By Nozomu Mochitsuki and Gilse. Released in Japan as “Tearmoon Teikoku Monogatari” by TO Books. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by David Teng.
It’s been a while since I’ve been so entertained by a light novel debut. The premise of the story already had me half-won over, to be honest. Mia Luna Tearmoon is this world’s Marie Antoinette, a spoiled young princess who only cares about herself and thus, when the revolution comes (a revolution she unwittingly instigated), she is sent to the guillotine. But then… she wakes up ten years earlier, right as rain! Now she has a firm goal: change history! So far so normal, right? It’s a familiar plot to fanfic writers, so familiar it has a name – “Peggy Sue”, after the 1986 movie Peggy Sue Got Married. However, Mia hasn’t really changed all that much. She’s still a selfish princess who thinks only for herself… mostly. The intense desire to not get her head cut off, combined with the miserable three years in prison she spent before that, have led to several alterations in how she interacts with people. In fact… she slowly becomes terrific. Despite what she or the narrator might think.
In addition to the Peggy Sue aspect, there are other ‘genres’ of books I was reminded of. Mia is an “Otome Game Villainess” in all but name, and a lot of the interactions she has with others will make the reader think of Bakarina. I was also reminded of the old J-Novel series Me, a Genius?, in that some of the humor of the book comes from Mia misinterpreting everyone’s actions, and absolutely everyone misinterpreting hers. Her maid, Anne, becomes absolutely loyal and devoted. Her advisor, Ludwig, is convinced she’s brilliant (because she remembers all the issues that made the Empire fall in her past go-round and parrots it back to him). The exception to this is the narrator, who is very much a Lemony Snicket-style narrator, constantly reminding the reader that Mia’s motivations are focused only on herself, and that frequently she does not MEAN to do the immense good she does.
That said, one of the few drawbacks in this book is that sometimes the narration overdoes it a bit, because over the course of the book, we *do* see Mia doing a lot of good, even if her intent may be different. Though her, people’s lives get better, things are happier. What’s more, Mia is gradually getting less selfish. Part of this may be simple premonition – when she tries to ignore some noble girls bullying Tiona, who is the girl who eventually leads the revolution against Mia, she gets a chill down her spine. Is it realizing that ignoring it would be a disaster for her future? Or is it a growing conscience? I suspect the latter. She chooses to go to the rescue, and it’s great. Mia has a sharp tongue, something that does not change in either timeline, but using it for good rather than evil is a definite plus. She also flirts with a young prince, at first in order to gain his country’s help should the revolution still occur, but gradually finds him genuinely attractive and charming, and so reacts like a normal teenage girl. It’s sweet. (There’s also an amazing scene where a bitter young noble swaps out some food at a party for stale crackers she brought as a prank, and when Mia eats them she not only is nostalgically reminded of the food she was given in prison, but is clever enough to realize that the preservatives used in these THREE-YEAR-OLD crackers can help her kingdom’s food issues.)
I tend to ‘quote tweet’ parts of a book as I read them. I didn’t do that with Tearmoon Empire, but that’s simply as the quotable bits were entire paragraphs and scenes that would have been too long to tweet. This book is funny from start to finish, from the snarky narration to the hilarious misinterpretations and even to normal “just write it funny” scenes like the young noble girls trying (badly) to make a lunch for Mia’s beau, which was AMAZING. There’s also a diary extract at the end that reminds you that no one misinterprets Mia’s own actions quite like Mia herself. It’s the sort of book you want to go back and re-read the moment you finish it. (You may have to – the 2nd volume hasn’t started up on J-Novel Club’s schedule yet, though I understand it’s coming soon.) If you avoided this book because of its shoujo-style cover, you need to give it a read. I loved it.