By Shakushineko and Yukiko. Released in Japan as “Betabore no Kon’yakusha ga Akuyaku Reijō ni Saresō nanode Heroine gawa ni wa Sore Sōō no Mukui o Ukete Morau” by Mag Garden Novels. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Mittt Liu.
I am once again thinking about genre when I write these reviews. I am, as you are no doubt aware by now, very fond of the villainess genre as a whole. There are several reasons for this, but one of the main ones is simply that it gives us a female protagonist, something that was nearly unheard of in translated light novels before this point. It’s almost a reaction against the potato isekai guys. Of course, if that is the case, then this book has a big issue, which is that this is the series where it’s the prince, for once not inveigled by that sneaky heroine, who is determined to help his sweet-as-pie fiancée. He’s sort of goofy, and not a bad character, but the lack of Elizabeth in this book is a worry. That said, the other part of the premise is quite interesting: what if the “otome game” aspect was in the world itself?
Crown Prince Vincent really loves his fiancée, Elizabeth. Really, really loves her. It’s sort of sickening. Unfortunately, lately things have not been going well, because there’s a new book that everyone at school is reading, Star Maiden. A romance of the “otome game” variety, it features a hero that is clearly Vincent… and Elizabeth as a cruel villainess! What’s more, a new girl at school, Yulisse, is trying to get in close with the prince, just like the book. And events in the book start to magically happen, despite both Vincent and Elizabeth trying their hardest to avoid all contact with Yulisse. What’s really going on here? Will Vincent be forced to publicly denounce his fiancée and break off their engagement at a huge ball? After all, that’s the trope.
I did like the book premise, which, yes, does turn out to involve a reincarnation from Japan, but for once it’s not the villainess or heroine. There’s a lot of political wrangling here, which is mostly good. Harold, the long-suffering aide to Vincent, is also a great character. The trouble is that, in trying to protect Elizabeth, Vincent bars us from learning anything about Elizabeth, whose inner thoughts we are rarely privy to. (This seems to be a family thing, as it’s hinted that his mother is a complete loose cannon, but we get no evidence for this at all.) And there’s also Raphael, one of Vincent’s allies, who is, as the book notes, “a playboy and sadist”. Yulisse can’t stand him, and so while her fate at the end of the book is appropriate given what she was trying to do, it also gives me the creeps. It’s not meant to make the reader assume she’s being sexually abused, but the frisson is there.
So, overall, a mixed bag. And, once again, everything is wrapped up in this book, but there’s a second one due out in the summer. Let’s hope it has a bit more villainess in it.