I have only really genuinely enjoyed one short story collection in my life, and it was my introduction to the Yamada Monogatari series (Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter). The War God’s Son is the second full novel, and likely third to last publication in the series according to a comment on the author’s blog. It is however this first novel not directly rooted plot-wise in one of the short stories. The first novel, To Break the Demon Gate, was an extension of one of the short stories.
In some ways, I liked The War God’s Son a little better for being its own, stand-alone story. Some new characters had more time to develop, and more of Yamada and Kenji snarking and talking is always a good thing.
There is apparently a fairly substantial time jump from the last novel of nearly a decade, and Yamada’s time is relatively unaccounted for, but that’s not much of a problem as the action gets going pretty quickly. Yamada and Kenji are sent along on a military expedition as bodyguards to the military leader Yoshiie, who is being targeted by magicians for assassination. In addition to trying not to get killed in any fighting, and keeping their protectee alive, Yamada and Kenji also get involved in a murder mystery. When the army stops at a temple, they find a group on nuns who have been murdered. There were only 3 survivors, one of whom is Yamada’s sister, Rie. One of the other survivors, and the only one to apparently have witnessed the murders, is a girl named Mai who seems to have been traumatized that she can’t speak. Eventually, the two cases do connect and the threats are eliminated. The thing odd thing is that there is a twist in the end that means while the murderer dies, part of him also survives in a really strange (and personal to Yamada) way.
The supernatural element is still there, and as a part of it, Lady Kuzunoha (a pretty fox demon lady) makes a reappearance. She follows the army because her former husband, Lord Yasuna, whom she still loves, is brought along as a sort of hostage. It would have been nice if she’d had more to do than occasionally consult with Yamada, and threaten him if her husband gets hurt. I would also have liked to have seen more of Prince Kanemore. He was more of an action hero in previous installments, but here he’s more of an organizer/politician with only a few brief appearances.
The end of the novel worked well since it wraps up the problems at hand, but suggests a lot of possibilities for the future. Yamada’s disgraced family is restored, which means he faces the prospect of rebuilding the family, which he’s planning to do by adopting Mai and Taro, the servant Kanemore sent with them to take care of the horses.
My only problem now is deciding if I want to start the second to last novel, The Emperor in Shadow, now or wait a little until it’s a little closer to the final volume coming out.