By Reia and Haduki Futaba. Released in Japan as “Koushaku Reijou no Tashinami” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Andria Cheng.
This has been an oddly paced series, mostly due to the prequel being almost as long as the main series itself. We do get an epilogue showing Iris and Dean’s kids at the end, but for the most part Iris’ story ended in the 5th volume, and the last three have just been her listening to her mother finally explain her past. The reason for the secrecy ends up being the fact that most of how she and Iris’ father got together revolves around treaties, state secrets, and nearly averted war, so it’s not something that makes for great anecdotes to tell the kids. It’s also darker than Iris’ story, with more deaths – Iris very much had the fairytale “villainess” story, where almost all obstacles were overcome and they all live happily ever after. Merellis’ story shows that peace was temporarily won, but they didn’t ALL live happily ever after, and there are future tragedies shaping up that she can also do nothing about.
There’s trouble brewing in a neighboring principality, and the first quarter of this book shows us Louis’ father visiting all the lords of said principality and seeing how their power structure works. Some are pawns, some are noble, some are secretly led by their spouse, etc. In order to try to avoid being tricked into war, there’s a huge party held in Tasmeria, inviting all the neighboring lords, and Merellis attends as well… which is good, as it turns out there are also planted guards there to kill off most of the attendees. Fortunately, Merellis is able to stop this with a little help. Unfortunately, it turns out that when all the secret plots are unraveled, one of the main forces behind it is a lot closer to Merellis and her family than anyone would like, and may lead to her being unable to marry Louis.
I did worry that this book would completely slide into political battles and that we would not see Merellis fighting anymore, but no need on that score, as not only do we get her saving the day at the ball through judicious use of murdering the bad guys, but we also see her leading a private army to kill more bad guys, though that does not go nearly as smoothly, and does lead to deaths of some named characters. For the most part, though, the lesson of this book is that you CAN marry the true love of your life, but the politics has to line up as well. With Louis and Merellis it does. For Edgar and Sharia, they get what they want, but are tricked/forced into a compromise that will lead to massive tragedy down the road. And also to the events that kickstarted Iris’ story itself. Being a duchess is hard.
And so this series has come to an end. It took a while, and we got the manga first, so it seems longer, but this was a good example of the “sensible” end of the villainess scale, and had lots of fun worldbuilding. Just be prepared for the extended prologue.