By SOW and Zaza. Released in Japan by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by Bookwalker. Translated by David Musto.
It took me a while to get into this volume of the series, but once the main plot got into gear it practically flew along. I felt uncomfortably like Sophia while reading this. She’s the soldier and childhood friend of Lud’s who wants him to return to the military rather than trying to atone for his crimes by baking bread in some town in the middle of nowhere. Lud, over the course of the book, realizes that’s not why he’s doing this, and that being a baker and seeing people happy *is* what he wants going forward. That said, I have to admit that the book really comes alive once the terrorists arrive and things turn a bit Die Hard. Lud may be a baker, but he is also an excellent soldier. That said, I was also pleased that a large amount of the saving the day fell to both Sophia and Sven, who have no need for Lud to come and rescue them.
The book starts off at the bakery but doesn’t stay there long, as fantasy not-Germany is trying to win over its conquered people and therefore is having a party on the not-Hindenburg, and they want Lud’s bread to be part of that. Of course, there are a few small problems. 1) Lud will have to give an interview, and his smile still terrifies people. Luckily, Sven takes over with help from some hair dye and glasses. 2) His former commanding officer/childhood friend is there as well, and she wants him to join the military again so he can be with her… um, I mean do what’s he was meant to do. 3) This is all a publicity stunt, so once Lud actually boards the airship he finds himself cruelly mocked and belittled. And of course 4) Terrorists have boarded the ship and are going to crash it into a major city, killing thousands. Add in Milly, the angry girl from the first book who now has a massive crush on Lud, and has stowed away, and you have a lot going on.
There is, of course, a bit of a harem here, but given Lud’s personality, nothing is really going to come of it. That said, I wonder how much of Lud’s obliviousness is genuine – there’s a clear moment here where he reveals he knows exactly who Sven really is, to her surprise, but it’s just as quickly forgotten. I suspect he’s trying to keep things as they are, which is always a dangerous thing to do in Japanese series – “I wish things could stay like this forever” is a classic death flag. The series also has some very interesting worldbuilding in regards to the supposed “peace” after the war, and how fragile that really is, especially if some of the soldiers who know nothing else are trying to stir up war again. I could have done without the dickhead terrorist stripping and threatening Sophia with rape, the go-to standard for “I want readers to see my villain is eeeeeeevil”, but at least she kneed him across the room and stepped on his goolies, rather than get rescued by Lud. Sophia can take care of herself.
I still wish I could change the font in Bookwalker’s app to a different one, but the translation seems much improved in Book 2. It also comes with a very short story about the world of the series. If you’re looking for a light novel that’s not quite the same as the “standard”, but still has enough tropes to be comfortable, this is an excellent series to read.