When I last reviewed An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride, I was conflicted. The third volume touched on an issue I’ve been having with the series and then proceeded to do nothing about it, and I think I was growing bored of the structure of each volume feeling similar. Nevertheless, I wasn’t ready to drop it outright, and so I return to talk about Volume 4 and find out whether it has improved at all from my last review.
In this volume our heroes set off to Nephy’s hometown in a bid to learn more about Nephy’s past and the high elves. However, tragedy strikes when Nephy is suddenly turned into a little girl! With a barrier surrounding the village that distorts time, Zagan worries about the safety of his companions and just who is behind this evil deed. In an abandoned village full of Nephy’s history, Zagan’s about to learn some harsh truths about his bride’s past…
It’s surprisingly difficult to talk about the plot of Elf Bride Volume 4 at any length because not much happens until close to the end. The book opens with Nephy having already been transformed into a child version of herself, but we then get a flashback to explain why Zagan’s in the village to begin with. By the time we return to where the book began, we’re halfway through the volume and thus it becomes difficult to describe without spoilers.
Despite the struggles of talking about the book this time around, this fourth volume did prove to be a good read. Moving away from the ‘monster of the week’ approach we’d fallen into and instead exploring one of the bigger questions we’ve had since the beginning of the series alleviates a lot of the tedium that had started setting in.
Since the first volume of Elf Bride we’ve known that Nephy’s life in her home village wasn’t pretty. She’s told Zagan bits and pieces of her past but we’ve never really heard the whole story, so this trip fills in many of the blanks. It’s not a pleasant story but it’s rewarding to finally have all the pieces together and serves as solid character development for Nephy.
It’s not just learning about Nephy’s past that’s rewarding though, as Nephy turning into a child shows us a different side of her personality altogether. While she’s opened up a lot since we met her back in Volume 1, Nephy’s still quite reserved in how she expresses herself. Reverting to being a child turns this on its head and allows her to be extremely open in what can only be described as an adorable outcome. Nephy’s openness also encourages Zagan to be more open about his feelings as he falls even more deeply in love with his bride. Together the two might be moving somewhat closer to some semblance of an ordinary romantic relationship.
My only real criticism this time is how jam-packed the cast has become for this series. This volume saw Zagan, Nephy, Foll, Barbatos, and Chastille, as well as Nephteros, Gremory, and Kimaris (three of whom we met last volume) thrown into the mix, and that’s a lot of characters to juggle at once. As much as I love them all, I’m hoping that we’ve hit the upper limits of this expanding cast and that we only have a few of them thrown together at once in future instalments. If nothing else, these books aren’t long enough to give ample time and development to everyone.
This volume once again comes to the West thanks to publisher J-Novel Club. The series continues to be translated by Hikoki and although there were once again numerous grammatical issues throughout the pre-pub releases, the finished eBook appears to be problem-free. As usual, there are a number of colour pages included at the beginning.
With a shift in structure and some solid character development, An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride Volume 4 successfully brings me back onboard. The afterword promises that Volume 5 will revolve around Chastille, which should offer something different to the stories we’ve had so far – that’s if you don’t die from the cuteness overload of this volume first.