By Nobiru Kusunoki and Arico. Released in Japan as “Herscherik” by M Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by afm.
After the end of the previous book, things are going pretty well for the Kingdom Formerly Known as In Woe. The King and his sons are running around trying to slowly fix everything that Barbosse broke, and also trying to track down the corrupt nobles who benefited from it (as opposed to those who were just threatened into obedience). Indeed, the previously unseen Sixth Prince has returned, as he was going all around to various countries trying to gain allies and also get enough evidence to get rid of the thorn in their side, only to find Hersch took care of everything first. Herscherik is buried under paperwork, because oh my god there’s SO MUCH potentially crooked stuff to review, but there’s still time to go out to his favorite outdoor market. While there, however, he runs into the grocer he likes, who asks him to talk to two clearly suspicious people – a young red-haired woman and a man disguising his huge wings. Disguising because being a beastman in Gracia is punishable by death.
Those who recall the events of the third book might be looking at the cover of the fifth book and saying “oh dear, I hope this isn’t a trend”, but no, I’d be a lot crankier in my review if it were. For the most part this book is very good, showing off how difficult it can be to take definitive action when you are running a kingdom and have to obey its laws… even when some of the laws have reasons that are lost to the mists of time. Both “Kurenai” and “Ao” (Hersch is still giving codenames to people, and is still terrible at the names) have suitably tragic backgrounds, are suitably broken and fatalistic, and are cheered immensely be Herscherik basically being himself. We also meet the sixth prince’s bodyguard, Tatsu, who comes from a land that sounds very much like ancient Japan… and he seems to know that Kuro is still hiding some secrets. But that’s future Herscherik’s problem. The current one has his hands full trying to stop another self-sacrifice that ends in death.
The book has several sequel hooks, and the afterword has the author hoping to see us again soon. Unfortunately, when series are licensed from Japanese publishers, we do not get guarantees that the series will go on until a proper ending, and rumor has it that the series has been cancelled by the publisher in Japan. This is a shame, as it has a lot of elements that I quite enjoyed, using just the right amount of “I have my memories as an office lady from Japan”, having Herscherik be ludicrously good at political intrigue but also ludicrously bad at physical and magical things, so he always needs allies to kick asses for him, and good guys you want to root for. Perhaps one day we can get more of this, but until then, I’m glad I read what I did. Plus, as the books have a bit of “and in later years” history text to them, at least we know the good guys won down the road.