By Yukika Minamino and Kotokan. Released in Japan as “Isekai Saiken Keikaku” by Legend Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Adam Seacord.
This is a title with a lot of things going for it, starting with one of the best pieces of cover art I’ve seen for some time. The premise is also strong. Our hero Eiji is… a man who is happy with his life. He has a good career, a fiancee he loves, etc. But one day he is… NOT killed by a truck. Instead he ends up transported in from of a “goddess” (though it’s made clear that’s how his brain is formatting this) and told he’s being asked to help save worlds that had heroes sent to them before. Unfortunately, those heroes, in introducing modern concepts to an otherwise pre-industrial world, ended up making things worse. Eiji is being asked to fix this, then he can go back to his cool life. He’s well-versed in light novels and isekai… as is the author, clearly. There’s also a well-handled twist at the end. It’s just that I found the actual plot in the middle… a bit boring?
Speaking of that twist, this paragraph will be spoiler-free. Then I’ll put a break line in the review, and then I will discuss the end of the book. In any case, Eiji arrives and is given a partner, a female dragon (she’s his own height and walks on two legs, though) who he names Tiamat, because of course. The two of them end up at a city where the inhabitants are slowly dying from beriberi, aka B1 deficiency, because the previous isekai’d hero loved his white rice and introduced the area to it, forgetting that brown rice is where the vitamins are. So he and Tiamat, through trial and error (he very deliberately has no powers at all) have to find substitute foods with B1 in them. This is not as interesting as it sounds. There’s also a lot of time spent deconstructing isekais, which is fine, and Eiji has a point, but I don’t think that this series is sufficiently different enough for him to be too smug about it.
Break line summary: the twist means I’ll be reading more, but I’m finding that Legend Novels trying to be for older readers means that sometimes the book is also duller.
OK, let’s talk that twist. It’s handled well enough, making the reader guess something is up as the book goes on, but not quite what. It doesn’t really kick in till they tell you WHO the prior hero was. That said… I found Tiamat’s constant spouting of Japanese trivia and media through the book rather irritating, and the fact that she turned out to be who she is didn’t mean that I went back and said “Aaah, so she’s not annoying!”, it just made me say “ah, that explains it”. While I don’t think that’s what we’re getting in the second book (Eiji herre dying – ironically not on Earth but in the isekai world – and asking to try again) , I’d love to see a book from Tiamat’s perspective, which would also get into how she feels about the previous hero. In addition, the way the world is “saved” feels, not to put too fine a point on it, grim and gritty. It’s why Eiji wants to return – it leaves a bad taste in his mouth. But it does in mine as well.
So good idea, great cover, the execution could use some work. Still worth reading for those who enjoy deconstructions or snarky dragon women.