By Makino Maebaru and Yoko Matsurika. Released in Japan as “Torotoro ni Shite Sashiagemasu, Kōtei Heika. Moto Konyakusha ni Ie o Yakareta Tsuihō Miko wa, Ringoku Kōtei ni Chōai Sarete Sainō o Hanahirakaseru” on the Shōsetsuka ni Narō website. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Zihan Gao.
This is the third series we’ve read this year by Makino Maebaru, who is getting along very well with the folks at Cross Infinite World. As you know if you’ve read The Inconvenient Life of an Arousing Priestess, or The Invisible Wallflower Marries an Upstart Aristocrat, this author has a genre, and that genre is the “villainess” version of Cinderella. And sure enough, that’s what we have going on here as well. Our protagonist, doomed by canon to be executed for being evil, is rescued at the last minute by a really hot guy with wings who turns out to be the Emperor of the neighboring country. You know, the normal kind of romance. As for the book itself, it’s solid. It won’t bowl anyone over, but it’s a good novel with a heroine who hates herself a bit too much to notice everyone wants her to be happy.
Sai, reincarnated from Japan, finds that she is living the life of the “evil priestess” from an otome game she liked. Sadly, trying to be really good instead does not work, and she’s quickly falsely accused (the “saint” who was just summoned might have something to do with this) and imprisoned. But right before execution, she is saved by Haruka, who rules over the Orient Empire (the names in this are aggressively unsubtle). He tries to bring her right back, but has used too much mana, so they shelter in a cave. Here she discovers that she has enough mana to help to heal the emperor from his chronic magic fatigue. Then, when she gets to the Orient Empire, she discovers the Wagtail Priestess is beloved there, and she’s given a residence of her own, servants, and a purpose in life. Of course, the Emperor also seems interested in her, but that can’t be right. No one would ever be interested in someone as unsuitable as her.
So yeah, there’s a heaping helping of “abuse survivor” in this. Sai’s life after her parents were killed during a war is pure Cinderella, and by that I mean the evil stepsisters version. Her powers are ignored, she’s used basically as a maid, and her fiance not only belittles her but also hits her. (Some of this turns out to be the work of our “heroine” Saint, Lilly, who may be the most cynical, jaded “evil heroine” I’ve run across in these books.) Because of this, the very idea of people treating her nicely or wanting her to relax and enjoy life is anathema to her, and instead she resolves to work herself to death trying to make things better for the Empire. Of course, as everyone but her realizes, the best thing she could do right now is marry the Emperor. But, baby steps.
All this plus the “my powers make him horny” character tic that we also saw in Arousing Priestess. (I think the author wrote this first, so the influence may go the other way.) If you like romances by this author, this won’t disappoint you.