By Kuji Furumiya and Teruko Arai. Released in Japan as “Tsuki no Shirosa o Shirite Madoromu” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Jason Li.
This is very much a book of two halves – literally, of course, because this author’s books are always 2-in-1 omnibuses, but also figuratively. The first half of the book is very much in the horror vein, as Sari and Xixu try to figure out why all of a sudden courtesans are closing their businesses and moving out of the city – and why everyone seems to be 100% OK with it. It’s an “eerie mind control” mood. Then we get the second half of the book, which runs on pure frustration at the two leads. I’m used to book where the romantic couple aren’t a couple because neither of them bother to communicate with each other, but here it’s weaponized, as Xixu’s heroic-but-dumb need to put Sari’s desires above literally everything else leads to Sari abandoning her humanity entirely, and it will take a huge shock to get her back to an equilibrium. and no, the huge shock is not going to be a kiss. This is a far darker series than that.
There’s finally a new shadeslayer in town to take some of the workload off the others. He’s… nice. Very nice, but a bit weird. And also obviously super evil? Sadly, the denizens of Irede are very quick to open up to him, and worse, to listen to what he suggests. This includes Sari, much to Xixu’s dismay. It will take outside help to try to fix this problem… and unfortunately, the outside help may end up being even more of a problem. Then Sari turns 17, and she seems to be growing into her godhood by the day. Something that is accelerated when a new courtesan arrived at the pale Moon, and she turns out to be Xixu’s childhood friend and first love. But Sari doesn’t care about that, not at all. She’s a god, after all, she has no need for pesky human feelings.
As you’d expect, this is a very good book, if difficult to read at times. I am starting to wonder if any of the cast bar Xixu are going to live through the series. I like that we don’t snap back to normal at the end of a crisis – the villain essentially brainwashes a large number of courtesans to leave Irede and go to other cities, and… they don’t return when everything is resolved. Likewise, we find that the villain is a normal shadeslayer who was possessed… but unfortunately, the possession “overwrote his ego”, so there’s no saving him. Hell, even the first book ends up having some of its minor victories overwritten here, as one of the characters sacrifices themselves, and another is ALSO possessed by evil. That said, I think in the end most readers will be agreeing with Thoma: if only these two had simply gone to bed with each other and not been considerate to a hellish degree, everyone would be MUCH better off.
The author indicates that the next volume will be the last, which is good, as the books are worth reading but also exhausting. Definitely recommended, though.