Note – We received a free digital copy of The Promised Neverland, volume 5 in exchange for our fair and honest review.
The Promised Neverland continues to ramp up the suspense with its latest volume: following the children as their escape plan is put into play. While elements of the story may seem a bit rushed, the frantic pace combined with the promise of a broader, unexplored world makes volume 5 a real treat.
A fire at the house has given the children the chance they need to escape. While Isabella struggles to get a handle on what is going on, she is approached by Phil – one of the younger children. Realizing that the youngest ones (4 years or younger) have been left behind, Isabella figures that this was a conscious decision by Emma and the others so that they wouldn’t be slowed down.
In reality, she’s missing something. Emma and the others had actually broken the news to Phil before, and they are planning on coming back to rescue them within 2 years: a carefully calculated timeframe based on the age of the kids and their relative “quality” in the eyes of the demons.
Isabella quickly realizes the scale of her mistake in letting the children escape. Despite her brilliance and competence, she doesn’t actively pursue the kids. Instead, she reflects on how she got to be a Mom in the first place. We see flashes of a young woman named Leslie, the two of them growing up and befriending one another. In time, we see Leslie has become pregnant, as she hums a unique song from time to time to the baby. While Leslie’s ultimate fate isn’t explicitly laid out, it’s implied that Ray is in fact Leslie’s son – which helps to explain why Isabella seemed to give him preferential treatment.
In the end, Isabella painfully wishes that she could have just loved the children as a normal mom. She finally goes before Grandma and the Demons to own up to her mistake, and a troop of demons is dispatched after them.
Meanwhile, the kids find themselves fighting their way through an unfamiliar forest. After a large number of them seemingly vanish, it appears as thought the demons may have got the jump on them! The alarm quickly subsides, however, as the floor of roots gives out from under Emma and the others and they discover everyone’s fallen through to an underground chamber.
They have some moments of wonder and discovery in this space as Emma reflects on the progress they’ve made in a few short months. However, her self-reflection is cut short as the other children realize that the space seems to be closing in around them.
The children nearly go into a panic as they try to calculate what to do next. In a moment of clarity, Emma recognizes the tree as something that was referenced in one of the story books back at Grace Field House. They discover that while the books were disguised as fiction, they actually serve as survival guides for the outside world. Once again referring to the mysterious Mr. Minerva, Emma and the others realize that they have an ally waiting for them somewhere out in this unexplored world, and it steels their resolve.
They figure out their next steps and escape the tree without much more incident, continuing through the forest as they find themselves flung from the frying pan and into a demon-fueled fire.
The demon pursues them relentlessly until Ray comes up with a plan to lure it into one of the same trees that nearly killed them before. Just as he’s about to complete his plan, the demon’s head goes flying off. One of the dispatched demons had arrived, on a completely different scale than the mindless demon that sought to eat them.
Ray begins to calculate how best to negotiate and buy Emma and the others time while a mysterious figure presents itself to Emma and the rest of the group.
While The Promised Neverland is moving away from the more psychological cat-and-mouse games that were particularly impactful in the early volumes, that doesn’t mean that this transition into more standardized action and suspense is unwelcome.
Perhaps the most jarring story element is the attempted redemption of Isabella in the face of the children escaping. The introduction of Leslie and revelation surrounding Ray was interesting, but after spending the better part of the last 4 volumes establishing Isabella as a cold, brilliant and calculating survivalist, for the gates to suddenly give way and reveal Isabella as a woman longing to just love the children as a real “mom” seemed like too little, too late.
Emma, Norman [he’s baaackkkk~] and Ray continue to develop their own unique personalities in such a way that it makes sense for them to share the spotlight. This is probably one of my favorite elements of The Promised Neverland – the dynamic shift in story progression as each challenge that’s presented is overcome in different ways by the different kids. While a reliable, singular protagonist provides a familiar structure, it also makes the story easier to predict. The Trio allows for some uncertainty, and by extension, excitement, as the reader navigates these challenges along with them.
Perhaps most exciting this volume was how it worked to pull back in order to reveal the broader world as much as it could. We get more conversations around “Mr. Minerva”, conversations among the children about how the outside world has been detailed to them without them even realizing it, and an even better look at the demons that seemingly have a grip on civilization. All of this works together to build excitement for the plots and conflicts to come.
Overall, a fantastic volume. You can pick it up here!