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 very much feels like the 2nd part of a two-parter, and in fact I think a re-release of the series in Japan saw these two grouped as a single novel. It picks up right where the first one left off, and sometimes that can be a problem, as Altina still has a broken arm, which makes swordfighting difficult. Unfortunately, the plot is not going to wait for her to recover. There are barbarians at the gate – literally – and Regis has to come up with a plan to solve that. The Empire has sent a couple of evil inspectors to see how things are going/sabotage Regis and Altina. What’s more, they’ve been given an impossible order, to attack one of the best defended forts in the area and emerge victorious. In other words, they’re being sent off to die. Of course, there’s an easy way to get around that. They just have to win against the impregnable fortress. Easy-peasy.
Again, the series succeeds best due to its two very likeable leads. Altina is a young, impetuous princess who nevertheless has a really good head on her shoulders, does not believe in needless killing, and knows exactly what she’s fighting for. Her speech to the soldiers as they’re about to storm the fort is fantastic, and reminds you how important the right motivation can be. As for Regis, he remains very clever and very self-deprecating – it takes moving mountains to get this man to admit that he was responsible for something good happening. He also has his amusing flaw, which is his love of books, and that leads to some excellent banter between him and Altina. They’re clearly intended to be a couple in then future, but the author has quite rightly decided not to rush things, which is fine.
There is an attempted rape in this book, from one of the evil inspectors, I will warn people. I do wish that this was not a common “show they’re evil by having them do this” plot. In addition, at the end one of the maids tries to force herself on the suddenly popular and single Regis, and that’s just as bad. Other than that, however, the book is relatively free of all the fanservice-laden exploits you might see in, oh, one of the author’s other licensed series. We also meet Eric, a young soldier who is devastatingly handsome, devastatingly earnest, and who I suspect I should be using gender-neutral pronouns in describing them, as they seem to be hiding a secret (which would be less obvious if the author hadn’t gone “did you spot that? Hmm? Hmm?” in the afterword). He makes a nice change from the rest of the soldiers, who are more like the grumpy Jerome, who seems to get constantly angry at whatever Altina and Regis do but then does it anyway.
Next time Altina will be headed back home to meet the family, and I suspect political intrigue will follow. Till then, enjoy this nice, breezy read.