By Ito Iino and Kinokohime. Released in Japan as “Haraiya Reijō Nicola no Komarigoto” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Joshua Douglass-Molloy.
DRE Novels is a relatively recent imprint, and they don’t have any series longer than three volumes. So it’s no surprise that when they get a series that does really well – such as winning the Gold Medal in their light novel awards, as the first volume of this did – they’re going to tell them “hey, write more” even when the series wrapped up perfectly fine in the first book. It’s not all that hard. Nicola is, after all, a grumpy cuss, and the lack of life experience other than “exorcist” in her previous life and noble politeness in this one have left her ill-equipped for feelings of love. So she spends a bit of this book asking the other members of the cast what they think love is. That said, that’s not enough to sustain a second book. What is enough, though, is doubling down on the ‘exorcist’ part of the series and turning a lot of this into straight-up horror.
We pick up right where we left off at the end of the last book. Olivia is dead, Nicola and Sieghart like each other but she’s too embarrassed to own up to it on her end, and supernatural things still love Sieghart to death – and in some cases are trying to make that literal. Olivia’s death, unfortunately, means that Alois needs a new fiancee, and Nicola is one of only three candidates – and the top one, at that. The group decide to go on a trip to meet the other two fiancee candidates – Charlotte, daughter of a marquess and a maid who grew up starving on the streets till they were taken in and made an heir; and Elfriede, another marquess’ daughter who has been so sickly no one has seen her in years. There are a few surprises, as you might guess. Charlotte’s identity is a major shock. And what’s really happened to Elfriede is beyond the pale.
This isn’t quite as good as the first book, which makes sense given that it’s a sequel the author had to be talked into writing. Emma, Charlotte’s older sister, is far too underdeveloped a character given her role in the book’s plot, and there is a “I don’t want this to be TOO depressing” bit near the end that takes suspension of disbelief and tosses it out the window. The book excels, as you might expect, with Nicola, who remains very grumpy throughout, even as she tries to figure out what these feelings she has for Sieghart are and why everyone else already knows that she has them. There’s also the horror, especially in the back half. This book comes with a big old “child death” warning, and we see the brutality of some of these deaths. But it’s not done to shock but to horrify, and is handled very well. If the series ends here, I would not mind the author writing more horror.
Will the series end here? Well, Nicola has actually put a name to her love, but they’re still not actually married, so who knows? Till then, this doesn’t have as many dead children as Roll Over and Die, but it makes the deaths count more. (Also, why do I keep bringing up Roll Over and Die in my reviews lately?)