By Inori and Hanagata. Released in Japan as “Heimin no Kuse ni Namaikina!” by GL Bunko. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Kevin Ishizaka. Adapted by Nibedita Sen.
I’ll admit I was surprised when I heard that this spinoff was being written. After five volumes of the main series, with so much that’s possible to explore, do we really need to have a retelling of events of the first book from Claire’s perspective? Fortunately, the answer is yes, we do need to have this. When I reviewed Book Two of the main series I talked about how much I loved Claire’s character development even though so much of it had to be filtered through Rae’s POV. Now we’re able to see that first hand. That said, this is still an adaptation of the events in the first book, meaning that much of the character development is still to come. We do see Claire’s inherent goodness and kindness, but we also see a lot of arrogance and ignorance of the class system that has propped up families like hers. Over the course of the book, Claire starts to get better about noticing that other people – even her good friends – have differing opinions.
Claire Francois is enjoying her life as one of the elites in the Royal Academy… at least until one day a commoner starts pestering her, and harassing her, and confessing love to her. It’s maddening, of course. Especially when said commoner ends up getting hired as Claire’s second maid! That said, she’s just a commoner, so a spot of mild bullying should do the trick and drive her away. Unfortunately, Claire’s friends Pepi and Loretta have ideas for bullying that are far more sadistic than what the essentially good-hearted Claire has in mind, so she gets nowhere. Over the course of the book, Claire is forced to confront her preconceptions about her friends, her roommate Catherine, lesbians, and commoners. Then just when she thinks she has a handle on things, she’s faced with the worst kind of betrayal.
As you may have noticed, this is not just a straight “write the same scenes from the opposite POV” side story. For one thing, Claire’s friends, known to the reader (and to Rae) as “Those Two Girls” get actual things to do and times where they disagree with Claire… though they also rely on her a great deal. We also get a brand new character, Claire’s roommate Catherine. Catherine is deeply connected to Claire’s traumatic past, and is also the daughter of a family that rivals hers, though Catherine’s status as part of that family is less than ideal. Of all the new things introduced in this book, she’s the most interesting to me, and I have a sneaking fear she won’t survive the series. She may have an agenda of her own for all I know, but her main role in this book is to give Claire good advice and try to get her to open her horizons… though she ends up rather startled when Claire is able to return the favor later on by forcing Catherine to leave her gilded cage.
As for Rae herself, Claire consistently refers to her as “the commoner” in her narrative voice throughout this book. I expect that will change in future volumes. If you enjoyed the main series, there’s absolutely no reason not to get this as well.