By Milli-gram and Yuki Kana. Released in Japan as “Nidoto ie ni wa Kaerimasen!” by Overlap Novels f. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Emily Hemphill.
I’m going to be honest, this book is all over the place. Featuring a relatively nuanced portrayal of a heroine who’s recovering from horrible abuse, it has especially un-nuanced portrayals of the abusers. There’s a terrific surprise involving the hero, but it’s also contrasted with the fact that (per the afterword) the author aged him up after seeing the artwork but didn’t bother to age up the heroine, making for a very uncomfortable romance. And of course the heroine’s powers are especially overpowered even for this sort of book, with the question of “what can she create?” becoming a bar that gets raised higher and higher till the answer is “pretty much anything”. That said, I get the feeling none of this matters. This book gives you a girl you desperately want to hug, and then spends 160 pages hugging her. It’s the very definition of “D’aww”, and if that means putting up with some flaws, it’s OK because look, she’s eating sweets!
Chelsea is the daughter of a baron, but you’d never know it from her everyday life. She’s forced to do the housework, belittled and verbally abused by her mother and twin sister, and whipped when she does things wrong. She has to live off of scraps left after everyone else eats! What’s more, it’s totally unclear why this is the case. Then one day an “appraiser” shows up to see what the other daughter’s magic talents are, and they also know of Chelsea and appraise her. Turns out that Chelsea has a new skill, “Seed Creation”, that has never been seen before! Now she’s whisked off to the royal residence to see what her new skill can do (spoiler: a lot) and to be pampered and cared for as she never was before. As Chelsea slowly gets better and grows in self-confidence, and despite her fears that once they’ve appraised her, she’ll be sent back, she gradually realizes (say it with me) she’ll never set foot in that house again.
I noted on Twitter that this book had the subtlety of an icepick to the forehead, and I stand by that. That said, its portrayal of Chelsea is definitely the highlight. She’s beaten and shattered by the abuse she’s suffered, and it takes the entire book for her to even begin to stand up for herself and make her own decisions. This is, admittedly, helped by this being a world of magic, but even then, while they can heal her scars and stop her “emaciated” status effect, she still can’t really eat much at first. The hero, Glen, is more typical of these sorts of books, and has two big secrets, one of which is not really that much of a surprise, but the other one is, and it’s handled quite well, which is to say it’s barely mentioned. Sadly, as I noted before, making him older means the romantic feelings he starts to have for 12-year-old Chelsea come off as far skeevier than I would like – fortunately nothing is going on as of yet.
This also shares another fault with many shoujo light novels we’ve seen recently: it feels like it’s a one-shot, but there’s a second volume out. I’m not sure where the book is going to go, especially with a title that will likely seem out of place given, well, problem solved. That said, if it has hugs, cute dresses, and yummy sweets, I’ll probably be reading more.