Title: Lacrimosa of Dana
Author: Anna Kashina
Release Date: October 18, 2023
Publisher: Dragonwell Publishing
If you told me that one of developer Nihon Falcom’s most remarkable successes would receive an official novelization, let alone in English, I would never believe you. Yet, thanks to the efforts of Dragonwell Publishing and author Anna Kashina, that is precisely what has happened. The West now has an official English novelization of the beloved action JRPG Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, simply known as Lacrimosa of Dana.
And after having the opportunity to read through this novel ahead of its public release, I was pleasantly surprised by how much it honors and loves the source material while taking its own few enjoyable liberties that give it a distinct identity.
The Ys series, save for Ys Origin, follows the adventures of protagonist Adol Christin who journeys the world, saving countless people and solving numerous conflicts in the process. Adventuring is what makes him, him, and he wouldn’t have his life any other way. In-universe, Adol’s adventures are told from the perspective of his unearthed travelogues, of which there are 100. So, with that being the case, the games can be seen as interpretations of his life, and this book is no different.
Currently, Lacrimosa of Dana is Adol’s seventh adventure, chronologically. While that alone may make it seem challenging to condense, the Ys games usually work just fine as standalone experiences. The novelization benefits from this fact, as it can be read by both newcomers and veteran fans alike. The story follows the game’s events pretty faithfully, naturally weaving in and introducing characters and concepts that newcomers should have little difficulty fundamentally grasping. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you have no background with the Ys games, you would still be able to pick up and enjoy this interpretation.
In Lacrimosa of Dana, Adol begins aboard a ship called the Lombardia with his traveling companion Dogi until it gets attacked by a monstrous sea creature that tears the vessel asunder. Adol manages to survive the ordeal, waking on the Isle of Seiren, a cursed land where those who approach it supposedly face their demise. Considering the circumstances surrounding Adol, such a myth may have truth embedded within it. Regardless, his new goal consists of finding other survivors from The Lombardia and finding a way off Seiren. Yet, these tasks eventually morph into something far greater, as the essence of the isle pushes Adol and his companions to pursue profound truths.
My sole primary concern regarding this novel was honestly whether it would know what it was talking about or if it was just coasting off the Ys VIII name. Thankfully, the latter is not the case. From the first few pages onward, it’s immediately apparent that Kashina has instilled this text with genuine authenticity and care for the source material that any fan would appreciate. Each character’s motivations, interactions, and thoughts feel like they were ripped straight from the game with a few slight expansions to add more depth and context.
Of course, the most significant change is how Adol is not a silent protagonist, which makes sense given the format. This alteration may understandably put some fans off because of how much of a departure it is, but I always welcome this notion. The only other time I’ve been familiar with Adol speaking is in the Ys IX: Monstrum Nox prequel novel, The Lost Sword, and I loved how it was handled there. As for how Lacrimosa of Dana handles this general approach, it excels with flying colors. Adol is like you’d expect him to be; a kindhearted, capable, and playful young man who takes everything in stride.
Adol being an actively speaking character gives these familiar scenarios and conflicts more personal weight. It serves to make this revisit to the Isle of Seiren feel like an entirely fresh experience. As a further result, his relationship with the other core character of this book, Dana, is more substantial. This also applies to the cast as a whole, but it feels especially embraced by Dana. I sincerely love these takes on the vast cast, as they helped me appreciate certain characters I never paid much mind to initially, like Hummel.
Still, there are three critiques I had. The first is that despite the story consisting of a whopping 453 pages, a chunk of the supporting cast, the other castaways, comes across as heavily sidelined, lacking presence. The second critique, tangentially related, is how swift the pacing is. For those who have never played the game, I can imagine the later segments simply being a lot to fully take in. But none of it should be difficult for newcomers or the like to follow; you just have to take your time reading along.
Considering how the source material is roughly 60-70 hours, this is all completely understandable, but these factors did weigh on the experience at points. In the worst cases, it almost felt like the narrative was ticking off a checklist from the game. Still, that thought only surfaced a handful of times. The final critique I had regards the action sequences. These were undoubtedly the weakest parts of the story, though not because they were poorly written. They got the job done well enough; it’s more that they didn’t quite have the finesse of the strong character writing, so the action felt weaker by comparison.
Lacrimosa of Dana is an undeniably excellent retelling of Ys VIII that capitalizes on the series’ collective nature as standalone experiences to deliver a truly memorable interpretation. Author Anna Kashina gives fans stellar character writing within an emotional large-stakes narrative, and an Adol Christin whose standout presence gives the adventure a more personal touch.
If you’re unfamiliar with Ys but have been curious, I recommend this book as a potential starting point, as it illustrates the addictive sense of wonder and fulfillment this series imparts. Even when taking the overly fast pacing into account, I was delighted with this perusal at the fateful journey on the Isle of Seiren.
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