The Death Mage Volume 1 Review

With a renewed determination, publisher One Peace has been working hard to bring us some new light novel series in English. Alongside The Wrong Way to Use Healing Magic, the team picked up The Death Mage but does it prove an interesting read? Let’s take a look!

Our story follows Hiroto Amamiya who dies on a school trip with his classmates. With 100 people besides him in need of reincarnation, Hiroto has to wait quite a while for the god of reincarnation Rodocolte to get to him and once he does, Rodocolte tells Hiroto that there’s nothing left for him! No ‘cheat skills’ or good fortune, nothing but bad luck and suffering await Hiroto in his second life. 

The world Hiroto finds himself reincarnated into is called Origin and it’s a rich fantasy world filled with magic, but, as Rodocolte told him, our protagonist finds himself suffering misfortunes. Not only does he have no talent for magic, but he ends up sold off to a laboratory where he becomes a test subject for a new attribute – Death Magic. 

Eventually, his second life comes to a cruel end when he’s murdered by his classmates (who don’t recognise him after all the aftereffects of the experiments he went through) and Hiroto finds himself in front of Rodocolte yet again. But with Hiroto thirsty for revenge against his classmates and Rodocolte requiring them for a future plan of his, the god has no choice but to reincarnate Hiroto into his third life with a curse that will prevent him from learning magic or even earning experience. As a last saving grace, he promises that once Hiroto’s third life comes to an end he’ll wipe all his memories and put him back into a normal circle of reincarnation afterwards. 

For his third life Hiroto is yet again in a new world and this time, instead of being reborn as a human, he’s a dhampir (although rather than a vampire/human cross, he’s part-vampire, part-dark elf) called Vandal. Just as Rodocolte warned him, Vandal can’t use magic but he soon discovers that the Death Magic attribute he learnt in Origin hasn’t been sealed and that may give him a shot at a better life this time around… 

Despite having an okay start in life with a mother who loves him dearly, it’s not long before Vandal is hit with misfortune. His mother is murdered and Vandal is being hunted for being a dhampir, so despite his young age, Vandal is forced to leave home with nothing but his Death Magic to help him survive in what’s proving to be another difficult life. 

In many ways, The Death Mage is another one of those light novels with protagonists hellbent on revenge, although being so young Vandal is having to side-line his plans for now until he gets stronger. Still, right now readers should be prepared for the fact the series will remain darker in tone. 

It’s not too often we see stories of a character who has been reincarnated from Japan into a fantasy world and then reincarnated again, so I have to give author Densuke some credit for originality there. However, the rest of the novel is quite generic. It’s not long before Vandal becomes somewhat overpowered, even with all the curse restrictions on him, since he can create minions for himself out of undead and has a vast reserve of magical power. Even the fact he’s a baby at this point doesn’t have much impact on the story because he has all his past memories and is intelligent enough to convey everything he needs to. 

Honestly speaking, the biggest issue for me is that I couldn’t bring myself to care about Vandal. Sure, he’s been through some horrific stuff in his second life, but I was hoping he wouldn’t suffer as much in his third life – or at least not want revenge. By the end of the volume, things are beginning to shift gradually since new characters have been introduced, but I’m unconvinced it won’t go straight back to the elements I don’t like. In terms of dark light novels, there are certainly more interesting ones on the market too, which doesn’t help my desire to continue The Death Mage. 

As previously mentioned, The Death Mage Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to One Peace. Unfortunately, there are no localisation credits in the book, so I have no idea who’s responsible for the translation. Whatever the case, the translation is not without issues, some of which are a little nitpicky and some are genuine problems. There’s a great thread on the Reddit page for the series (spoilers for Volume 1) that has a deep dive on the subject, but personally, the worst for me is how Rodocolte has been characterised. Our interactions with him have made him out to be an antagonist, who is deliberately standing against our protagonist but looking at the original text, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. Vandal also comes off as more emotionless in the translation, which is a shame because, if not for that, maybe I would have liked his character more. I wouldn’t say the translation is problematic to the point of advising you to avoid the book, but it’s worth knowing what you’re getting into, either way. 

The series is ongoing in Japan with 9 Volumes, One Peace has just released Volume 2 in English with #3 following in August. They are also publishing the manga adaptation although they’ve only released the first instalment of that so far. 

Overall, The Death Mage Volume 1 proves to be a little more than your average isekai revenge plot. There’s certainly more to it, but this first outing doesn’t get there and doesn’t leave me wanting to read more. Particularly as it’s paired with a lacklustre localisation job from One Peace books. 

5 / 10


When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

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