By Harunadon and Yomi Sarachi. Released in Japan as “Akuyaku Reijō to Akuyaku Reisoku ga, Deatte Koi ni Ochitanara: Nanashi no Seirei to Keiyaku Shite Oidasareta Reijō wa, Kyō mo Reisoku to Kisoiatte Iru Yō Desu” by GA Novels. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Judy Jordan.
I didn’t really have too many hopes for this one. The villainess market is, frankly, glutted, and the description of this series combined the villainess tropes with a magical academy *and* “I have this weak power that everyone hates me for, but it’s really the strongest”, as seen in endless isekais. On the bright side, this is NOT an isekai – our villainess is home grown. So yeah, book full of cliches. And I can’t deny that they’re there. But this is also a book that took me by surprise a number of times, and it did that by taking a big swing towards being dark. Brigitte’s life until the start of the book has been a tale of hideous abuse, the “heroine” in this story is not only arrogant but also sociopathic, and we may have a winner for the worst fiance in a villainess book – despite the fact that he barely appears.
We begin as so many of these books tend to begin: with Brigitte, the “villainess”, having her engagement broken and getting publicly humiliated by her fiance, who claims she was bullying the girl he is with now, Lisa. Brigitte’s world collapses around her, frankly. We learn that she was judged to have very little spirit power as a child, despite coming from a famous family of fire spirit users. Her father reacted to this news in a sensible, staid manner: he took his 5-year-old child’s hand and stuck it in the fire till it burned horribly. Needing to wear gloves all the time, she’s a shy, reserved child… till she meets the third prince, Joseph. Joseph tells her to her face that he likes stupid girls, and that she should dress in pink, gaudy clothes, wear thick makeup, and act arrogant. So, desperate for anyone to like her, she does. And then we get to page 1.
I apologize for summarizing the book using only the first 10 pages or so, but the first 10 pages are dynamite. My jaw dropped. After that, things turn a bit more typical, as she meets Yuri, a cool young man who has contracts with two major spirits, but gives everyone the cold shoulder. But honestly, the main reason to read this is the aura of toxic misogyny that permeates it. Not from the author, I hasten to add – this was deliberately baked into the world itself. More to the point, it’s coming from Joseph. He’s very unusual for a “fiance who breaks things off” character, remaining cool and collected even when attempting to do to Yuri what he did to Brigitte. But there’s an air of petty sadism around everything he does – he’s done it with Brigitte her whole life, and now that she’s gone he starts to do it to Lisa, who responds by… well, the other time in the book where I screamed “Holy shit!” was her response.
Given the cliffhanger to the book shows Joseph asking Brigitte to get engaged to him again, I think we’ll see more development of this in the second book. Till then, apologies to Yuri, and maybe next time I can get into the adorable romance that he and Brigitte develop.