Originally Posted: February 2, 2021
“Hello, this is kiki, the author of Roll Over and Die […].
In this second volume, I was hoping to tell a full-throttle story full of lesbian romance with just a hint of horror right from the cover. I hope it worked out that way.” – kiki, about Vol. 2 in the Afterword.
Did Vol. 2 end up that way? There are a few ways to find out; reading this review is one of them! Honestly, I think it ended up being reversed. The horror is dialled up while the romance/yuri remains a middling component of the series. But there’s still a lot to talk about and love!
(Warning: contains major spoilers for Vol. 1. Skip to the bottom for the spoiler-free summary and rating.)
ROLL OVER AND DIE: I Will Fight for an Ordinary Life with My Love and Cursed Sword!, Vol. 2 is the newest entry to a darker fantasy light novel series featuring our hero-turned-slave-turned-adventurer, Flum Apricot. In a world with wicked guild members, otherworldly(?) creatures, and endless mysteries, ROLL OVER AND DIE, Vol. 2 takes us on the next step in Flum’s exploration of why she was a chosen hero and what that means for the Church. Will the weight of reality be too much for their everyday life to bear? Or will something else crack in its place? This tale of revenge, atrocities, and hope by kiki with provoking illustrations by kinta is everything Vol. 1 did and more. Action, horror, and romance line the halls of this fantastical ride through hopelessness.
Hey again! It’s been a while since our last review of ROLL OVER AND DIE. I was so excited to return to this series! ROLL OVER AND DIE has been on my follow list for its visceral action and well-executed horror from Vol. 1. And we’ll soon find that Vol. 2 improves on the foundations from its predecessor. The heavy atmosphere and descriptive battles will certainly sate those looking for more. For this review, we’ll talk about all of the foundations we normally cover as well as the genre aspects (action, horror, etc.). However, there will be major spoilers from Vol. 1 due to the plot and world-building discussions. This will help those from Vol. 1 decide whether continuing is the correct choice. Now, with that out of the way, let’s jump into it!
Like always, what are the first impressions? The cover for ROLL OVER AND DIE, Vol. 2 depicts Eterna and Ink in the former’s room after taking the latter in. I love Eterna’s detailed design, cluttered desk, and teasingly poking of Ink. It perfectly encapsulates her personality – similar to how Flum is protecting Milkit in Vol. 1. Abd this cover’s colourful palette is a great addition to any shelf. However, the serene scene deceives us from the horrors within – only Ink’s stitched eyes tell us that something is wrong.
Then, after the cover, let’s note the length. Vol. 2 comes at a hefty 85,000 words (vs. Vol. 1’s 77,000 words). This makes it one of the longest light novels I’ve read to date. However, the excitement and intrigue it instils will make the time fly by. And it’ll give you more to chew on while you (im)patiently wait for Vol. 3. ;)
Finally, let’s talk about the illustrations that greet you on the way in. In order, they are a clean cover (not shown), the stylish character page (below), and a silly scene between demons (bottom). Put simply, kinta continues to astound with their amazing work. I love the action, the darker palette, and the despair you can feel from the character page. And the cute scene between the demons helps show their nicer side. With that, let’s dig into the meaty text!
Now, to start, let’s talk about the start! Vol. 2 begins soon after Vol. 1 ends, with Flum, Milkit, and Eterna living together in the West District. Flum then encounters an orphan girl, Ink, whom she decides to house temporarily as Ink has amnesia (and stitched eyes). As their newfound life is slowly picked at from without, something dark seems to be lurking deep within.
The injuries Ink bears and the promise of Dein’s retribution had me interested. These two details evoke a mix of mystery and danger – a perfect combination for action/horror. Needless to say, I was excited to read on.
Mechanically, the premise impressively works as a standalone story fit for one volume and as the next step in the overarching story. This is a great choice from a design perspective by kiki for serialized releases. I’ve seen a few light novels that end midway through a story; a poor decision from the reader’s perspective.
However, it’s not immediately obvious how everything connects. Flum’s troubles with Dein and Ink’s secrets are completely unconnected issues. These two competing plots make the overall direction unclear from the start – something that will soon be rectified.
After the premise, let’s briefly go over the plot outline. As per the setup, much of Vol. 2 is tied to learning about the mysteries behind Ink. But many other parallel stories are occurring: Sara’s independent investigation of the Church and the repercussions of Flum’s actions on Dein’s men. One after another, we see that these stories have consequences for the others.
This sense of connectedness between plots gives ROLL OVER AND DIE a sense of a cohesive world and narrative. And the way each segment blends into the next is natural and well-done. Overall, I’m impressed, and I’m excited to see where this story will lead me!
Then, with its hefty 85,000 words, ROLL OVER AND DIE, Vol. 2 manages to cover everything and lead-up to the continuation in Vol. 3. It’s fast-paced and gripping. Only in the first third did I feel like it was meandering with Flum’s repetitive day-by-day investigation. However, once it gets going, it’s a thrilling ride to the end.
In short, I was surprised by the volume of developments that occurred throughout a single volume. And I’m happy to see that there’s a lot more to the story than Flum’s perspective. I can’t wait for where Vol. 3 takes us!
As the penultimate foundation in this review, we’ll discuss the characters and their development. Many new faces appear from within the city – all acting as expected of their roles (general, nun, scumbag, etc.). This helps with the pacing given the extensive cast. But I particularly like that Flum makes new connections through those already in her social circle, just like the natural method of meeting people. For example, Sara introduces some of her Church friends to Flum – there’s a shared history, a set of personalities, and a manner of interaction. Such a technique quickly solidifies these side characters into the reader’s memory. This general template for introducing characters is well-used in ROLL OVER AND DIE.
Now, after that generalization, let’s talk about a few spotlight characters. Firstly, it’s the blue-witch – Eterna! We see yet another side of this former hero as she cares for Ink. Despite her cooler demeanour, we find that she’s caring and willing to share her knowledge. And how can I not love a studious character who enjoys tea?
After the witch, let’s move onto Flum – our normally kind heroine. We see our adventurer take on a darker outlook as she murders Dein’s men near the end of Vol. 1. Though this darkness doesn’t present itself in everyday interactions, it does seem to bleed into her battle decisions. Then in Vol. 2, kiki pushes Flum’s limits even further. I won’t say anymore, but it’s quite refreshing to see (as a reader, not as an empathetic person). These troubles she endures slowly changes her character as she’s forced to make some difficult decisions, and I love it. This method of characterizing the protagonist is a tried and true classic.
Finally, I’ve saved the most impactful foundation for last – the world-building. A solid issue of mine in Vol. 1 was the missing exploration behind both the Church of Origin and Demon-kind. For the first issue, tackling both directly may have been too large a topic – even with the hidden laboratory providing hints. But I’m pleased to say that Vol. 2 provides what Vol. 1 lacked and more!
Firstly, we’re given another glimpse into the lives (and power structure) of Demon-kind through the intermission sequence at the beginning: the one the coloured-insert depicts. This demonstrates their stance on the ongoing conflict between the two factions as well as their everyday life. It’s a short section but it provides more than enough exposition, aided by the relief in the awkward situation.
Secondly, Vol. 2 pulls on the threads directed towards the Church of Origin starting in Vol. 1. This exploration into the different sects (nuns, knights, etc.) brings to life the previously mysterious organization. Of course, there are still many secrets to be revealed, but now they feel like a direct part of the world – not just some plot device in the background.
Thirdly, we get a glimpse of the inner-workings of magic and different abilities similar to prana (endurance-into-power conversion). This increase in depth and scope adds to the fantastical nature of the world. However, the way such topics are introduced can be improved. For instance, the magic exposition is just that; it’s a long dialogue between Flum and Eterna with no other plot significance. A better implementation is when Ottilie showcases her binding powers. What’s that? Who and what am I talking about? Read it, and you’ll find out!
Overall, I’m very happy with how Vol. 2 turned out. This massive improvement in world-building is a boon to anyone in the fantasy genre. It’s always a treat to explore an expansive and rich world tied directly to the story.
Now, for our first aspect, let’s focus on the action. As I’ve talked about at length in my previous review, ROLL OVER AND DIE does well in this regard. Vol. 2 shows no signs of stopping. The injuries are graphic. The magic is awe-inspiring. And the reactions are primal. There’s not much more to say about the general feel, so let’s talk about a few specifics.
One thing I particularly love about the action is the inflicted debilitations are (mostly) consistent. An injured leg makes it harder to run. Flum must pull the arrows out for the wound to heal with her power. These injuries further add to the intensity and realism of any given battle. I hope, in the future, tactics will be employed that target particular appendages for the disabling effect.
The next is something to be improved – understandability. When a moment is meant to be impactful, one way to getting this across is by increasing the scale. This is true even for action; more participants means more is at stake. However, ROLL OVER AND DIE has such brawls (one especially late into the book) that are difficult to comprehend. There are multiple factions, numerous powers, and a rapid change in the situation from moment to moment. It’s hard to keep track as a writer and even harder to communicate to a reader. Unfortunately, ROLL OVER AND DIE, Vol. 2 should stick to the one-on-ones it does so well (or just Flum vs. many).
Then, we move on to the second aspect, the horror. If you thought the oppressive atmosphere was missing in Vol. 1 (like I did), then let me assure you it’s significantly better in Vol. 2. Without going into the details (to keep it a surprise!), Vol. 2 maintains a sort of pressure as the plot thickens. Flum’s situation becomes ever bleaker with each passing day. And this is all communicated through her emotional state – mostly desperation.
This improvement in the horror aspect of the series magnifies both the tense feeling of the action and the shock of the frightening imagery. And the weight of the situation pushed me to continue reading. The hopelessness ROLL OVER AND DIE, Vol. 2 creates is something any good horror should have. In short, if you liked the scares you got in Vol. 1, then be sure to check out Vol. 2!
Finally, before the additional notes, we’ll go with the romance/slice-of-life aspect. Like the world-building, the romance/yuri was relatively weak in Vol. 1. For Vol. 2, kiki states that they wanted “a full-throttle story full of lesbian romance” in the Afterword, but I think they failed in this regard. Though the relationship Flum and Milkit share is somewhat sweet and unique, it never feels like the traditional love I expect.
Instead of equals facing shared adversity together, Milkit continues to act more like a “damsel in distress”. There are a few moments where she acts as Flum’s reason/pillar, but they are few and don’t sell the idea well. And the way the slice-of-life is interspersed throughout the investigation is somewhat bothersome. One major improvement would be exploring Flum’s dependence on Milkit through touching scenes and elevating her emotional position in their relationship. It seems kiki is intending to keep such moments in the Epilogue, but I think they have a place in the main story as well. In any case, only the future will tell where this series will go with it. For now, it seems more like a gimmicky selling-point than a main feature of the novel’s development.
To top it off, it always has to be a sprinkling of additional details. The writing style is as before: simple and quick. However, something of note is the unnatural/bland dialogue occasionally present. There were some issues already present in Vol. 1, namely the confusing speaker. In Vol. 2., my main gripe is with Ink. She’s supposedly 10-years-old, but her speech seems to come from someone much older. Another notable instance is when Flum is talking to Y’llah from the guild – it just feels unnatural. Has it always been this way? Perhaps with Flum interacting with a greater cast, the clunkiness is put front-and-center in Vol. 2.
Another writing note is the descriptions tied to characters’ fear responses. I praise ROLL OVER AND DIE‘s physical depictions of battle and horror, but the list of bodily responses are limited. One can only read that someone “soiled”, “wet”, or “buckled” so many times. It certainly adds gravity to a situation, but overuse can be damaging to the experience. Perhaps more metaphorical/emotional descriptions would improve this?
Finally, let’s talk about kinta’s contribution – the art! There are 10 black-and-white inserts scattered throughout the text. For an 85,000-word book, this is not unexpected, but the quality is just amazing! I don’t know how they do it, but their shading, detail, and expressions are all amazing. I can continue praising it, but I’m sure you’ve heard it already in the Vol. 1 review.
In short, this series continues to show that it’s in good hands. Some minor improvements with the dialogue and descriptions can be made, but I’m sure it’ll be just as enjoyable (if not more) in future entries.
Overall, ROLL OVER AND DIE, Vol. 2 is a solid continuation of everything Vol. 1 had to offer. The rich world-building and oppressive atmosphere are great improvements over what we received in Vol. 1. Then the mystery behind Ink makes for a solid premise for this entry’s standalone plot; the connected tales of Flum, Dein, and Sara then help create a full story. With a memorable, expanding cast and a deeper look into Flum’s character through some difficult decisions, the characterization is also looking strong.
As for the action, it’s more of what we love but with some chaotic messes later on. A difficult grasp of the situation in the larger battles takes away from the experience. For the horror, you’ll find frightening imagery and a certain hopelessness that pushes you forward. And lastly, for the romance/slice-of-life, Milkit and Flum’s unique relationship hasn’t changed much and doesn’t feel like a true romance. I hope that Milkit will play a greater role in the plot and as emotional support for Flum in the future.
In short, if you enjoyed the strong parts of Vol. 1, you’ll certainly enjoy Vol. 2. I would recommend continuing this series for those looking for darker fantasy with action/horror – not so much the “lesbian romance”. As for the future, I’ll be waiting for Vol. 3 and the physical release of Vol. 2. See you all next time~!
4.4 / 5 – Moderately Recommended
To readers of darker-fantasy with horror, action, and slice-of-life all rolled-up into one package.
To lovers of an oppressive atmosphere and shocking imagery.
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. What do you think? Will you be continuing the series?
And so, we’re at the extra blurb! I think for this review, we’ll spotlight the blue-haired witch(?), Eterna. She’s kind, tea-loving, and super strong! And blue-hair is the best, isn’t it?
Vol. 2 showcases many sides of this hero, and I’m happy that we’re exploring an ever-growing cast of characters. Who else from Flum’s former party will we get to know better…?
I’m 春華 or Haruka, aspiring novelist, light novel reviewer, and the recently titled “Effortlessly Effervescent Embodiment of Eloquence.” I’ve been exploring light novels for half-a-year now, so please bear with my hopefully-diminishing 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!