Here is your analogy for the day: Gestalt is like a reallygood hamburger. The ingredients come as no surprise, and neither is theform they come in—but is there anyone here who doesn’t like a reallygood hamburger? (Apologies to the vegetarians in the audience.)
Thebook amounts to a generic Fantasy Adventure Quest template: it not onlybreaks no new ground, but goes back and puts parking stripes on the oldground. And yet the whole thing is fun, in big part because of theattitude. It doesn’t take itself seriously and it doesn’t try to,either. It’s leavened with cheek and good humor, and so more than makesup for being unoriginal by having high spirits. It also sports a majorselling point in that it’s an early creation from Yun Kouga, she of Loveless fame, a series I haven’t yet read but which has been next to impossible not to know about.
Gestalt takes place in a world of many lands, where the godsonce all clashed with each other to see who was top dog. One of them,known only by the name “G” (much as a certain Vampire Hunter is knownonly by the name “D”), betrayed the others and was banished to aforbidden land by the same name. There, he languishes, and as legendhas it he has the power to grant a wish to any who can find him.
Rightin the first few pages of the story, we’re introduced to the man whowishes to seek G out and have his wish granted. This man isn’t somemoody warrior of few words or a brash young kid with no family—instead,he’s a reticent and somewhat easily jangled priest of the Order ofValaria, Father Olivier. (Think of Abel Nightroad from Trinity Blood inhis polite, oh-no-I-couldn’t-possibly-impose form.) Olivier is nocomplete pushover, though: he has the power of the gods at his command,to some degree. He’s just not an adventurer by nature, and so in orderto fulfill this quest he’ll need a few sidekicks. He gets them, andmost of them are also straight out of the traditional fantasy adventureCentral Casting book: Suzu, the haughty dark elf; and Shazan, afortune-teller with as much doom and gloom as Olivier has quiet reserve.
There’salso a fourth, and this fourth character makes this book into the rompthat it is. Her name’s Ouri, a young girl whose voice has been sealedaway by magic but whose irrepressible, bubbly spirits come through nomatter what. She has great fun teasing Olivier even when she’s not ableto speak (which leads to some of the funniest moments in the wholebook). And once she does get her voice back—thanks to a battery ofspells from Olivier—she really lays the teasing on thick. Heraffection for him may well be genuine, but there’s plenty of reason tobelieve she may be headed to G for reasons of her own.
Ouri alsowields magic—and no small amount of it of her own—although that allowsher to make just as many bad decisions as good ones. At one point earlyon she’s stuck in some kind of gladiatorial game against a giantwormlike monster, and banks a little too heavily on her magic to bailher out … or maybe just the magic everyone knows about so far. Andlater on, her attraction to Olivier turns out to be a weakness thatvarious newly-made enemies decide to exploit.
The word “romp” was coined for a book like this. The plot’s almostbeside the point, and I don’t mean that as a dig at the comic. It’sthat the character interactions are so free-spirited and lively, theymake quibbles about plotting and logic and maybe even motivation almostirrelevant. It’s as if they all know they’re taking part in a manga,and are having a blast living up to their respective roles. All for oursakes. Ain’t that sweet of ‘em?
Other Lives Of The Mind