By Matsuri Isora and Nanna Fujimi. Released in Japan as “Silent Witch” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Alice Prowse.
It’s not just the Silent Witch, really, everyone in this series has secrets of some form or another. The most obvious one is the Second Prince, who everyone calls a puppet and certainly has “I must obtain the throne” as his goal, but one gets the sense that “And them I will let my grandfather rule with me as a puppet” is NOT on his agenda. Monica, of course, has her main secret mission, but there’s also the fact that she would really rather NOT have Prince Felix find out her real identity given how much it consumes him. And there’s also her time at Minerva Academy before this series, which comes back to haunt her in a big way this book, as it turns out intermural sports are still a thing in this world, and that does not just mean the school sports teams (I don’t even think this school has sports). Monica is about to come face to face with another secret – one that haunts her.
Monica is still recovering from the events of the previous book, but at least she now has her two “sports” classes. Horseback riding is a bit awkward now that her friend Casey has withdrawn from school in a concerted effort to not be executed for an attempted assassination on the second Prince. Fortunately, Felix is there to help her discover such impossible talents like “how not to fall over immediately”. Then there’s her chess class, where she proves to be a prodigy – but that comes back to bite her, as she’s now part of the three-person chess team facing off against her old school. But there’s no way that anyone from her old school would recognize her, right? She has a disguise! Unfortunately, the worst POSSIBLE person is on the other team – a guy who helped turn Monica into the complete wreck she (mostly) is today.
I note I haven’t even been able to mention the back half of the book, which has some really good stuff involving Felix, and also a tear-jerker involving Monica’s father. But honestly the middle of this book feels like the real climax, with Monica finally facing the asshole whose petty jealousy and overweening pride trampled on any feeling she might have, and realizing… why do I have to care about this guy anymore? Why is he worth my time? Now, to be fair, the nature of the plot means that he actually does do one or two noble things here, and we probably WILL see him again, but I appreciated the effort, which is more than some other books make. We also get to see more and more how people at her school DO value her as a friend and care about her, though I think if you asked her about it she’d think that it will all vanish once her “mission” is over. We’ll see about that.
I had thought this series was three volumes when I first heard about it, but now we not only have a 4 and a 5 but a short story volume as well. It makes sense, the writing in this is fantastic, and Monica herself is someone I could cheerfully read for 800 pages. If I were Kadokawa, I’d ask for more as well.