By Terasu Senoo and Munashichi. Released in Japan as “Shini Yasui Koushaku Reijou to Shichi-nin no Kikoushi” by M Novels (Futabasha). Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Roy Nukia.
The second volume of the Erika Aurelia series sees her trying to prevent her death in Route Two of the otome game she played in her past life. That said, honestly, if you’re after otome game villainess novels you may find this wanting – Erika’s past life is important in determining her character as a whole, but rarely comes up in the text itself. Which simply leaves us with a fantastic action-adventure mystery series for young adults – and that’s fine by me. Erika ends up befriending her rivals, wandering into deathtraps, having to think her way out of deathtraps (and not always succeeding, though rest assured she is not killed off), and otherwise behaving just as I’d like a savvy eight-year-old with past-life memories to behave. Plus, in this book, there’s piles and piles of dragons. And if the villain seems a bit overly obvious, well, that’s what the extra chapters after the main story are for – this is not just Erika’s tale.
Erika and her father are headed to Ynys Negesydd, which is not in Wales, but is instead the capital of Ignitia, and they’re there for a royal banquet and also to watch a joust with dragons as the mounts. Erika is nervous as this is what sets up Death #2 on her list of things to avoid; her old self was rude to the first prince August, who is unable to ride dragons in a land where that is considered scandalous for royalty. Erika is unlikely to be as rude and obnoxious as her old villainous self, but she still has a tendency to speak her mind without thinking, so she could still be in trouble. Especially when August invites her to see the underground crypt rumored to hold the Beast of Contracts, and you start to realize that selling his soul to be able to ride dragons may be happening much faster than in Erika’s otome game.
There’s lots to like here. Erika is a great lead character, being very clever but also prone to making mistakes. Her past life, we are told, was filled with boys flocking around her and girls hating her, and honestly in this one, while she’s managed to avoid the latter, she still has the former. That said, the fact that everyone is pre-teen means the romance can be cute rather than annoying, especially given Erika right now has no feelings for anyone – and no sense of self-preservation, a fact noted by about half the cast. It’s also not a series that revolves entirely around her – her older brother has his own adventures, which seem to be just as if not more dangerous than her own, and there’s lots of bits of world building and lore that you know will pay off down the line but are just dropped casually here. Best of all, it’s simply thrilling to read.
Unfortunately, this may be all we get to read. While the webnovel this is based on has more material, Futabasha has not published a new volume in almost three years, so it seems to be cancelled. (This seems to be a problem with this publisher – see also The Epic Tale of the Reincarnated Prince Herscherik.) That said, if you’re looking for a fun YA novel with a great protagonist, you can’t really go wrong with Erika Aurelia.