By Sarasa Nagase and Mai Murasaki. Released in Japan as “Akuyaku Reijo Nanode Rasubosu o Katte Mimashita” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Taylor Engel.
Generally speaking, the best types of isekai stories (and villainess stories) are the ones that actually try to do something with the format beyond “I have memories from Japan”. In particular, villainess stories that examine what exactly it means to be that sort of character I’ve found to be a cut above, and this book definitely falls into that category. For all that we hear about girls constantly playing otome games with villainesses who sneer and plot at the heroine, the game never gets into how they grew up to be that sort of person. Why would it? The villainess is an obstacle to be overcome. But villainess light novels do have that opportunity. What’s more, as with male-driven isekai novels that show the hero amassing a loving harem and having amazing OP powers, the villainess books are also fantasy-driven… but the fantasy tends to be “have men actually respect me” and “start my own successful business”. It knows its core audience.
The start of this book may seem a bit familiar to readers of this genre. Aileen suddenly realizes she has memories of her past life from Japan, where she played an otome game called Regalia of Saints, Demons and Maidens. Unfortunately, this comes back to her while she’s being publicly dumped and shamed by her fiancee. And now she recalls that the next steps are getting disowned and dying in the slums. PASS! Trying to figure out a way out of this mess, and with her sadistic father being of very little help, she decides to confront her fiancee’s older brother, the titular final boss and also the demon lord. It takes a while to win him over, and she often has to rely on pure moxie, but she does it. Unfortunately, bad things keep happening. The business she started has been taken from her. Everyone insists she’s trying to kill Lilia, the heroine. And most annoyingly, her otome game memories are faint, and only come up after the bad end has begun. can she manage to survive?
Aileen definitely falls on the ‘smart and savvy’ end of the villainess scale, though as with ALL entries in this genre she tends to be somewhat oblivious about men falling for her and their being jealous of other men. There’s very little downtime in this book, as she realizes that if she doesn’t fix everything FAST, she’s going to die. I really enjoyed the scenes with her father, which help to explain a lot of her personality. He’s twisted and enjoys seeing her suffer – mostly to see the look on her face. Actually, that’s a running theme in this book – the demon lord also says he wants to see her cry, probably because she’s normally so together and adept at everything. She also has a lot of allies who stick around even after her public shaming… though for once this does NOT include the heroine, who… well, let’s just say she’s no Maria Campbell.
This series is 8 volumes long so far in Japan, which is worrying as this also suffers from another issue common to villainess novels: it feels complete in one book. That said, we do know that most of the events here take place on the first “route” of the game. Will she have to deal with other bad boys? Honestly, she can probably take them. In the meantime, enjoy a strong entry in the Villainess sweepstakes – it’s even getting an anime soon.