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Overall series setting
Oh, what a fantasy! To save his kingdom from destruction, Prince Valdrigr takes up an invincible sword that contains the essence of a demon god – but the price of such power is a curse that turns the prince into a demon at night!
To break the spell, Prince Valdrigr seeks out Halvir, a powerful and somewhat arrogant sorcerer who lives alone in a forest. As they travel, Halvir calms and bonds with Vald's beast side at night (Crimson Spell is a yaoi manga, after all), but during the day he begins to fall for the noble Prince as well. ~ As Halvir and Vald seek to learn more about the curse, they pick up various other companions – and face increasingly powerful enemies intent on harnessing the power of the Prince's beast-form.
Why I love it
The setup for this series – yaoi fantasy romance – is so delicious I don't understand why there aren't tons of these, but Crimson Spell seems to be rather unique.
Yes, it is definitely a yaoi title—there is very hot, explicit sex (e.g., end of chapter 1)—but it's far from PWP. Often several chapters go by without any erotic encounters, and the romance feels genuine, developing gradually on both sides with the requisite snags and bumps.
And then there's the fantasy element! Yamane Ayano's art is wonderful even when creating short-haired men in suits, but is stunning when applied to knee-length hair (swoons), sumptuous robes, elaborate jewelry, fantastical creatures, and sword and magical fights.
Currently, at 40+ chapters and still going: 5 volumes published in Japan so far. (The first two were published in English several years ago but went OOP. SuBLime Manga picked up the license for vols 1-5 and they started releasing in Dec 2013). It seems likely the book will wrap up in volume 6 or 7 as a) we have finally met the Big Bad, b) the romance, after being derailed twice, is finally back on track and c) there are several unresolved plot points.
Oh, and did I mention there's humor, too?
I hope I've conveyed how very very much I love this manga! * hugs *
Characters I write for
Havi (Halvir Hroptr), 22, an orphan who was raised by the sorcerers of the magical city of Celeasdeile, he's initially presented as a mercenary loner. He's not the traditional cold seme, however: his feelings for Vald (both Prince and Beast) develop quickly and he's generally not hesitant to show them. Protectiveness and jealousy occasionally make him reckless—but seriously, who doesn't love to see that once in a while? ;p)
Vald (Prince Valdrigr of Alsvieth), 18, the cursed Prince, is noble, kind, and okay, at times less than patient. His developing feelings for Halvir confuse and distress him at first. ~ His demon-beast side (that's the tribal tattoo'd guy with the fangs and claws) has no such ambivalence, though – after the first encounter with Halvir (mildly dubcon-ish because the beast was on the frenzied side) he's not only eager for sex but very very protective of Halvir as well. At first only manifesting when Vald is asleep or unconscious, once Vald becomes aware of the beast (and once the Prince's feelings begin to parallel the Beast's) the two begin to merge. (Don't miss the spectacular side story, Black & White Labyrinth, in volume 4.)
Rulca (fan translation of this was Ruruka) — known as Liethregveel in his magical rabbit form – was released from captivity early in volume 1 by the Prince. Rulca is completely loyal to Vald. Although he can take bishonen form when needed, he spends a lot of time in rabbit form, curled around Vald's neck. Rulca does not approve of Havi's clandestine nighttime activities with the Beast and expresses his dislike of Halvir (who he calls "Habi") quite often, but as he sees how much Halvir truly cares for Vald the hostility gradually fades a little.
Marse, a swordsman fallen on hard times and forced into thieving.
Halrein a former classmate of Halvir's still resentful of being in Halvir's shadow.
Halceles, Halvir's teacher, and -- nope, that's a spoiler :p --- he's been trapped in a timeless dimension for some years.
Guile an adversary encountered early in the group's travels who sends his winged servant after our heroes.
Rimris a shy scholar rescued by Vald, he seems to have a hidden agenda.
Astadoule, a centuries-old sorcerer who was involved in the creation of the sword nad who seeks to recover its power.
Where to get it
Crimson Spell has been translated into a number of languages. The first two volumes were published in English around 2005 (? check this) but went out of print. SuBLime acquired the title and has releasing it in English (first volume came out December 2013). Volumes can be ordered through links on the SuBLime manga website.
UPDATE: As of October 2016, Crimson Spell is available in digital format!!
Most of the major manga sites have reviewed Crimson Spell.
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Written 21 June 2010; edited 6 Sept 2014