By Yukiya Murasaki and himesuz. Released in Japan as “Haken no Kouki Altina” by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Roy Nukia.
This book starts off with Altina and company, who are recovering from running away from the palace only to find themselves attacked by the country whose fort they overtook in the second volume. What’s more, war has just been declared between their nation and Britannia. So they’re in a pinch – can they defend what they took and ALSO send troops to defend the country? Well, we might find out next time, because this book isn’t about Altina, but her older brother Bastian, who has essentially been exiled to Britannia for being too much of a handful, and is busy going to school as a disguised noble. Unfortunately, the OTHER disguised noble at his school, Eliza, is suddenly in the middle of a nasty power struggle between those who want war and those who want peace. We know how it turns out (war is at the start of the book, after all), but getting there is entertaining and feels like a different series by the same author.
Altina sometimes had tendencies of “idiot hero” in the first three books, but could also strategize and listen to more tactical advice. Bastian, on the other hand, is absolutely the very definition of idiot hero to a ridiculous degree. He’s writing a book, you see (despite some spelling mistakes), a book of derring-do and adventure and really cool battle scenes. He is, in other words, under a severe “middle school syndrome” spell, which is even more annoying given he’s in the equivalent of high school. He’s also from a different country, though, and so has to deal with petty bullying from other guys who are asking why he’s always writing in that book, then taking the book and keeping it from him. Never let it be said the author doesn’t know his tropes. Of course, once Eliza vanishes and then needs rescuing, it turns out Bastian is really an insanely overpowered guy who can run as fast as a horse and has a magical dagger. Frankly, his own life makes the better story.
Eliza is the preferred heir that the dying queen wants, but she’s a pacifist, and the people seemingly want war – or so we’re told. Fortunately, there’s another princess who can be Queen that is more amenable to war, provided that it’s not dull. Margaret is the polar opposite of the relatively innocent, staid Eliza – she’s the seductive vamp type. The power mostly resides in her aide, Oswald, who does want war – infinite war, forever. He’s that sort of guy. The two of them actually make quite a good double act, and I hope we see them both again. Admittedly, it does also mean that this book doesn’t have a very happy ending – Eliza and Bastian are on the run, her country is at war, and the one thing she had that could prove she was the rightful heir is lost in their escape. It’s a downer all around. But hey, at least they’re not dead. The author is not quite that mean.
Despite ending on a down note, this is a fun, breezy read, and another strong entry in the series. Next time I expect we’ll get back to Altina.