This was the first light novel I started struggling through, way back when, and it took a month of painstaking kanji and vocabulary lookup to finish the first part of chapter 1. Much later, I scanned and OCR’d the same 30 pages and ran the results through my custom-reader scripts, and read it in about two hours. These days, I can manage a typical chapter in about an hour, and last month I discovered that someone had OCR’d the first four books and made them (coughcoughperfectdarkcough) available. Much easier than scanning them in myself.
I haven’t had a lot of time to read recently, so it was only last night that I managed to finish book 1 (which was covered in episodes 1-4 and 6 of the anime). The stories will be more or less familiar to people who’ve seen the series but as I discovered with chapter 1, the characters are much more interesting.
So far, the character who was changed the least for the anime is Genie. Louie is much less of a goofball, Ila is significantly more interesting (and dangerous; those glasses aren’t just for show!), Melissa’s difficulty accepting Louie is less melodramatic, and Merrill gets a lot of character development, replacing the slapstick and caricature that she was subjected to in the anime. You get more of Jenny’s backstory, including her adventurous youth with Rijarl and Carwes. The encounters with Celecia and Conrad are more character-driven as well.
The stories also have a lot more nuance to them. For instance, in the anime, the “sealed door” in the ruins was just something that the girls found while adventuring; in the book, it had been found quite a while ago by a member of the Thieves Guild, who sold the info to Merrill for a significant sum. When it turns out to be a dud, she goes back to the information broker for a refund, and also learns that the Guild is very interested in finding out who Louie’s parents were. That’s just a teaser so far, along with Jenny’s unspoken knowledge that King Rijarl only has one living bastard son.
I’ve just started book 2, which is shaping up to be the basis of episodes 9 and 10. The prologue is two scenes: the first with Banarl activating the ancient weather-control machine, and the second with Celecia feeling it happen and being ordered by her village elders to investigate. Being young and interested in the human world, she’s delighted at the chance to get out, and hoping to meet a certain young man again…
Side note that I don’t recall from the anime: many of the elves in Celecia’s village are old enough to remember the great magical kingdom that fell 500 years earlier, and their subjugation during that era has a lot to do with their current hatred and mistrust of humans. Celecia’s mission is in part a punishment for having defended Louie and company when they were prisoners.