From the back cover:
Hotshot Natsu and his cool rival Gray are fighting to stop a calamity demon from being revived by Gray’s fellow disciple Lyon and Zalty, a master of lost magic. But while they try to defeat the bad guys, the magical ice binding the demon keeps melting. Then a grudge between Fairy Tail and a rival guild turns to all-out war!
In the Author’s Note at the end of the volume, Mashima says that he doesn’t do much planning ahead with his story. I think that shows with the way the Deliora arc plays out. There are a couple of switcheroos that, while they very well may have been intended from the beginning, make me suspect a last-minute easy out. Also, Lucy’s sudden escalation in importance at the end of the volume comes out of nowhere.
That’s not to say the result isn’t entertaining, though. The battles between Gray and Natsu and their opponents are pretty fun, with some new ice techniques from Gray and a new kind of magic—the ability to control time as it relates to objects—for Natsu’s opponent. Shounen staples like having faith in one’s companions, preventing one’s rival/ally from completing a noble self-sacrifice, forgiving the enemies’ sins due to mitigating angst, and delayed-reaction spurting wounds abound.
Though it’s disappointing that our heroes face virtually no punishment whatsoever (aside from some very creepy spanking the Master administers to Lucy) for undertaking an S-class quest (played up as an offense worthy of expulsion), the story picks up a bit once they return home to find that Fairy Tail headquarters has been virtually destroyed by a rival guild called Phantom Lord. Throughout the volume, less prominent members of Fairy Tail had been introduced on the chapter splash pages, and just as I’d been thinking I’d like to see some of these folks get to do something cool they’re given an opportunity to do so in a rather awesome brawl when Fairy Tail pays the rival guild a retaliatory visit.
Even though Lucy’s capture at the end of the volume is not the most original shounen plot device, some of the Phantom Lord opponents look interesting, so I’m looking forward to what’s to come.