REVIEW: ‘King of the Labyrinth’ Light Novel 1 – “Cry of the Minotaur”

Reading Time: 3 minutes

King of the Labyrinth' Light Novel 1

RPG mechanic dungeon-crawler stories tend to be all the rage in light novels, so it is nice to see a series try to do something different within that genre. King of the Labyrinth tries to do that, making the “monster” a main character. The light novel series is by Shien Bis, with cover illustration by Noriko Meguro. It is published in English by Yen Press, as part of their Yen On light novel imprint. King of the Labyrinth is translated by Luke Hutton.

The Sazardon Labyrinth is a place where many adventurers go to obtain vast rewards, but only if they can advance through the floors. The tenth-floor boss is a minotaur. Every time this monster is defeated, a new minotaur spawns in its place, and at the start of King of the Labyrinth it is clear this minotaur is a bit different. It harbors a curiosity about the dungeon and a hunger for battle. It doesn’t want to stay in the confines of its boss room as the rules of the world demand. A chain of events against an adventurer who challenges the minotaur allows it to break free of its invisible chains, and it begins wandering the labyrinth on its own, attracting the attention of those outside.

The premise of King of the Labyrinth is quite intriguing, especially since a decent portion of the novel is told from the perspective of the minotaur. The execution of the premise is a bit of a mixed bag, however. King of the Labyrinth suffers majorly from telling, instead of showing, in its prose. Granted, its world works against it a bit in this regard; it is a bit awkward to read prose that is just describing standard video game mechanics. Remember: this isn’t an isekai. All of the people live in a world where terms like “skill acquired,” “weapon drop,” and more are common. The prose can become very stiff when describing stats, spells, and the like. One of the more extreme examples was the comma-less description of the exploding sword: “It was basically an explosive in the shape of a sword but more powerful than the other explosives it had been collecting and could be thrown more accurately and from farther away.”

The lack of “show, don’t tell” in King of the Labyrinth hinders it in another way. There is not a lot of emotional weight, or stakes, for the reader to latch on to. The minotaur is relatively emotionless, aside from its hunger to battle stronger opponents. Any other character often isn’t around long enough for readers to care, even if they die or depart. Logan, the leader of the Adventurer’s Guild branch for this labyrinth is possibly the exception. King of the Labyrinth mostly shifts between his perspective and the minotaur’s. The readers spend enough time with Logan to care, but once again, the prose is so exposition-based that it is difficult to get invested. The plot itself picks up more in the back half, but the stakes never feel quite there. The minotaur seems to be more of an inconvenience to the guild rather than a danger.

For those who really enjoy dungeon-crawling novels, King of the Labyrinth‘s unique POV approach might prove to be some enjoyable light reading. Otherwise, while not outright bad, it doesn’t have a lot of emotional investment to encourage further reading. While light novels tend to start at a higher price point due to localization staff and licensing fees, at just under 200 pages for $20.00, even with the hardcover treatment this one might only appeal to niche fans.

King of the Labyrinth 1 – Cry of the Minotaur is available now wherever books are sold.

King of the Labyrinth
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TL;DR

For those who really enjoy dungeon-crawling novels, King of the Labyrinth‘s unique POV approach might prove to be some enjoyable light reading. Otherwise, while not outright bad, it doesn’t have a lot of emotional investment to encourage further reading. While light novels tend to start at a higher price point due to localization staff and licensing fees, at just under 200 pages for $20.00, even with the hardcover treatment this one might only appeal to niche fans.