By Miya Kazuki and You Shiina. Released in Japan as “Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa Shudan wo Erandeiraremasen” by TO Books. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by quof.
We’ve sort of gotten to have a light and dark side to these new Bookworm volumes. The light is the travails of Myne the merchant and orphanage director, as she finally succeeds in making a book for her as yet unborn little sister, and in passing also invents the exacto knife, the roller brush, and the like. This part is a fun little slice-of-life series, and everyone in it is nice. Benno may be grumpy, but he’s nice at heart, the attendants are (eventually) nice, the plucky young orphans are nice… it’s relaxing to read. And then there’s the dark side of the book that gets into the life of the noble class and magic, where we realize that Myne having absurd amounts of mana is going to shake this world to its foundations, that there is a definite class war going on beyond just the High Bishop, and that Myne is being desperately coached by the High Priest so that she doesn’t grow up to be imprisoned and forcibly bred. It’s a big “YIKES” all around.
Also meriting “Yikes” is the ending to the novel, where the High Priest decides to find out once and for all what’s up with Myne. The way he does it will be familiar to anime watchers, as he gives her a magic potion that allows him to look through her memories. He does this without her consent – the potion is meant for criminals – and the fact that he feels bad about it and she later consents after the fact does not ameliorate this. It does, however, allow her to ‘refresh’ her memories of her past self, and say goodbye, at least in her own mind, to her mother, so some good does come of it. It also shows the High Priest why Myne is the way she is, and I hope will lead to him being a stronger ally in the future, though honestly, he is already doing a pretty good job given she’s now dealing with assassination attempts.
The cover, as ever, is sort of an abstract image showing bits of the plot. We see scattered books, which are from when an arrogant noble (who we will no doubt see again) decides to break up Myne’s book room for the lulz. The background features a runaway trombe, which is a lot more terrifying when it’s a blood-eating plant creatures that is slowly killing Myne, who is for once straight-up terrified (though we now learn she can psychically communicate with Lutz when under great stress, which doesn’t help much here but might down the road). The lion is there to show us that magic is a much bigger deal on the ‘noble’ side of the walls. And the staff is because she’s there to bless the land, which, as noted, is not helped by the Knight who, primed by the High Bishop, decides to try to kill her off. I can’t see things going well for him.
This is another very long book, but the last half flew by. We also get two short stories going into the heads of one of Myne’s new attendants, who learns Myne is not like other blue shrine maidens, and one of Myne’s chefs, who rightly sees this as a means to a better career that doesn’t involve being a waitress/sex worker. The worldbuilding in this book likes to remind you that career options for non-rich women in this world are not optimal and a lot of the service ones involve sex work in some way or another. On the bright side, the battle sequence towards the end of this volume is going to look amazing when animated this spring. In any case, this is an essential light novel read.