By Nobiru Kusunoki and Arico. Released in Japan as “Herscherik” by M Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by afm.
The last two volumes of the Herscherik books have had the subtitle refer to a new vassal that is the focus of that particular book, so you might be coming into this one wondering who the Hero of Light is going to be. But no, Herscherik has a full army of weapons in his cache now, both in terms of the men he has at his side and also his family, who are increasingly rebelling more and more against the chains of Marquis Barbosse. He has tried assassinating the royal family to depress the King into doing his bidding, he has tried introducing lethal drugs into the kingdom, and he has tried using his own daughter in a plot to kill Herscherik, one that ends in her own death instead. And yet here is Herscherik, a literal seven-year-old running rings around him. Of course, the reader knows that’s because he has the mind of a brilliant Japanese middle manager in hi, but no one ELSE knows that. So there’s only one thing left to do: send Herscherik off to die in war.
Yes, in an incredibly convenient coincidence, the country next door has decided to amass a huge invasion force at the border, so the army needs to take their much smaller force and go investigate. Barbosse suggests that Herscherik should go, despite being seven, as … well, he comes up with excuses over and over as to why no one else in the family should go, to the point where by now everyone in the room is aware he’s doing his best Snidely Whiplash imitation. But that’s fine by Hersch, who has also decided to stop pretending to be an innocent seven-year-old and act his age + his reincarnated age. As a result, they head off into an obvious trap and, well, get ambushed. Surprise! That said, Herscherik is a good two or three steps ahead of Barbosse here, and, of course, has Kuro, Orange, and Weiss, who together are the equal of at LEAST one invading army.
The book reads as if the editor said “you know those scenes you always get near the end of a book that make the reader punch the air? Could you fill the book with them?”. Every confrontation is a joy, and while sometimes the plot does verge on the ridiculous (I will give the fall from the cliff a pass because every book needs at least one hand wave) other parts are very well crafted, bringing in events from the first three books and tying them together, and also answering the very obvious question we’ve had for some time: given Barbosse can kill off the royal family with impunity, why hasn’t he done away with the youngest prince? The book is also very good about talking about the difference between doing what’s right for the nation and doing what you personally want to do, and how even Hersch finds that hard to handle at times. And, as I mentioned before, the dramatic confrontations are to die for. (Literally, sometimes.)
The series is not over, and reassuring us that we’re still only in the prologue of the Tales of the Prince (though we do meet the author of the books here, a scrub in the army trying to survive so he can send his pay back to his family), but this book definitely closes the book on the plot that’s run through the previous three. Where does it go from here? We shall see. Till then, enjoy a fantastic light novel series that makes the reincarnation isekai bits work well and also not be overused.