By Kakeru Takamine and Ichigo Kagawa. Released in Japan as “Kouri no Reijou no Tokashi Kata” by Monster Bunko. Released in North America by Tentai Books. Translated by Callum Conroy and Alejandro de Vicente Suárez.
This may be the most unfortunately timed light novel volume I’ve seen in some time. The first volume of How to Melt the Ice Queen’s Heart, which I quite liked, came out in July 2021. Since then, Tentai Books has been dealing with the various things a small publisher has to deal with in terms of scheduling, and the co-translator also changed, meaning that the 2nd volume has come out in February 2023. And between those two dates there has not only been a giant pile of “sweet romance between a couple with little conflict to speak of” stories (some of them also put out by Tentai Books, to be fair), but The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten has exploded in popularity and gotten an anime running RIGHT NOW, whose quality you can argue about (I certainly will), but whose takeover of the “couple charts” is indisputable. And Ice Queen’s Heart is basically Angel Next Door with the genders swapped. Well, to a degree. it’s still a male fantasy.
We pick up immediately where we left off, right after Christmas, and with Asahi and Fuyuka feeling very close to each other. Asahi in particular, however, has trouble putting a name to this feeling until the very end of the book. In the meantime, there’s a New Year to have, which includes a shrine visit. Which also means introducing one half of this cast to the other half of this cast, and fortunately they get along fine despite the obnoxious couple being an introvert’s worst nightmare. There’s a birthday, which Asahi nearly blows simply as he never really converses with Fuyuka about anything but cooking. There’s Valentine’s Day, where Asahi can’t actually blow off this year the way he usually does. And there’s also Fuyuka’s maid returning to the apartment, which he fears will mean the end of their relationship, which of course only involves his cooking lessons. Right?
I mentioned this was a sort of inverse to Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten. Asahi has a similar personality to Amane, but Amane’s the one with the troubled past that has led to his personality being like this in that series. In this one it’s Fuyuka with the tragic past that has led to her being the “ice queen”, as we see when she talks about visiting her mother to tell her all about Asahi. This seems an awfully big step till you realize fairly quickly that she’s visiting a grave. Fuyuka’s story did not get as dark as I feared it would, which is good. It’s just a case of a loving mother passing away and a daughter now left bereft of any emotional support. Now that she has this, in Asahi, she’s opening up and starting to care again. And this, more than anything else, is why Asahi realizes he loves her at the end of the book. (Her own love for Asahi is far more obvious throughout.)
Are they a couple? Not yet – admitting love to yourself is not the same as confessing it. What’s worse, this volume came out two years ago in Japan, and the afterword suggests there may not be more (The Japanese publisher has very little patience with underselling ongoing series). This was a sweet little series, and I quite liked both volumes. But it drowned among more popular titles in this genre.