By Nozomu Mochitsuki and Gilse. Released in Japan as “Tearmoon Teikoku Monogatari” by TO Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by David Teng.
I’m not sure how long Tearmoon Empire is supposed to be, or even if the author has an ending in mind. Certainly Vol. 12 is due out in Japan soon, so we’re not anywhere close to the end at the moment. And yet it feels that we have at least started to hit the back half of the series, if only because we’re getting flash forwards that aren’t always depressing nightmares. The last couple of volumes of Tearmoon Empire have shown us glimpses of the main cast in the original world after Mia is executed, and this volume has one as well. It’s meant to show us all the good that Mia has done her second time around, even when she doesn’t always realize it. But here we also start to see flashforwards that seem to be the ACTUAL happy future, showing us an older Mia still happily running rings around everyone even if the narrator insists that she’s being a selfish coward. I really enjoyed reading them.
We pick up right where we left off at the end of the previous book, with Mia and company trying to stop Prince Sion from being poisoned by his younger brother. They succeed at this… accidentally, but the actual poisoning that happens is much worse, and requires everyone (but particularly Tiona and Citrina) being incredibly quick-witted. After the fallout from this, there’s still a massive party with nobles to attend to, so Sion and Abel decide to fight for Mia’s hand once and for all in a sword duel. Which comes as a big surprise to Mia, who as usual in matters of the heart seems to act like a girl her age. That said, when Sion actually confesses to her, she knows that this isn’t something she can actually brush off or deflect, and gives him an honest, sincere answer. Even the narrator is (mostly) silent here.
Tiona spent most of the start of this series either absent or barely appearing, which was a surprise given the role that she had in Mia’s original timeline. But gradually she’s grown in importance as a character, and here we see what Mia’s actions have wrought, which is that she and Sion have now had enough character development that they can genuinely confide in each other. While Tearmoon Empire isn’t quite a “villainess” book per se, and is not derived from an otome game, Tiona absolutely fulfills the “heroine of an otome game” archetype, including being able to see past noble bullshit and get to the heart of the matter. As for Mia, she’s getting smarter by the book. I especially loved when Citrina praised her for her foresight in finding the antidote mushroom, and Mia briefly debated taking credit for it, but decided to tell Citrina that it really was just pure coincidence. I’m hoping that in future books we can see her be even more honest with others about her real motives, though the basic premise of the book tells me I won’t see it too often.
This was an absolute banger of a book, wrapping up this arc in fine fashion, and with several real dramatic moments. Next time we’ll be going to The Valley of Horses, but hopefully not in a Jean M. Auel way, and presumably we will slowly set up the next arc but not pay it off. These books are long, as are the arcs.