By Miyako Tsukahara and Satsuki Sheena. Released in Japan as “Suterare Reijō wa Renkinjutsu-shi ni Narimashita. Kaseida Okane de moto Tekikoku no Shō o Kōnyū Shimasu” by PASH! Books. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by piyo.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book try to get the reader to abandon it and walk away quite as much as the start of this book. First off, and this is less the fault of the author than the fact that English-speaking fans are VERY tired of this by now, the very first chapter is called “The Abandoned Heiress Purchases a Slave Swordsman”. Those of you following the Sugar Apple Fairy Tale anime will know how this goes, but it’s still a side-eye moment. Things are not improved by the two leads snarking at each other egregiously for the first 40 or so pages – indeed, Chloe’s banter feels very forced and unnatural. Then, as you read on, you realize that this is not a fault with the writing but a fault with Chloe, and things get a lot more interesting. It’s not a must-read, but by the end of the book I was perfectly satisfied.
Chloe is an alchemist, and she’s just purchased Julius so he can help her kill monsters, which will get her materials so that she can do more alchemy and make more money. Both have tragic pasts. Chloe was a duke’s daughter, but when her stepsister arrived she became the unfavorite, and then when her father was accused of crimes and executed, she was thrown out onto the street. Julius, meanwhile, was a general for another country, and as part of the peace agreements was sold to the enemy and forced to fight in an arena for three years. Chloe responds to all this by keeping up an optimistic, cheery front that hides a very fragile young woman, while Julius has simply given up on life altogether. Fortunately, both are very good for each other, and they’ll have to rely on each other more as it turns out that Chloe’s past is still very much in the present.
This is the first of a series of books Cross Infinite World licensed from PASH!, best known here for the Kuma Bear novels, and it’s not a bad choice. I enjoy unreliable narrators, so seeing Chloe’s chipper yet slightly fake running monologue and constant praising of herself made me look for something more, and I was rewarded. Julius, meanwhile, is a jerk to Chloe at first, in the best shoujo manga tradition, but, like the better shoujo manga with that trend, he gets better. The book is very much a ‘game’ fantasy in the way that monsters, when they die, happen to drop labeled items you can use in alchemy, but honestly, that’s par for the course now. Its biggest flaw may be that it’s a stand-alone – there’s hints of Chloe’s alchemy mentor that go nowhere, and the eventual bad guy doing all this gets away and things stay unresolved. So in terms of plot it’s not great. But in terms of romance it’s absolutely fine.
That said, there does appear to be a second book in the series due out in Japan in March. Till then, if you like disgraced heroines falling for hot guys with sharp tongues, this is a good choice.