By Touya and chibi. Released in Japan as “Tensei Sita Daiseijyo ha, Seijyo Dearuko Towohitakakusu” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Kevin Ishizaka. Adapted by Matthew Birkenhauer.
It has to be said, I have a type. They don’t necessarily have to be the heroine (though they certainly are here), but if you get a really strong woman, usually holding a sword, who’s also kind and brave and cheerful… and a bit dumb? Let me tell you, that is my meat and potatoes. So as you can imagine, I was delighted to find that Secret saint offered me a full-course mean of ditzy strong girl. Now, this doesn’t mean the book is excellent. Like a lot of light novels of this sort, if you try to examine the actual plot it ends up having a lot of holes to poke through. But if you don’t, you get the story of a young girl who, near death, ends up getting memories of her past life as a powerful Saint, and her attempts to secretly use that power to help herself while also keeping it a secret from everyone else. Except… she’s terrible at this.
Fia, the youngest daughter in a family of knights, has not had a very good life so far. She’s trying to follow in her siblings’ footsteps, but despite training constantly, she’s not a great knight. Her father ignores her, her brothers disparage her. Then when she goes on her coming-of-age ceremony, she ends up accidentally healing a monster… who then tears a big hole in her. She then remembers her past as a Saint… and now knows how far Saints have fallen in the last three hundred years. Fortunately, with the knowledge from her past, she not only passes her ceremony with flying colors, but also ends up as a knight guarding the royal family! With her ability to make extra strength healing potions, keen instinct for both monsters and humans, and complete lack of common sense, can she keep everyone from knowing who she is now?
As noted above, the fun part of the book is Fia’s increasingly hilarious attempt to pretend that everything she’s doing is perfectly normal and not suspicious at all. No one really buys it… but she never QUITE lies, and they aren’t really able to read her enough to get a bead on her. Her personality made me happy. That said… first of all, her backstory, both as Fia and in her past life, seems far too brutal for a light, fluffy story like this one. “I can put up with an abusive knight captain because it’s nowhere near the abuse I got from my brothers” is not a good punchline, and it occasionally jars. There’s also the fact that the narrative is not good at telling us how much of this is Fia herself and how much is Fia’s past memories. The implication is that her observational talents and sudden tactical genius is all because of her past, but you could also argue that it merely unlocked something in her all along. It’s confusing and I wish it was delineated better.
But honestly, if you don’t think too hard about it, this is a winner. Fans of My Next Life As a Villainess who wonder what Katarina in an RPG would be like can read this and see: she’s be much the same.