I’ve never listened to podcasts based on light novels before, but this is my second time listening to The Faraway Paladin as a whole. I reviewed season one when it first came out last year. Because of this, listening to the first two episodes of The Faraway Paladin was a unique mix of completely new and very familiar things.
The story of The Faraway Paladin is easy to understand. As a child, the kid wakes up in a different world and grows up to be an explorer. He only has a few vague thoughts and quickly remembered facts to help him remember where he came from. At this point, you know the drill.
Our young hero Will has been raised from birth by three undead warriors: Blood, the skeleton fighter; Gus, the ghost wizard; and Mary, the mummy priestess. This is what makes things interesting. As if he were their own, they take care of him and teach him how to use swords, do magic, and believe in the god Gracefeel. A lot of his childhood is spent learning from them and trying to figure out what happened to them, how they became zombies, and how he fits into all of this. He leaves to learn about the world and make things right soon after turning 13 and finishing from his training. He hopes to start a new family and come back one day.
The book does a great job of combining the common and the unusual. When it comes to fantasy isekai, most of the setting up and world-building is pretty standard. This makes the changes to the system even more important, and this is where The Faraway Paladin really shines. Being raised by three dead creatures is a strong starting hook, and the mystery that comes with it gives the work a lot of mileage. “How can they still talk and move?” Why are they being so nice to me? Where are all the other people? Why is the nearby city empty? How is the rest of the world?” All of these are natural things for Will to be thinking about, and when you add in how fun Blood, Gus, and Mary are as characters, you have a strong first act.
This version is better than the anime adaptation of the light book. The anime was fine for what it was, but the light novels give them more depth than the series. Will’s constant inner conversation is a big part of these books. There would be no observations, questions, or doubts about his skills if he didn’t often ask them and question the world around him. The audiobook/light novel gives a lot more background on how he feels and how he sees things, which makes the whole thing much more interesting. This is especially clear when you consider that the anime’s first season crams two light novels into 12 episodes, which is pretty fast even though these books aren’t very long.
The main risks of both volumes are the ones that let me down the most. There are a lot of fights that put lives in danger, but it never really feels like things are that tense. I think that both the first and second volumes don’t have an important climax because the “big finales” just feel like filler. There is some building up of stress, but not a lot of it, if that makes sense. The events happen, and that’s about it. They bring down a work that is otherwise good enough.
I really like how well the audiobooks are put together. For the most part, the podcasts I’ve listened to were well put together and had good sound quality. Even though Liam Price does a great job reading the text, it is one of those cases where many parts sound the same because they were read by the same person. It is hard for anyone to come up with multiple voices that sound real while also setting up, narrating, describing the scene, and other things. He was most comfortable reading the prose parts. The character sounds were more varied, though. Even though he has a few small problems, like the fact that his British accent makes the parts where baby Will is crying funny by accident, I think he does a good job, especially with Blood, Gus, and Mary.
Each of these books took more than seven hours to read all the way through. From what I’ve read, this is too short for a fantasy book. Some people choose longer podcasts to get the most out of their monthly credits. So, whether seven hours is just right or way too short will depend on your own tastes in the space. Even though it’s not very long, it’s a good work and the best way to experience the series if you’re interested in it. I don’t think you have to go out and listen to it, but I think you won’t be unhappy if you do.