Ys VIII was my introduction into the series, and quickly became one of my favorite games. Everything about it, from the music to the combat to the story and characters, was top notch. I went on to play IX, but it just doesn’t quite hit the same spot that VIII did. While I may have criticized the PS5 version (which is a port of a port, starting on the Vita), I did so because I truly believe this is a special game and deserves much better than what it got. It seems others share this mindset, as I was offered an advanced copy of the game’s novelization, Lacrimosa of Dana, by Anna Kashina and Dragon Publishing. This massive 453 page tome attempts to condense the events of the game while expanding on the story in meaningful ways, such as Adol and Dana’s relationship. While I may have a few issues with the book, this is the perfect way for fans of the game to re-experience Adol’s adventures on the isle of Seiren.
The Ys series follows Adol Christen, with each game recounting an adventure he recorded in over 100 travelogs discovered in his childhood home. Adol and his best friend/traveling partner, Dogi, board the passenger ship Lombardia to cross the Gaete Sea. In the middle of the voyage, they are shipwrecked after being attacked by a massive sea monster. Stranded on the cursed island of Seiren, from which no one has returned alive. Adol must reunite with the crew and passengers to find a way off the island, and discover the mystery behind the island’s many secrets.
Over the course of the adventure, Adol is joined by new friends such as Laxia, Sahaad, Hummel, Ricotta, and of course the enigmatic Dana – a member of an ancient race of people who disappeared, leaving her the sole survivor and bereft of her memories. The book will switch perspectives occasionally between Adol, Laxia, and Dana – mostly the former and latter. Through their dreams, Adol and Dana share a consciousness allowing them to experience both the ancient past and the present, helping each other between timelines to explore the island.
It’s a fascinating setup that will keep you reading late into the night, held up by some extremely likable characters. Even as the island’s mysteries are solved one by one, new mysteries and problems arise. Despite knowing everything that happens from completing the game, I was enthralled once again wondering what would happen next. I especially love the depth given to Dana here through her inner thoughts and exploring how sharing a consciousness would affect Adol and Dana’s relationship, which wasn’t really discussed in the game.
You can feel the passion Kashina has for her work and Ys VIII in the writing. There’s a ton of story to cover from the game, and she does a good job of cramming it all in here. She skips over certain things, such as most side quests, battles, raids, and the rescue of non-critical castaways (everyone still gets rescued, don’t worry), but I imagine if all of that were included the book would be at least double the page length. It’s a long, yet brisk and enjoyable read.
Despite really enjoying the book, I have a few significant issues with it – the first being the pacing. The book is long, yes, but from the start it almost never slows down even a little. Despite wanting to see what happens next, this pace can make it tiring to keep reading at times. The stories of most of the characters, including party members, are basically glossed over here when I feel they could have used some fleshing out from the game. Sahaad and Ricotta especially, as Sahaad’s devotion to his family is barely mentioned and Ricotta living her entire life on this island alone only gets a few sentences. Hummel was barely there in the game already, and in this novelization I would forget he existed pretty often – though I don’t blame Kashina for that, there’s just not much to work with aside from his orphanage backstory.
Again, she does a fantastic job of getting the main beats of the game in here, but that unfortunately leaves a lot of the small details by the wayside, making this more of a companion to the original work rather than a standalone novel. For example, most conflicts are introduced and resolved within paragraphs of each other, which is most evident in the battles. The final boss is only about a page or two long, which I feel sells the struggle short. If Ys novelizations are to continue, I’d like to see the book slow down a bit and allow for more character interactions between plot important moments. Really capture that allies turned friends turned family dynamic that the castaways become here. This is a great first attempt and Kashina is definitely the person for the job, especially if she wants to try her hand at a completely original story set in the world, but a balance between forward momentum and smelling the roses remains to be found.
The moment to moment is great, with a nice flow to everything save for instances of inconsistent time jumps. Sometimes they occur between chapters or perspective changes, and other times it’s between paragraphs. Still, the prose is great and feels slightly different between each narrator.
One thing that fellow fans will also find contentious is the romance between Dana and Adol. Personally, I never saw this in the game itself (and the series supposedly says Feena is the only person Adol ever fell in love with), but it was interesting to see play out here. As someone who desperately wants Dana and the rest of the crew to appear in future games, this dynamic does give them a bit more reason to do so. Even if I prefer them as friends, the romance is well thought out and gives the story a bit more tenderness and romantic tension.
David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.
Lacrimosa of Dana
Author Anna Kashina does a fantastic job of condensing Ys VIII’s story beats and expanding on certain elements. While its pace is a touch too fast, it makes for a quick read for those wanting just a bit more from the Lombardia’s castaways. This shouldn’t be your first experience of Seiren, but it’s a great companion piece.