By Sora Hinokage and Tsukasa Kiryu. Released in Japan as “Loop kara Nukedasenai Akuyaku Reijō wa, Akiramete Sukikatte Ikirukoto ni Kimemashita” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Andria McKnight.
It’s always nice to see a refreshing variation of the old formula. In fact, this book takes two formulas and combines them. Selene starts off by having her engagement broken by her fiance (who is, of course, in love with her younger sister) and has “dark” powers that are typical of a villainess character. We also get the time loop variation, where our heroine keeps dying and resetting, trying to find the timeline where she can live happily ever after. The gimmick here is that Selene was a kind, fairly shy young women who has been desperately trying to find a solution for nine lifetimes, and once she hits the tenth she decides that all this can go to hell. She’s not quite broken, but she’s certainly now jaded and cynical as hell, and perfectly willing to torture her father to the brink of death in order to become head of house. The trouble is, deep down? She’s not THAT bad, really.
Selene is the daughter of her father, head of the Vixent House and a commoner woman. Ever since her younger sister, Soleil, was born, she’s been treated like crap by her family and the servants. Worse still, she manifests the power of Shadow, which is seen as an ill omen – her family are supposed to manifest sun powers. So she’s locked in a room to starve to death. Or murdered. Or she runs away and is killed. Or she kills herself. Nothing she tries can stop bad things from happening and her going back to try again. Now, in this new life, she’s determined to stop playing nice. She quickly gains control of her family and finds that hey, now that she’s powerful and can theoretically kill them all, the servants love her! But she needs to find out why this is happening, so teams up with… a man who doesn’t exist anymore.
There’s a lot to like here. The one weakness in the book, I’d say, is that Selene is of the “stoic, relatively unemotional” style of protagonists, which can be a bit boring in some places where I had hoped for a bit more oomph. That said, there’s absolutely a reason for her to be that way, so I get it. Her not-quite-romance with Dier is fun – they’re “accomplices” rather than anything else, which made me think of Otherside Picnic. The other family heads with power are variations on a stock type, but none of them are overly annoying except maybe the water user who is obsessed with Selene… and even then, the fact that she doesn’t take him remotely seriously helps. The one shoe that hasn’t dropped yet is her younger sister. The only person in her family who seems to love Selene, Soleil, throughout this book, acts like a loving but somewhat ineffectual young girl. But I’ve read these books before, and I just KNOW that in this situation, she’s going to be evil. That may have to wait for the second book, though.
This wasn’t lights out fantastic, but it was a very solid read, and if you like jaded women who nevertheless are still pretty kind at their core, give it a try.