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The audiobook of My Daughter Left the Nest and Returned an S-Rank Adventurer is a solid, if short, experience. It delivers on what it intends to do, although it only ventures beyond establishing its premise.
The hook for the story is engaging. Belgrieve is a solid and caring father figure, while Angeline is a loving and ambitious daughter. Centering a narrative on a positive father-daughter relationship is a unique hook. I can’t think of any other examples that come to mind, and I would be shocked if anyone could come up with many other examples in the anime/manga/light novel space or a more general context. This creates a novel dynamic worth checking out based on that premise alone.
The setting is rather typical of the fantasy genre, which is okay. You’ve got a vaguely medieval European setting with people living in cities and monsters in the woods. There is an adventurer’s guild with contracts to kill monsters for gold and a letter-based ranking system. Monsters have a unique name and are called fiends, but they’re just fantasy monsters. If you’ve read or watched almost any fantasy tale, you’re familiar with most or all of what’s happening here.
One advantage, though, is that this is not an isekai story (at least not as far as I can tell). It’s simple, but I much prefer tales that exist in a secondary world. I like narratives that take place in a specific setting with its own rules and expectations rather than needing the other world component. That’s personal preference, but still, the story gets points for me in a time when many other works are about being reborn or traveling to other worlds and being completely aware of that fact.
There’s an interesting enough premise here, as well as Belgrieve and Angeline being apart. As you can tell from the title, Angeline goes off to make her path in the world after training with her father for many years. They often think of one another and keep in touch via letters, but they spend much of the narrative apart. Their misconceptions about one another, how the world works, etc., can be explored this way and create some fun moments. Angeline’s obsession with making a name for her father by trying to make the “The Red Ogre” title stick is a hilarious little aside, particularly in how much it surprises Belgrieve when it comes back to him.
The writing is very strong from moment to moment as well. The prose flows very well and has a good balance of detail and expedience. It’s not too overwrought but intricate enough to paint a picture when needed. The dialogue is a little more hit-and-miss; sometimes, it flows naturally, though some characters always sound a bit forced. Angeline’s dialogue feels the most perfunctory, often some version of “Ugh, I want to see my dad” or “Wow, my dad is so cool!” I think this is because she is given far less to do, narratively speaking; every action Angeline takes is pointed in Belgrieve’s direction or sends unexpected conflict his way, while he is engaging in a far greater variety of experiences and has things like flashback sequences to pull from.
The biggest letdown here is just how short and simple the setup is. I know that overly-detailed light novel titles are old hat at this point, but the title does explain it all. A guy has a daughter… who returns… as an S-rank adventurer. That’s pretty much it. A few fights and a handful of side characters are introduced, but the title is both the pitch and the summary. The book doesn’t last long enough to do much more. Besides a handful of minor details and world-building notes, the title gives away the game, and then you… Oh… watch exactly that unfold. Combine that with a rather trope-heavy setup and short length, and you can probably guess 75% of what will happen before you’ve cracked the cover.
As far as audiobooks go, the narrator does a good job. The prose is the reader’s strong suit, and he has a great sense of gravitas while reading. The problem is that this is one of those situations where he has to read and do voices for all the characters, and that’s a massive challenge for anyone. Sadly, his voices for the female cast are a bit of a struggle – the sections where any of the teenage adventurers are talking are a bit hard to listen to, including one of the two main characters, which is a real hindrance. That’s not the narrator’s fault per se, as being tasked with narrating that many characters always creates these sorts of problems. But it is noticeable, and I could never quite adapt to his voice for the cast members outside of Belgrieve.
Overall, this is a solid bite-sized story. It has a fun hook and a tried-and-true fantasy setting. The writing and production quality are top-notch. The real shame is that beyond the premise and the title, there isn’t much mystery to keep you interested, and it’s too close to “Does what it says on the tin.” Nevertheless, the short run time makes it a breezy listen, and hopefully, future entries will flesh out the world more.