By Yui and Satsuki Sheena. Released in Japan as “Mushikaburi-hime” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris NEO. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Alyssa Niioka.
Last time I wrote about how the author of Bibliophile Princess seemed to be running out of ideas, and that the third book was, in large part, a retread of the first book. Apparently between that book and this one, according to the Afterword, the author’s writer’s block got even worse. So, if nothing else, this shows that sometimes a huge amount of pressure can be good for a person, as the fourth volume of Bibliophile Princess is the best in the series to date. Finally accepting that she can’t simply write the same love story over and over again, this time around politics, which have always simmered in the background of every book, come front and center and put Elianna in a position where she has to make decisions on her own in a crisis. All of this without Chris at her side – he’s busy trying to resolve things with the kingdom’s longtime enemy. And another subplot that’s been burbling underground through all the books finally comes to the surface, and it’s terrifying.
Elianna is being sent to Ralshen, a region that, for historical, political, and religious reasons does not have the best relationship with Sauslind. She’s taking Chris’ place as he’s negotiating some sort of peace deal with the war-loving Maldura. A lot of the nation’s past is explained to Elianna (and the reader) in this book; she’s already aware of it, of course, but needs to see how this affects things politically. There’s also a couple of examples of failed marriages, in particular one between a King and a Queen who disagreed over policy decisions, and Elianna is asked, if she and Chris came to such a crisis, what would she do? She’s not sure, frankly, and I don’t blame her – she’s only just come to terms with her feelings for Chris, and so far they’re pretty much agreed about most things.
We meet one of Elianna’s childhood mentors – a friend of her grandfather’s who she calls “Grandpa Teddy”, he’s also a general who has seemingly been supporting her relationship with Chris. But that ends here, and you are once again thrown up against the fact that the Bibliophile Princess world is so political that marrying for love is not something that can happen very often. Elianna finds her upcoming marriage to Chris is also a political marriage, and one that, in the past, has always led to war. She’s not going to let that happen, but it’s hard to buck tradition. Along the way, there’s mysteries to solve, which allows her to do the now-traditional scene where she looks at a book – or, in this case, a painting – and tells everyone what really happened. As for the crisis at the end, I won’t spoil, but it’s been hinted at since the beginning, and leads to an especially nasty cliffhanger.
There is a fluffy short story at the end, taking place mostly about 2 years prior to the main action. It’s OK, but honestly after that cliffhanger it feels out of place. In the meantime, Bibliophile Princess has grown up, much like its heroine, and I can’t wait to see where Vol. 5 takes us.