With so many light novels being released in the West these days it’s easy to miss some hidden gems. In that case, it’s always worth going back through releases in recent years and checking them out and that is the case with the series I’m looking at today: Dragon and Ceremony Volume 1 which originally came out in early 2022. Is it worth reading? Let’s find out!
The story follows Ix, a fledgling wandmaker who has just prepared to leave his small village behind after the death of his teacher. Before he leaves, he runs into a Yuui, a girl looking for his master to repair her wand. Ix tells her of his passing and also tells Yuui that there’s no longer a wand shop in the village, nor can he repair it having not yet become a fully trained wandmaker himself. However, he reads the contract Yuui has with her and finds his master had prepared for such a situation!
In the fine print of the contract, it states that the first one to read this contract who isn’t the original wandmaker will assume responsibilities for the repair, as they’ll be one of his apprentice craftsmen. Unable to abandon his duty, Ix agrees to fix the wand but first, they’ll have to head to the capital where another of his master’s apprentices has a store of their own.
Unfortunately for Ix and Yuui, fixing her wand is no easy feat. It needs its core changed and the material used seems to be a ‘dragon heart’, a material that neither Ix nor Morna (the craftsmen** Ix goes to for help) have seen or worked with before. With every wand in this world being highly personalised and suited to its wielder, Ix doesn’t want to simply give up on fixing it and give Yuui something else instead. The wand is also a keepsake from Yuui’s father, so she doesn’t want to lose it either.
However, Yuui is a student at the Royal Academy and she’s currently on summer break but when it’s time to return, she’ll need a working wand. This means that there’s a tight time limit to finding the right materials and with dragons thought to have gone extinct over a thousand years ago, Ix worries they may not be able to accomplish anything in the time they have.
As you may have gathered so far, Dragon and Ceremony is a fantasy series but it is not an action-orientated one. It lives and dies through its world-building and characters, with no fights against monsters or demon lords to speak of. Ix is someone who lacks ambition. He loved his master and loves wand-making, but due to having no magic himself, he felt unable to carry on learning under someone else. That is until Yuui comes along and reignites his passion. Yuui meanwhile faces a great deal of racism, thanks to coming from a different country and she’s had a falling out with the few friends she had at the Royal Academy. Combined with the fact she has a broken wand, there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to the struggles she’s faced and what she’s been through before meeting Ix.
The pair complement each other well. Ix is not at all a people person and is often unintentionally rude to those he meets. He’s an eccentric in the eyes of Yuui, but she knows he has a good heart, so she’s willing to intervene and smooth things over for him. But while Ix might not think of anything but wands, Yuui is far more sensitive and weary of other people so having Ix’s blunter personality tends to be a saving grace since she can concentrate on him rather than her problems.
This work is author Ichimei Tsukushi’s debut, having won an Honourable Mention at the 11th GA Bunko Awards. Despite it being their first, there’s very little in the way of rough edges or issues here. I like how subtle the worldbuilding is and how it integrates back into the story of Ix and Yuui. And I appreciate that it’s never info-dumping or overbearing. There’s a lot to this world, but Tsukushi does well to drill down and only gives the reader the most necessary information while leaving just enough to get an idea of the bigger picture in terms of country politics and the like. After all, this is the story of a wandmaker and his customer and nothing more, so anything that distracts from that would dull the impact of the book.
And that’s really where Tsukushi’s skills shine because what we have here is a book that doesn’t outstay its welcome and is very easy to get invested in. Plus it avoids a lot of the fantasy tropes that we’re constantly seeing in the latest light novel releases. Even better, despite the fact the series ran for three volumes it feels very complete here in Volume 1, so if you don’t want to carry on with it you can certainly drop off here. I’m intrigued to find out what’s going to happen next for Ix, but I do feel satisfied with how things have been left.
Dragon and Ceremony Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Jordan Taylor. The translation reads well with no issues to note. Included at the front of the book are some colour pages showing off our main cast in a vibrant pull-out spread. Illustrations throughout the book have been handled by Enji and while there’s not a great deal of variation throughout the work, I do really like their colour additions at the beginning.
Volumes 2 and 3 have both been released in English already, so if you enjoy this first outing you’ll be able to complete the story at your leisure.
Overall, Dragon and Ceremony Volume 1 kicks off this new series in style. Ichimei Tsukushi’s debut work offers an attractive fantasy tale that doesn’t hinge on fantastical battles and instead tells the story of a craftsman and his customer in an interesting setting. If you’re looking for something different in the genre then this will certainly scratch that itch.