By Kuji Furumiya and Chibi. Released in Japan by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Sarah Tangney.
It has become increasingly rare in the Japanese light novel world to find a straightforward novel that can be called “fantasy”. Oh, the light novel market is riddled with fantasy novels, to the point where, 3-4 years ago, having anything licensed with non-supernatural content was a huge surprise. But they’re not the sort of fantasy I mean. Either they’re all based around game mechanics, or they’re literally trapped in a game-style worlds. And then there’s the Infinite Isekais, be it reincarnated souls or just “I was in my classroom and now I have a sword and three hot young girls” sorts. But there is something to be said for simply having a normal fantasy. Magic has rules, yes, but they aren’t the rules of Casting from MP. Our hero has a curse, but it’s not draining his HP bar. And that’s what we’re getting with Unnamed Memory, the story of a prince with a curse and the witch who’s trying to break it, and also the story of how the two of them are made for each other, even if she’s not admitting it yet.
Prince Oscar is our hero, and he has a curse: a witch cursed his family when he was a boy so that any woman who had his child would die. Now 20 years old and one of the strongest in his kingdom, he goes to another witch, rumored to grant any wish to those who can climb to the top of her tower, and ask her to break the curse. That said, once he meets the witch, Tinasha, he has a better idea: she can marry him, as witches are strong enough to break this curse. She refuses to do that, but she does agree to spend the next year with him at the castle, at first as the “witch’s apprentice” and then, once her cover is blown, out in the open. Over the course of the book they solve mysteries, defeat ancient evils, fend off threats from other countries, and banter. The banter is the reason to read the book.
First up, I will say I wish that we’d had a bit more depth to Oscar at first. We get to know him a bit better as the book goes on, but at first I trusted him about as much as Tinasha does, and it’s easy to see why she brushes off his constant attempts to get her to marry him. Tinasha fares slightly better, although her past is also mostly suggested in this first book. There’s also a couple of unpleasant scenes, one being a dream – brought on by the drug of another witch – which leads to him having to strangle Tinasha, a rather ugly solution I thought could be handled differently, as well as one attempted assault on her when Oscar gets jealous. I mention these as the things I didn’t enjoy, mostly because the rest of the book is otherwise excellent. A very good supporting cast, some cool battle scenes, and the interplay between the main cast is very well done indeed. The book reads smoothly and makes you want more.
So I wasn’t over the moon with it, and I think I need another book or two to like Oscar as much as the author wants me to, but otherwise I can see why this was one of the most anticipated LNs of the year. Especially recommended for those tired of the usual game stats light novels – this has none of that.