All right it’s finally time to jump into the last RWBY book that I had not read. This one’s a prequel involving Neo and Torchwick so I had high hopes from the jump. Needless to say this one did end up passing the other two to be the best book in the series. It feels really plot important next to the others and Torchwick has always been a really entertaining character. Seeing more of him was nice and this is the most we’ve learned about Neo’s personality in the whole franchise. There’s a lot to enjoy here.
The book changes POVs in each chapter from Neo to Torchwick and so their stories stay separate for a while until they inevitably meet up. It makes for a good way to get invested in each of their plots and wait for them to collide. First up is the Neo plot where we see how she grew up in a rich household but this came at the expense of a loving environment. She was always trained on how to be a very dutiful child but she was rebellious and bored as a result so she made up an imaginary friend and caused a lot of mayhem. Eventually she was sent to a private school to be formally educated but even this is boring. What she needs is a new environment and someone who treats her as an equal but where can she find someone like this?
Meanwhile for Torchwick we see him in his younger days. The guy grew up in a rather rough environment in Mistral so he’s used to having to steal to survive and he fights off anyone who gets in his way. He steals wallets, etc. One day he is noticed by the big crime lord of the area who gives him a choice of serving under her or dying. Torchwick decides to serve while earning some petty cash on the side until he’s caught and leaves town for Vale. Now he has to try and succeed in a new environment but this won’t be an easy task. Of course this is where Neo lives so the two are about to cross paths.
Naturally I am assuming that you’ve watched the show before reading this book so that you understand the characters but even if you haven’t, I dare say that the book is pretty new reader friendly. It’s a story that is understand with a fun dynamic of a girl who wants adventure and a criminal who has pretty much hit the limit of what he can do without a partner in crime. So when you mix these two together then you are in for a fun adventure all the way through.
Torchwick is one of those fighters who is easy to underestimate because he doesn’t use a semblance but in the show he was able to easily defeat Blake and held his own against Sun for a while there. He was also obliterating volume 3 Ruby so you aren’t surprised when he wins most of his fights in this book. Ultimately he only goes down when the numbers are really against him and that’s when he’s in a position where most other fighters would be going down as well. Torchwick has a lot of wit when he is dealing with the others and he also never makes excuses. When he loses he just blames himself for not preparing and that’s the end of it. He doesn’t really have time to hold grudges or anything like that, he just keeps it moving.
He’s certainly a crook through and through so you never have any illusions about him being some kind of misunderstood hero. He’s just a very entertaining villain and that really goes a long way. He’s the kind of guy who is easy to sympathize with. Then you have Neo who has certainly been through her share of troubles. You get the feeling that her parents really need to take 90% of the blame for how she turned out because at her core she was a nice kid. She just never got enough attention and that ended up putting her on the wrong path. Naturally even at the school she was trying to be nice and the bullies came out of the woodworks so of course she turned to a life of crime.
The book focuses on how skilled she is at close quarters combat too. Neo always had a knack for it but at the school they helped perfect her skills. That was certainly the biggest benefit of being there. Neo also got street smart very quickly thanks to Torchwick and he was already at a level where she could likely deal with pro huntsman given that Torchwick was giving them the slip and she surpassed him very quickly.
There are a number of supporting characters here like Miltia and Melanie. They’re fun enough but I preferred them when they were going on missions and taking out targets of the gang as opposed to when they were just being petty bullies at school. I guess even villains need their downtime but it would have looked a whole lot better for them if they were cooler outside of their work. Lil’ Miss is impressive with how much clout she has even if physically she doesn’t seem like the most powerful fighter. You always wonder how the person at the top isn’t super powerful. I know in part it’s about how many followers you have but you’d think that a lot of them would jump ship if they knew that they were stronger than the leader right? I mean that would just make sense.
One of her stronger fighters was the Chameleon who had a pretty good fight with Torchwick. The power to camoflauge is certainly a good one to have. We saw Iliya use this fairly well back in volume 5. Ultimately you still can’t count Torchwick out of a fight though as he adapts to everyone quickly. Brick and Mortar found this out the hard way. The book has several fights here and it’s always fun to read a fight and try to visualize it. The tactics are on point and it’s nice to see another side of vale. While it may seem like a great place by day, apparently it’s still got a whole lot of crime once nightfall hits.
Not even the professional huntsman and Ozpin can keep a steady leash on them. Since Torchwick had the whole city running scared by volume 2 it’s fair to say that nobody was really in a position to stop him at all. The guy just got too powerful too quickly. A little cliffhanger ending with Cinder approaching him could have been fun but maybe they’re saving that for a sequel if this book ever gets one. We’d have to see why Torchwick ended up working for her. I mean we can all guess why (She probably forced him) but it’ll be cool to see that unfold. There are countless adventures that you can tell through the books and one day I hope they come up with more stories. This can’t be where the novels stop! Not when we were just getting started like this.
Overall, Roman Holliday is a great book. It really helps to expand the RWBY universe as we know it. Not with a lot of lore or anything like that but just the inner workings of how the kingdoms operate. We see just how rough people in Mistral have it where apparently people get mugged every day as a casual thing to the point where no cops will even appear. Then seeing the criminal underworld of Vale was enlightening. These are things the show probably wouldn’t have time for so using a book on them is perfect. More books like this would definitely go a very long way. So I highly recommend reading this one and hopefully they announce more at the next RTX convention.