Home I Read 50 Light Novels in 2023 — Here Are My Top 10

I Read 50 Light Novels in 2023 — Here Are My Top 10

4. Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen, Volume 1

©Keishi Ayasato/MF Bunko J

Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen is a depressing, bleak, gore-filled horror-fest that will strip away whatever faith you had left in humanity, and give you severe paranoia about religious doctrine. Where light novels typically stay firmly in an “Ages 13 and Up” category, author Keishi Ayasato decided to create a monstrously dark world of demons, holy warriors, and a ‘Torture Princess’ who butchered her own people and must expunge the vilest of monsters from the world before meeting her own execution.

Torture Princess offers some beautiful glimpses of hope amidst the oppressive darkness—our main character, ostensibly isekai’d into this world after dying at his abusive father’s hands—tries to find the good left in Elisabeth the Torture Princess; but this is very much a series for those who want to sink their teeth into something gritty and unapologetically dark.

3. Re:Zero, Volume 23

©Tappei Nagatsuki/KADOKAWA/Re:ZERO: Starting Life in Another World 2 Production Committee

I could have chosen any number of Re:Zero volumes to sit atop the podium, but Re:Zero Volume 23 earns the bronze medal for a very specific reason (and don’t worry, no spoilers). The twenty-third volume comes halfway through Arc 6, an arc that (in my opinion) rivals the White Whale Hunt (Arc 3) in terms of “oh-my-god” moments. What makes this particular volume stand out so much is the cruel twist of fate played upon our already-tortured Subaru Natsuki, forcing him to retread emotional growth he’d achieved way back in the Witch’s Tomb of Arc 4.

As always, Tappei Nagatsuki excels at finding new ways to punish Subaru, while also scattering in breadcrumbs of tantalizing lore. Of all the many fantastic volumes in Re:Zero, this particular light novel stands amongst some of the best, not just within the series, but amongst almost all the novels I’ve read.

2. Rascal Does Not Dream of a Sister Venturing Out (Volume 8)


I’m not sure I remember reading much of the eighth Rascal Does Not Dream volume, mostly because I was crying too much to see the pages. Like the film adaptation that showed at cinemas in June of 2023, Rascal Does Not Dream of a Sister Venturing Out deals with Kaede Azusagawa and her regained memories. Gone is the panda-loving, house-bound little sister, replaced by a middle-schooler in a high-school girl’s body, struggling to navigate the huge gap in her memories and her apparently divergent personality.

Kaede and Sakuta’s relationship has been one of the core parts of Rascal Does Not Dream, and losing ‘Panda Kaede’ is an emotional blow to both Sakuta and the audience, even if we know it’s for the best. Author Hajime Kamoshida handles the nuanced emotions of his characters with an auteur’s precision, dealing with complex topics like memory loss, social anxiety, and familial bonds, all within the framework of the series’ signature supernatural elements. Rascal Does Not Dream of a Sister Venturing Out ruined me emotionally—and I loved every page of it.

1. There’s No Freaking Way I’ll Be Your Lover! Unless…, Volume 1

©Teren Mikami/Dash X Bunko

A triumphant yuri romantic comedy, There’s No Freaking Way I’ll Be Your Lover! Unless… represents the very finest of English translations married to a premise that’s inherently hilarious, with characters so over-the-top they seem like they’re bursting off the page. Teren Mikami teams up with Eku Takeshima (Whisper Me a Love Song) for beautiful illustrations to create memorable designs for main character Rena Amaori and her coterie of gorgeous gals, notably Mai Oduka, the school-beauty-cross-teen-model. When Oduka promptly declares her love for Amaori, the girls decide on a competition to decide what’s better—girlfriends, like Oduka wants, or friends-only as Amaori wants.

What truly makes There’s No Freaking Way I’ll Be Your Lover! Unless... shine is the laugh-out-loud humor that manages to naturally use modern Gen-Z slang without sounding stilted and awkward. The characters are incredibly real, even if their actions are ridiculously over-the-top; in essence, it’s the very definition of Japanese comedy—bombastic, exaggerated, and utterly enthralling.

These are my top light novels of 2023, but I’m already looking forward to both new releases and new instalments in 2024. Let us know down in the comments below what novels you’ve read, and whether you’ll be setting yourself a reading challenge in the new year!

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