By Akako and Hazuki Futaba. Released in Japan as “Tensei Shita Akuyaku Reijō wa Fukushū o Nozomanai” by Mag Garden Novels. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by JCT.
Sometimes authors have to admit that they have certain strengths and weaknesses. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for the author themselves to be able to spot what their weakness actually is. Trust me, I’ve yelled at far too many light novel authors who think that falling over into someone’s tits is “funny”. So, I will state up front: the author of this series is not all that good at writing romance. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the book. But I basically enjoyed all the parts of the book that were Mary and Albert waffling around trying to figure out their love a lot less than I did things like all the action sequences, close encounters with certain death, and seeing deep into the mind of our very disturbed antagonist, who is taking game theory far more than it really needs to go. Now, in the end this book remains a romance novel, so you can argue it failed. But the middle bits ARE really good.
The day has been saved, the new king is on the throne, and the need for vengeance (mostly) no longer lies in everyone’s hearts. Sure, Queen Tia is still missing and presumably at large, but that’s a problem for a future date. That said, Mary is trying to decide what to do now, return to the place she grew up or stay as a handmaid to the knights. Then she gets waylaid by Albert, who proposes on the spur of the moment. She clearly has feelings for Albert, but she has fear as well – she worries that he loves Rosemary, and just sees her as a vessel for her soul. So she can’t say yes straight away, but she doesn’t want to say no either. And then, unfortunately, everything collapses as Rosemary’s funeral detail, with Reynaldo guarding her coffin, is attacked by bandits, and Mary herself is facing an assassination attempt. Guess we really do need to concentrate on Queen Tia.
Leaving aside its flaws, the author does some things very well indeed. The dramatic sequences in this book sing, moving at a very fast clip and showing a genuine sense of tension and menace, particularly whenever Queen Tia shows up. We get to know Tia a lot more in this second volume, and she’s just as unpleasant as you can imagine, but unlike a lot of “villainess” books content to make the antagonist rather shallow and one-note, we go deep into Tia disturbing psyche and see how much she truly enjoys seeing others suffer. It’s thus both cathartic and rather disquieting when we also focuses on the moments before her own execution, when she realizes that she won’t be able to manipulate her way out of this one. The one bit of the romance that did interest me was Reynaldo and Mary’s stupid plan to have Mary pretend to lose all of Rosemary’s memories, a scheme thankfully interrupted by the person who should most be dealing with this.
This is the final volume, so happy ever afters all around. Usually I say that a book starts great but tails off, or starts slow and then picks up. This is a rare book where you read it for the middle.