By Syuu and Fujigasaki. Released in Japan as “Oguni no Kōshaku Reijō wa Tekikoku nite Kakusei Suru” by PASH! Books. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Kashi Kamitoma.
As we have advanced into the 21st century, we have thankfully moved on from one of the more egregious fan terms (and one I used myself back when I was younger), the “Mary Sue”. Originally used as an example of a character created by a writer purely to be the “perfect” love interest for her favorite character, it then morphed into, supposedly, any woman who lacked flaws and was seen as too perfect. Which, naturally, meant any woman protagonist, if you’re a guy reading it. Meanwhile, male protagonists who kill all the monster, gets all the babes, and wind up leading the nation are a dime a dozen, and despite the attempt to use “Gary Stu” to describe them they never got any flak. And of course let’s not get into the “Strong Female Character”, as best seen by Kate Beaton’s wonderful comics. I mention all this because Bertine, the protagonist of this new series, starts her own business, unites warring tribes, shoots burglars with her rifle, and has such innate economic skills that she was raised by her father to be his successor. And you know what? It’s amazing.
Bertine du Jeanne, daughter of the Chancellor of San Luenne, an independent nation and financial powerhouse, is preparing for her upcoming wedding when she is told that the Empire, which their nation has been giving financial support to, has lost its war with the Federation. The Federation has demanded 1000 large gold coins in reparations. The royal family have decided instead to send them Bertine, as the new bride to the leader of the Federation, Cecilio. She is barely given time to hear this before she and her lady maid are bundled off to Ybit, one of the major cities in the Federation. There they are told Cecilio is away, that he never accepted the bride deal in the first place, and to go home. She can’t go home, though, as it would disgrace her country. So instead the staff at Cecilio’s estate decide to slowly starve Bertina and her attendants to death, and passively abuse them. Having had enough of this, Bertine chooses to leave the estate and make her own way in this new country.
I always enjoy novels that give greater depth to the main character as the book goes on. At first Bertine just seems like a basic “stiff upper lip” noble, though she does seem very exhausted by everything near the start of the book. We then learn that everything has been terrible for her since her mother died over a decade ago, her stepmother tried to kill her and is actively trying to prevent her returning to her own country, that she had *two* marriages called off before this, and that even when her sickly mother was alive, her father, recognizing her economic talent but being unable to properly express love, gave her hellish training that made her think he hated her. She tells Cecilio flat out that when she got to his estate and the staff abused her, she was near suicidal. Fortunately, the book wants us to know that but not dwell on it. What it does want us to dwell on is Bertine empowering herself, then empowering other women around her. There isn’t even any romance in this first novel, though I’m pretty sure she’s gonna end up with Cecilio by the second (he’s nicer than his staff). It’s just Bertine being badass. Oh, and the Candy Ma’am pun is hilarious, well done translator.
I had an absolute ball reading this. Is Bertine too perfect? Damn straight.