By Takasugi Naturu and kieshi akaz. Released in Japan as “Saishō Hosa to Kurokishi no Keiyaku Kekkon to Rikon to Sonogo: Henkyō no Chi de Futari wa Fūfu o Yarinaosu” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Olivia Plowman.
Generally speaking, when I am supremely irritated with a book, it tends to be for a few basic reasons. “Your attempts at comedy aren’t funny” is a good one. Also “your attempts to be horny are merely deeply misogynistic”. And occasionally “your violence is so ridiculous it’s stopped being horrifying”. It’s very rare, however, that we get “your desire to show how bad things are for the heroine are so amazingly over the top that it verges on torture porn”. This book is theoretically a romance, and you do sort of get that in the last third or so. And yes, I understand that the author has an agenda, and that agenda is “hey, husbands and wives need to actually talk to each other”. But oh my god, getting through the middle third of this book was like punching myself in the face over and over again. Sheer misery. I read books to enjoy them, remember?
The book opens with the lovely wedding of Lina, a Black Knight whose job it is to fight against dragons due to the old magic she has, and Joshua, a white mage who can use his compatible magic to protect her before she goes out to fight dragons. We then cut to four years later, when she’s just received grievous wounds from a dragon because her white magic protection was inadequate – and her injuries are so bad she’s been fired. The rest of the front half of the book traces he steps before and between those points, as we see Lina struggle with a nobility that despises commoners and a tendency to suffer nobly, and her husband Joshua contends with work never allowing him time with his wife and a tendency to not be overly expressive. The result is disaster.
We’ve had evil nobility in many light novels before, but they’ve tended to be cartoon evil nobles. The prejudice and disdain in this book is played 100% for drama (there may not be a funny line in the entire book) and you just want Lina to go apeshit and start stabbing everyone. Then there’s the end of the book. Not to spoil TOO much, but essentially everything that’s been happening to Lina and Joshua since their marriage has been engineered. We find this out right near the end. The evil mastermind was… a guy we met towards the start of the book, who gave friendly advice, and who I had completely forgotten about. He references his past history with Joshua at the academy, which sure would have been nice to see in flashbacks, but no. Oh yes, and on realizing that the man who he’d asked to reform the nobility and stop the hatred of commoners is in fact an evil noble, the prince’s first reaction is “welp, I tried, guess I’d better stop reform” and he has to be talked back into it.
Lastly, it’s never a good sign when you realize that all the heart-wrenching scenes you’ve written aren’t enough, and you have the heroine dream of scenes that are exaggerated parodies of these scenes, just to make her more miserable. Fortunately, this wraps up nicely and neatly in one book, so I can cheerfully ignore the “1” on the cover and go on to read more happy, upbeat things, like Roll Over and Die.