My Daughter Left the Nest and Returned an S-Rank Adventurer is a solid, although brief, audiobook experience. It does what it sets out to do, however it only goes so far as to establish its thesis.
The story’s hook is intriguing. Angeline is a loving and ambitious daughter, while Belgrieve is a strong and caring father figure. A unique hook is focusing a story around a positive father-daughter relationship. I can’t think of any other examples, and I’d be surprised if anyone could think of many more in the anime/manga/light novel sector or in a broader context. Based on that idea alone, this creates an interesting dynamic worth investigating.
The setting is very standard for the fantasy genre, which is fine. You have a roughly medieval European scenario with cities and beasts in the woods. There is an adventurer’s guild with contracts to kill monsters for gold and a rating system based on letters. Monsters have unique names and are referred to as fiends, yet they are merely fantasy monsters. Most or all of what’s going on here is recognizable if you’ve read or watched practically any fantasy story.
However, one plus is that this is not an isekai narrative (as far as I can tell). It’s simple, but I love stories set in a different world. Rather than requiring the other world component, I like storylines that take place in a specific environment with its own set of laws and expectations. That’s a personal opinion, but the story still earns points from me in an era when many other works are about being reincarnated or traveling to other realms and being entirely aware of it.
There’s an intriguing premise here, as well as the separation of Belgrieve and Angeline. Angeline, as the title suggests, leaves to forge her own career in the world after years of training with her father. They frequently think of one another and correspond via letters, but they spend the most of the story apart. Their beliefs about one another, the world, and so on can be explored in this manner, resulting in some amusing situations. Angeline’s fixation with building a name for her father by trying to make “The Red Ogre” title stick is an amusing little aside, especially when it comes back to surprise Belgrieve.
The writing is also quite good from moment to moment. The prose flows well and has a decent balance of detail and speed. It’s not overly complicated, yet it’s detailed enough to paint a picture when needed. The conversation is more hit-or-miss; it sometimes flows effortlessly, but some characters constantly sound forced. Angeline’s conversation is the most banal, frequently consisting of “Ugh, I want to see my dad” or “Wow, my dad is so cool!” I believe this is due to the fact that she is given significantly less to accomplish in terms of narrative; every action Angeline performs is aimed at Belgrieve or sends unanticipated conflict his way, whereas he is engaged in a lot broader range of experiences and has things like flashback sequences to draw upon.
The setting is the most disappointing aspect of this game. I realize that overly-detailed light novel names are passe at this time, but the title says it all. A man’s daughter returns… as an S-rank adventurer. That’s all there is to it. There are a few fights and a few side characters presented, but the title serves as both the pitch and the summary. The book isn’t long enough to do anything else. Aside from a few small facts and world-building remarks, the title reveals the game, and then you… Oh… watch it unfold. Combine it with a trope-heavy setup and a short length, and you’ve probably guessed 75% of what’s going to happen before you’ve opened the cover.
In terms of audiobooks, the narrator does an excellent job. The reader’s language is his strong strength, and he reads with a terrific feeling of solemnity. The issue is that this is one of those instances where he has to read and perform voices for all of the characters, which is a huge challenge for anyone. Unfortunately, his female cast voices are a bit difficult to listen to – the passages where any of the adolescent adventurers are talking, including one of the two major characters, are a significant impediment. It’s not the narrator’s fault in and of itself; having to narrate that many characters always causes complications. But it’s apparent, and I couldn’t get used to his voice for the cast members other than Belgrieve.
Overall, this is a good short story. It offers a great hook and a well-worn fantasy background. The writing and production values are excellent. The real bummer is that there isn’t much mystery to keep you engaged beyond the premise and title, and it’s far too close to “does what it says on the tin.” Nonetheless, the brief run length makes it a pleasant listen, and maybe future installments will expand on the world.