A light novel is a style of Japanese novel written primarily for junior high and high school students.
Typically not more than 40,000–50,000 words long, rarely exceed 200 pages, usually published in bunkobon size, and often illustrated. More often than not the text is often serialized in anthology magazines (Faust, The Sneaker and Dengeki) prior to collection in book form.
In recent years, light novel stories have been popular choices for adaptation into manga, anime, and live-action films.
A whole generation has grown up with this form of popular entertainment. They’re not dense or heavy. Short, crisp writing with paragraphs of one to three sentences in length. They are usually driven by dialogue not pages of description and tone. Think literary minimalism.
They usually play with language. They frequently use more furigana than is normally used in adult fiction. Writers will make use of unusual kanji readings which are not in common use in Japanese, or simply create new readings for kanji. These readings might be borrowed from foreign-language words or they might be completely fictional invented names for existing things. (Ooooh, fun.)
This exploits the fact that each kanji character is associated with both a meaning, and a set of sounds. Authors manipulate the various meanings and sounds of kanji in order to give words several layers of meaning. This gives light novels additional layers of complexity, in contrast to their sometimes simplistic writing. Sadly much of this writing style is lost in the process of translation.
“Slayers” is a series of over 52 light novels written by Hajime Kanzaka and illustrated by Rui Araizumi. It was later developed into several manga titles, five televised anime series, two three-episode original video animations, and five movies. It also spawned several console role-playing games for the Sega Saturn and PlayStation, as well as one for the Super Famicom.
The series follows the adventures of the young sorceress Lina Inverse and her companions as they journey through their world. Powerful magic, swordsmanship, wizards, demons, dark lords, and the occasional hapless gang of bandits for comedy relief.
52 light novels. Phew, that’s a helluva of series. It was originally serialized in Dragon Magazine in 1989. Then released in numerous volumes over two decades. The latest volume was released in 2010.
But the series is ongoing so they’ll be another volume soon.