by three coloured-inserts: (1) a clean cover, (2) the featured banner, uncropped, and (3) the cute scene below. The latter two are a good combination given the two sides of the story (which we’ll talk about later). And (3) is super sweet, isn’t it? Well, with that, let’s dive into the text!
Now, we’ll talk about the hook and premise. Fate Graphite is a normal human gifted(?) with a Skill that is, by all means, detrimental; Gluttony makes its holder “eternally hungry.” Because of this, Fate was bullied mercilessly growing up and unable to find proper work as an adult. The story then starts during his job as a gatekeeper for Seifort – the main kingdom of this story. Unfortunately, he’s employed by the (not-so) holy family of Vlerick, who continues to treat him like trash – low pay, lots of abuse. This is also where we meet Roxy Hart, another holy knight, who saves him from his shift and abusers. After a fatal scuffle with some bandits, two changes to Fate’s life occur: (1) Roxy offers Fate a position under the (much nicer) Hart family and (2) it turns out Gluttony allows for Fate to consume Stats and Skills. It is with these opportunities that Fate takes the path to a better life.
To start, I want to say that the ‘useless’ Skill premise is well-traversed by light novels, but it’s not the Skills that interests me (see Reincarnated as a Sword for a weaker implementation) but rather how Berserk of Gluttony innovates – we’ll talk more in Greed’s section. Moving on, as Berserk of Gluttony shares many similarities to ROLL OVER AND DIE‘s setup, this one is decently strong given the low start and obvious upward trajectory. Motivations for Fate and the reader include revenge on the Vlerics, hope for a better future, and love/admiration for Roxy. My only issues are (1) there is no explicit goal in mind and (2) the holy knights being evil is unconvincing. For (1), like in Reincarnated as a Sword, this creates a sense of freedom but risks feeling aimless over time. However, we’ll talk about how this is fixed in a later discussion on Roxy. And (2) undermines the revenge motivations and world-building – we’ll discuss more in their respective sections. Overall, the start is acceptably interesting but has some flaws that could’ve been improved.
From this low start with an upward trajectory, how does Berserk of Gluttony continue? Vol. 1 takes us on an adventure filled with exploring the surrounding area, battling monsters, and gathering more power. And its progression has a similar feel to many RPGs with a class-based system, particularly MMOs. Past the setup phase, the two main sources of development are (1) Fate’s need to sate Gluttony and Greed, his Skill and sword, respectively, and (2) working under the Hart household. At first, this feels like Fate is being dragged along, but he gains a sense of agency by the end. Then those two threads are weaved together to create a daytime-Fate and a nighttime-Fate (the figure on the cover). Although very different in tone, these two stories are inextricably linked by Fate (whoa!). Isshiki Ichika uses this to focus on particular aspects – daytime for exploration/work and nighttime for battles. Unfortunately, despite the contrasting Fates, there is little self-conflict (which is disappointing). And on a related note, there are a lot of conveniences for our protagonist. These include finding Greed, acquiring the iconic mask, and gaining certain abilities at critical times. In these instances, it feels like Berserk of Gluttony is just giving Fate what he needs to continue unhindered. Fortunately, these don’t take away from the excitement of its action but rather from the believability during the setup. In short, the plot structure allows for much exploration within and outside to walls of Seifort. However, its initially undirected nature and endless conveniences can be frustrating to read. This improves later (for reasons we’ll explain), but requires some investment.
With the setup and structure discussed, we’ll jump into the characters. First, let’s take a look at Fate. He’s a downtrodden, young man looking to survive despite his dealt cards. There isn’t much more to say beyond playing the standard shounen protagonist, and this adds to the ‘aimlessness’ of the plot. What does Fate want? And if you know, how does he plan on getting there? Other than petty revenge and getting stronger, it’s not very clear. He does good things (saving children, defeating monsters, etc.) but he’s also morally grey (extrajudicial killing of bandits and other humans). He meanders, happens on many helpful coincidences, and never has to make a difficult choice. All in all, Fate’s not a very interesting protagonist; this is most troublesome because of the first-person perspective, which we’ll talk about later. In short, Fate feels more like a vehicle (for the reader) rather than a fully fleshed-out character. I hope that, in the future, he’ll have to face the consequences of his actions and see something change in him.
After Fate, the most prominent character(?) is Greed: a telepathic, black sword somehow related to Gluttony (with a cool design). Like Teacher does for Fran in Reincarnated as a Sword, Greed plays mentor and enabler of Fate’s battle capabilities. And honestly, I’m on the fence as to how I feel about them. They’re snarky, temperamental, and experienced. The best things they contribute are (1) their dialogue with Fate, (2) their information, and (3) their stat-consuming abilities. But on the other hand, they are overpowered, conveniently withdraw information, and act as Fate’s driver. These risk destroying the stakes of any battle and removes any sense of agency from the protagonist. However, this is (mostly) solved by (3). Without going into the details, Gluttony is clearly overpowered and allows for growth that is too fast. But to continue using Greed, Fate must sacrifice significant portions of his accumulated stats. This gives Fate choices to make during a battle and severely limits stat growth. The duality of Greed as an overwhelming force and stat sink is a good idea – and their cool abilities add to their usefulness. I just wish they weren’t reality-warping-ly strong (see slicing a club in half). For now, we’ll just have to see how Fate and Greed’s relationship grows down the road.
Third on the list is Roxy Hart, the better example of a holy knight. Roxy is Fate’s new master after she snatches him from the Vlericks. She’s kind-hearted, hard-working, and dutiful – which puts her at odds with Fate’s former masters. And she also acts as a beacon of hope and admiration for our protagonist. However, her role as a Hart and holy knights leaves her with many responsibilities and choices. Without going too far, Roxy and her troubles are what drives Fate to do things (beyond mindlessly killing monsters). A small arc that develops their relationship further reinforces this fact. This becomes the main motivation and direction for our protagonist but takes away even more agency from him. At least, there’s a sense of brewing conflict between Roxy’s expectations of Fate and his real form (as “the Lich”). This difficult choice beyond the horizon will surely be critical to their relationship. In short, like with Greed, she provides some good for the story, but we’ll have to see how she develops alongside Fate to reach a verdict.
Finally, let’s discuss the other minor characters. There is a collection of children, shopkeepers, servants, adventurers, and more that populate the kingdom of Seifort and interact with Fate. Though many are nameless, I can remember them all due to their unique characteristics, dialogue, and role in the story; this is a mark of great design. And though they only fill one part in Fate’s tale, they act like inhabitants in a world beyond what we see. This helps in the overall immersion, and I do not doubt Isshiki Ichika’s ability to create more memorable faces(?) further on.
Now, after our dive into the characters, let’s talk about the world. The fantastical setting of Berserk of Gluttony starts with many standard LitRPG (new word!) tropes such as monsters, Levels, Stats, Skills, and Techs. Each of these elements acts exactly as you would expect: Levels increase with experience (Spheres), Stats increase with Levels, Skills are inherent and acquired, and Techs are battle arts. There is nothing too interesting here, and I was worried about their introduction (memories of Reincarnated as a Sword go here). However, Berserk of Gluttony manages to reel in the numbers of skills and relevant numbers to make it manageable; there are maybe 13 to keep track of and their effects are obvious. The important numbers to understand are the stat totals, which tend to decide the flow of battle. In short, nothing ground-breaking comes from the use of LitRPG elements.
Similarly, the fantastical world offers very little in the realm of innovation. Instead, Berserk of Gluttony tries to create a cohesive, realistic-feeling world using the LitRPG tropes as a foundation. And, in its favour, it does decently well. People make a living off their Skills? Easy. Discrimination against Skill-less humans? Understandable. Gain money and clout from defeating monsters? Sure. Corrupt holy knights are revered and never questioned? Eh… And with that, we start to unravel the flaws. The world of Berserk of Gluttony first tries to go for a darker atmosphere with the encroaching monsters, kidnappings, murders, and heavy discrimination. But this all falls flat in Fate’s new everyday experience. With his new life as part of Harts, the dark realities are quickly overshadowed by their status and luxuries. While the initial jump from Fate’s start is refreshing, it quickly breaks down any semblance of a heavy atmosphere it originally had. And the central pillar of society, the knights, being corrupt is hardly felt in the society beyond some isolated incidents. This is despite the persistent reminders that this is the case. If the merchants, barkeepers, low-ranking adventurers, etc. were clearly oppressed, this would be remedied.
Finally, I want to mention the most interesting parts of the world: Gluttony and Greed. As hinted in the respective character sections, they are related and provide the greatest mysteries for our story. The latter is furthered by the introduction of a mysterious girl, one who seems to have connections to them. Their ability to consume and evolve creates an interesting new dynamic that allows them to defeat large threats at the cost of many lives. And with their influence slowly coming to light, it’s only a matter of time before we see the full extent of their power (and subsequent sacrifices). For the future, I hope we’ll see more of their effects on the world and what role they play in a seemingly greater plot.
With all the foundations discussed, it’s time to talk about the action: something of which Berserk of Gluttony has no shortage of. Fate and Greed find themselves bound to continue killing monsters as a way to feed. And as discussed about Greed, it’s usually an overwhelming slaughter. Now, with that, how does Berserk of Gluttony stay exciting? There are a few contributors to this. The first is the descriptions. Like ROLL OVER AND DIE, fights are visceral (not to the same extent but that’s okay). Feeling every slash, breath, and drop of blood adds to the overall experience. The second is the scale and spectacle of Fate’s abilities (and his later opponents). One way to run with great power is to have fun with it. With trees, boulders, and whole ravines being destroyed in a battle, you can be sure to gain some childish glee from the wreckage. This is further heightened by the first point. The third is the incorporation of different types of battles. In Berserk of Gluttony, Fate battles hordes of monsters, boss-like creatures, and humans. Each requires a different strategy, and many require more than overpowering them to defeat. By implementing clever strategies, we are treated to an upward struggle rather than a simple spectacle. Lastly, we have the motivations. Especially later in the story, battles have an underlying context above feeding Gluttony. The buildup and subsequent conclusion to a conflict during the fight create a respective sense of worry and relief. This further adds to the quality of the action in this series. Overall, Berserk of Gluttony offers some of the best fights I’ve seen from a light novel. Despite my worries of simply overpowered spectacle, its descriptions, fun, interesting strategies, and motivating action demonstrate Isshiki Ichika’s skill.
And lastly, let’s talk about some additional details. Firstly, the story is told entirely from Fate’s 1st-person perspective. While this is not uncommon in light novels, its implementation in Berserk of Gluttony is debatably weak. This is particularly felt in the action scenes (which are great overall), where the description is limited to what Fate can perceive. And as a personal gripe, having ‘I’, ‘my’, and ‘me’ so frequently is annoying to read. Next, I would like to talk a little about the writing/translation. Normally, I don’t mind a few mistakes or complications, but Berserk of Gluttony has some notable ones. For a book-style typically written simply, there are unusual words like ‘mien’ and ‘vaunted’ sprinkled in. If you knew what those meant already, you have an impressive vocabulary. And for a person on the lower end of the status-spectrum, Fate is quite well-spoken, huh? The other type of oddity I would like to note is the occasionally broken sentence. For example, please examine the 2nd-to-last sentence of the quote at the top. Then the sensation… what? It doesn’t make sense, and this is in the first two chapters. This isn’t horrendous but, if you’re expecting flawlessness, this book isn’t for you. Finally, let us talk about the art. There are no less than 10 black-and-white illustrations in Vol. 1, and they’re usually used to punctuate a cool scene or a character introduction. Additionally, fame shows much skill in the weapon design (see below), characters (see above), and action shots (not pictured). The only things missing are monster designs and background art. Overall, I’m impressed by the style, placement, and quantity of the illustrations. But a small shift in focus from Fate (who has 5 illustrations) to the setting (monsters and background) would be much appreciated.
Overall, Berserk of Gluttony, Vol. 1 is a decent action-fantasy founded in LitRPG tropes with an interesting addition. The premise and setup aren’t unique and have been done better by ROLL OVER AND DIE; this is due to the lack of an explicit goal. The plot then starts as an aimless exploration of Fate’s dual life as a Hart servant and monster-consuming Lich, one riddled with many plot conveniences. However, in the later parts of the story, Roxy’s presence and Greed’s abilities take hold and create motivations and direction for Fate. An improvement here would be more conflict between the two lives he leads. The world-building doesn’t try to innovate too much with its LitRPG tropes and fails at maintaining a consistent atmosphere – likely due to Fate’s dual life. Instead, the best elements are Gluttony and Greed’s interplay and the mysteries they hold. On top of all is the action, and Berserk of Gluttony surely delivers. The descriptive, fun, spectacular, and context-filled battles are by far the best parts of the story. It is clear this is the focus of Isshiki Ichika’s efforts and (mostly) makes up for the other shortcomings. Some translation/writing issues are present, and the book is full of character and weapon illustrations. Improvements here would include more monsters and background art. In short, I had fun reading it. I would recommend Berserk of Gluttony to fantasy light novel readers looking for a good example of exciting action (despite the overpowered protagonist). In the future, I hope that we’ll see more of Gluttony/Greed’s potential and that we meet more directed characters (like Roxy). And with that, see you next week!
4.3 / 5 – Moderately Recommended
To readers of fantasy and LitRPGs looking for an extra splash of action and an interesting progression system.
To lovers of red-eyed Liches, beautiful Knights, black swords, and the taste of souls.
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.
As per tradition, let me give you something extra! If the action, LitRPG elements, or fantasy aren’t for you… then why are you here? Hah! Just kidding. An interesting girl is donning exotic clothing and wielding a giant axe. She has no name yet but seems connected to Fate. And she has that ‘cool’ aura! What role will she play in the future…?
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!