Originally Posted: December 6, 2020
Minor Updates: December 7, 2020
“A strike that can be neither dodged nor blocked, thereby guaranteeing death.
Fulfill those conditions within the one-step, one-spell distance, and you have what is called a “spellblade”” – Lanoff Evarts, founder of the Lanoff School of Sword Arts, on the ultimate form of attack.
In this world of magic and swords, the greatest mages are those that possess a spellblade. There are seven known to exist, and there are many ways of fulfilling those conditions. Being able to bend the laws of reality makes for some unique and unconventional methods of doing so. But with them shrouded in mystery, one will only know of their power when it’s too late.
Reign of the Seven Spellblades, Vol. 1 is the first entry to the action-fantasy series where magic and swords mix with demi-humans, insane upperclassmen, and labyrinthian halls to create an exciting life at a magical school. With a mystery dropped onto the laps of our six main characters, Reign of the Seven will take us on an adventure to uncover the secrets behind the incident at their opening ceremony. And on the way, we’ll learn more about our cast, their world, and the darkness that lurks in their academy. Classroom bullying, god-like beasts, and certain-death skills are only a fraction of the dangers our characters will face. In this story of learning, investigation, and survival, Bokuto Uno offers exciting battles, dramatic politics, and sweet school-life all in a single package. Beautiful illustrations by Miyuki Ruria then further add to the fantastic and detailed feel of their world.
Hey! Are you interested in the series? Does it sound familiar? There are some series Reign of the Seven shares many similarities with, but its a well-crafted story and spectacular elements will surely impress. Now, before we start on this review, I would like to start with a few things. I’ve been excitedly waiting for this since Yen Press announced it a few months ago. As a lover of spells, blades, and learning about fantastical worlds, this particular title stood out to me. I also heard many good things – like its 1st Place award! Thus, I jumped in with high hopes. Suffice to say, I’m happy to have read it. There is so much to go through, and I hope to inform your expectations! For this spoiler-free review, we’ll take a look at the premise, the plot (and its structure), the characters, fantasy elements, action, and more. We will avoid making comparisons to another well-known series and enjoy it on its own merit. And with that, let’s get into this review!
To start, it’s always the first impressions. Firstly, the cover is quite well-designed. The clashing blades, mage-like robes, and darker colour-palette tell you what you need to know. Reign of the Seven is an action-fantasy with sword-slinging mages that’s not afraid to get a little gruesome. The beautiful style and excitement it depicts also grabs the book-shopper’s attention. Secondly, Reign of the Seven, Vol. 1 is long. At 82,000 words, this release is among the longest Yen Press releases I’ve read. But once concluded, it feels satisfyingly complete with that sense of ennui now that you have to wait for Vol. 2 (read: I wish it was even longer!). This also puts it at quite the bargain given other much shorter releases are similarly priced. Finally, we have the coloured-inserts. In order, we have the character page and dinner scene (below), the foreboding scene between Oliver and Nanao (at the top, cropped), and an exciting fight scene (at the bottom, cropped). The first is a cute school-life scene that serves as a handy reference. The latter two then show that, while the action is front-and-center, drama and spectacle aren’t far behind. And now, let’s get into the story proper!
The premise of the story is simple. There is a school, Kimberly Magic Academy, in Yelgland that takes in teens with magical abilities (magicals) as students. Here, we follow Oliver Horn and his new friends starting from their first day at the academy. Magic of all types (spells, alchemy, etc.), demi-humans (elves, centaurs, trolls, etc.), and swordplay are among the things they will learn about in their day-to-day. However, not all is fun and games. There are two tenets and one motto the school follows: ‘Freedom’, ‘Results’, and ‘Your life and death are in your own hands’. Hence, the classes may injure, the upperclassmen prey on their juniors, and only you can protect yourself from the horrors that lurk within the academy’s halls. It is in this hostile yet uncharted environment that students will spend seven years perfecting their skills.
And that’s it! It is with this blank canvas that Bokuto Uno paints a story of first-year students getting to know each other and figuring out the various aspects of their school. From demi-human politics to eldritch research to classroom relations, there is a lot to understand if you want to survive. However, such a simple setup comes with a lot of risks. The starting point is admission as a first-year. The overarching plot is to survive school until graduation. Progression is mostly dictated by time. And the obvious conclusion is when Oliver and his friends graduate. This is as barebones as school-life can get. Thus, Reign of the Seven places a lot of investment on the details and exploration rather than a grand story. If people get bored, there’s no promise of reward beyond graduation. But we’ll soon find that my worries were for naught.
In short, the open and simple magic-school premise allows for a lot of opportunities to explore. But due to that, the overarching plot doesn’t start with much other than what is provided in the prologue. It is then up to the characters and Vol. 1’s plot to fill out the story.
Now, with that open setup, where does Reign of the Seven, Vol. 1 go? After the foreshadowing prologue, we find our group of six intertwined after an incident at the opening ceremony’s parade. In a comedy of errors, Katie Aalto – a pro-demi-human-rights student – is thrust in front of a rampaging troll. After a fight where the remaining five band together to save their acquaintance, the troll is captured and set to be executed. It is from here our main cast is defined, many questions are left to be answered, and the fate of the troll is in their hands.
Without the details, Reign of the Seven, Vol. 1 writes a tightly-woven tale of political troubles, classroom bullying, and dangerous encounters that reveals many aspects of our characters, the world of magic, and the underlying mystery behind the initial incident. With school occurring during the day (and mostly for concept introductions), our group spends their evenings pulling at the loose ends, defending against open hostilities, and learning about the troll. Every scene is filled to the brim with personality and narrative details. And when one part of the mystery is solved, you’ll be ripped into the next layer of the unknown. Like research and academics, every answer dredges up more questions – for past and future events. This keeps the momentum going throughout the book, even in the 128-page-long Chapter 2. The only significant weakness up to the epilogue I found is in the beginning – the opening ceremony.
As we’re quickly thrown into the action, there’s little time to introduce the characters, the setting, the tools of battle, and the situation. Understanding it all at once is a monumental task. But this chaos is likely by design as we spend the remainder of the book figuring it out. However, the result is a difficult start and quickly depleted mental stamina. If you find yourself unable to get into it, please give it a chance up to Chapter 2. It gets much better.
Overall, Reign of the Seven, Vol. 1‘s volume-specific plot is excellently done. Despite the shaky start, it executes an exciting exploration of its academy, politics, magic-system, and characters. Bokuto Uno takes the open premise and ensures you get the full experience and more. And with this volume’s conclusion, I’m sure many will be (im)patiently waiting for the next entry.
With the setup and plot discussed, let’s talk about the actors. Reign of the Seven has a wide collection of characters. And while it’s initially hard to keep track of them all, their distinct personalities, strong narrative roles, and varied abilities will make for a memorable cast even after you turn over the back cover. This is great, as Reign of the Seven is very much a character-driven story. But because there are so many faces, let’s describe the general feel.
Like its premise, Reign of the Seven is simple with each character introduction. The trouble here is that, without investment, you’ll forget them entirely. We’re not usually given their reasons for being at the academy or their future goals. Instead, we’ll receive a few traits to start (e.g. ringlet hair). However, this is not to discredit their depth. Like in reality, we barely get to know people beyond their appearances until we spend the time. And behind every face in Reign of the Seven is a stance on demi-humans, a plethora of abilities, their culture, and a path they’ve taken to reach that point. What Reign of the Seven does is naturally reveal these facts through well-designed scenes (e.g. Nanao bathing in a fountain & a comedy routine to coax unwilling witnesses) and doesn’t tell much more than required.
Thus, the resulting characterizations are relatively shallow for those the plot doesn’t focus on (like Guy and Pete) but shockingly real for those it does. Oliver, Nanao, Katie, and Michela are at the front of this volume’s story and end up rather developed. However, there will be plenty of opportunities in the following entries to explore the others. And in the future, I hope to see more from Pete’s non-magical heritage.
After the characters, let’s finish the foundations with the world-building. Reign of the Seven is a series that tries to cover much of the fantasy spectrum and implements many concepts as a result. For an academy that promises to teach its students about magic, it delivers not only to our cast but to the reader as well.
The fantastical setting of Reign of the Seven is based upon ours with the addition of magic, demi-humans, and many other creatures. With places like Yelgland and Azia, the difference may feel thin at first. However, as we grow accustomed to academy life, we’ll see that their reality is far removed from our own. The benefits of this are that the base setting is already made and the readers have a great understanding of it. From there, Reign of the Seven is free to build on top and twist our expectations.
Magic is the central element that encompasses many applications and is built from an equally great number of details. For the sake of brevity, we won’t talk about everything but rather focus on the important stuff and its effects. Firstly, magic allows its users to cast spells. This supernatural ability greatly increases the capabilities of the entire cast. This then heightens the danger of every battle and allows for unconventional solutions to problems. However, magic’s nebulous nature risks being a deus ex machina and leaves power levels undefined. Bokuto Uno solves these with proper foreshadowing, consistent spell names, and encountering upperclassmen/teachers/magical-creatures. Secondly, magic is so powerful and widespread that we see its effects in everyday life. As a result, non-magicals are considered lower beings, normally debilitating injuries can be healed, and students end up researching different ways of applying magic. These little effects (and more) combine to make magic feel like the world-altering element that it is rather than some battle-gimmick.
Then aside from magic, we also encounter many creatures on our adventures. Vol. 1 has a handful; talking flowers, trolls, and kobolds are some important examples. They are all likely magical in origin. And their presence is used to add to the fantasy, drive the political drama, and provide unique scenarios for our characters. My favourite scene for this involves coaxing information from the flowers with comedy routines. I’ll leave it to you to figure out how that ended up. In any case, the creatures’ significant effects on the world, the story, and the characters make them feel real and incorporated. As a result, they add to the experience rather than being just another element.
In summary, we find that the world built for Reign of the Seven is deeply fantastical and immersive. Its elements expertly balance wonder and detail. And with them, Bokuto Uno creates many opportunities for excitement, interesting scenarios, and unconventional solutions.
And with the foundations built, let’s talk about the most important aspect: the action. Reign of the Seven wears its action-fantasy badge proudly with the many encounters our cast faces on their investigations. As hinted by our previous discussions, there are many dangers to fend off at the Academy. Rampaging beasts, discourteous classmates, and (literally) insane upperclassmen are just a taste of what Reign of the Seven has to offer.
So, how does Reign of the Seven, Vol. 1 use its action scenes? Like other high-scoring series I’ve read, Vol. 1 uses the action to set power levels, introduce important aspects, develop characters, and progress the plot – sometimes all at the same time! The addition of narrative importance atop the spectacle is one of Reign of the Seven’s greatest strengths.
Then, as if to fit the wide variety of purposes, Reign of the Seven contains a diverse set of scenarios. Many vs. one, duels, and free-for-alls are all included in this action-fantasy. With the equally varied characters filling in the role of opponents, no encounter is the same as the rest. This keeps things fresh from battle to battle. And as a result of this variation, solutions and outcomes are just as unique and interesting. Simply overpowering your opponent is rare, if present at all, in Reign of the Seven.
Finally, the graphic and detailed descriptions of the action tie it all together. You feel each exchange of blows and appreciate the technique behind every spell. Reign of the Seven also doesn’t shy away from visceral depictions. These create an immersive experience filled with excitement, danger, and a lot of *oomph*. My only issues are that taking this too far has detrimentally slowed the pacing in a few scenes and that healing magic diminishes the effects of injuries.
Overall, Reign of the Seven provides some of the best action from a light novel (and other forms of media) I’ve ever consumed. By overdelivering on their promise of action-fantasy, I only worry about how Bokuto Uno will top this moving forward!
After the action is the supporting elements: the school-life, drama, and sprinkling of romance. For some, the latter two are included with the former. And to keep it short, we’ll talk generally about how they collectively support the action.
First and foremost, their presence gives us a break from the action. Too much of a good thing can be detrimental to the overall experience after all. Instead, think of these sections as a way to recover from the previous encounter and build-up to the next. And despite the risk of being relatively boring, the political drama and fatal stakes (for the troll and more) elevates the school experience to a tense warzone with little pockets of (much appreciated) relief.
Secondly, these sections showcase the sides of the characters and world elements not shown in the action scenes. This allows us to fall for their multi-faceted characters – something in which Bokuto Uno finds no problems. It also adds to the immersive experience where magic impacts aspects of life not directly involved in the conflicts.
Lastly, these elements add to the layers and stakes of the important battles. Their minor conflicts and tentative resolutions add revenge, redemption, and reconciliation to the recipe (read: action). These take the already-spectacular scenes to greater significance for both character development and plot progression.
Collectively, these supporting elements add a lot to the strong action. I’m happy to see their inclusion elevate rather than hinder the core. Such an ability to do so demonstrates Bokuto Uno’s solid storytelling.
Finally, let’s talk about the additional details. Firstly, Bokuto Uno’s descriptive writing brings the world of Reign of the Seven to life. From the minute details of alchemy to the fabrication of magical silk, you will get the complete experience of Kimberly Academy. There are times where such blocks will slow the momentum to a crawl, but they are few and far between. The one time I was frustrated was during an important fight where Reign of the Seven introduces a monster type, elementals, and disruption spells all at once. But the overall pace of the book is great as it is now. One improvement/reading tip would be to break up Chapter 2 into more manageable bits; it’s just shy of half the entire book.
Secondly, let’s talk about the art. There are a total of eight black-and-white inserts scattered between the covers. For its length, this amount is fairly sparse. Many serve as character introductions, one is wholesome fanservice, and the remaining are action scenes. For an action-fantasy, I expected more of the latter, but the detail and style in what is present make up for the low quantity. And the character introductions + fanservice scene do play a significant role in the story as a whole. The only improvements I would suggest would be to include more and to provide some depictions of demi-humans, magic, and the academy. Otherwise, it is a great job by Miyuki Ruria.
In conclusion, this duo of writer and artist gives me no doubt that they will create an amazing experience no matter where the story goes. I’m excited for Vol. 2 and can’t wait for the opportunity to continue this series!
Overall, Reign of the Seven Spellblades, Vol. 1 is an exemplary action-fantasy built on the foundations of magic-school-life. The simple, open premise of enrolling at a magic academy leaves a lot up to the volume-specific plot. And despite my worries, this story of solving the mystery of the opening ceremony has it all. With demi-human politics, classroom duels, and labyrinth adventures, Reign of the Seven is an exciting exploration of the cast, the magical-world, and the underlying machinations of the initial incident. And with every answer gleaned, another set of questions pulls you further into the chaos. The multi-faceted characters and deeply fantastical world further flesh out the immersive experience. Then, atop these foundations, is the amazing action. The expert design of these scenes for spectacle, character development, and plot progression is greatly improved by the detailed descriptions and the variety of scenarios and opponents. The supporting elements of school-life – drama and romance – are also well-done. Such scenes give us room to breathe and a glimpse into the sides of the characters and world outside of conflict. And to wrap it all up, the high-quality writing and art give no room for doubt that this series will continue to be great.
In case it wasn’t clear, I loved reading Reign of the Seven Spellblades, Vol. 1. I would recommend Reign of the Seven Spellblades to all light novel readers and more (and I already have!). This great work deserves even more recognition. In the future, I hope we see more focus given to Pete and Guy, and that Bokuto Uno somehow takes this series to even greater heights (especially with that epilogue). With that, see you all next week!
4.8 / 5 – A Must-Read
To readers of light novels and beyond – will be a perfect fit for those looking for an exemplary title in magic-school fantasy.
To lovers of weird, silver-haired samurai girls with a love for battle and a talent for lopping off appendages and heads alike.
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. Did you buy into the hype? And if so, are you even more excited to read it now?
If I haven’t sold you on the series yet, here’s a bonus point! Nanao Hibiya, the silver-haired girl on the cover, is an amazing character. Her unique manner of speech and cultural oddities make her easy to love. And she’s an excellent samurai to boot! Her unique relationship with Oliver is one thing that I hope to see develop in future volumes. <3
For this review, a review copy was provided by Yen Press. Thank you so much for the opportunity to read this amazing series, and all for the cost of one review! I hope to read even more great entries from them 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!