y Nozomu Mochitsuki and Gilse. Released in Japan as “Tearmoon Teikoku Monogatari” by TO Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Madeleine Willette.
(This review gets a bit spoilery about the fate of one of the main characters, be warned. Though I try to glide over it.)
We’ve seen Tearmoon Empire be a fun comedy, and we’ve seen it be an action thriller, and we’ve seen it be a romance as well. But we really have not seen it as a dark tragedy. Or rather, it’s only been seen in flashbacks to the bad future, where we see the consequences of Mia being unable to save everyone and getting executed. And that’s tended to be more along the lines of “my God, what have I done?” The latter half of this book, though, goes as closely as this series is likely to get into the tragedy mode, and I’m kicking myself that I did not pick up on the ominous foreshadowing in the last volume, which I cheerfully thought was “oh boy, secrets are going to be told once this arc gets finished!”. Unfortunately, this leads to the question of “why won’t secrets actually be told?”, and the answer is possibly “because the person with the secrets is now dead.”
We pick up where the last book left off, with the race between Mia, on her “slow but steady wins the race” horse, and Xiaolei, on her “fastest in the land” horse. If you’re suspecting we’re seeing a retelling of the Tortoise and the Hare fable, you’re pretty much dead on. Mia is, of course, trying her best NOT to win, for various reasons, but we already know how that’s going to go. She does, however, manage to unite the tribes. Which is good, as unfortunately while this was going on Citrina was kidnapped by the Chaos Serpents, led by Abel’s older sister Valentina. Mia goes to rescue her, and oddly she is allowed to take other people with her, such as Abel and Dion. Why, it’s almost like the Serpents’ goal is not merely to kill off Mia but something far more sinister…
This is the second book I’ve read recently that felt like a final volume of the series, enough so that the author needs to assure us it’s not the end. The cliffhanger ending helps, as we’re introduced to what appears to be yet another Tearmoon from the future (?). As for the book itself, Mia is pretty great in it (I always enjoy a good “I won’t let the villains die, that would be too easy on them, they will have to live on” plot), but honestly the emotional lifting is done by Citrina and Bel. I joked on Twitter that since Mia had changed the future so that she doesn’t suffer, Citrina had become Tearmoon Empire’s designated woobie, and it’s not wrong. The other reason that this feels like a final volume is that we get a ton of flashforwards to “the good future”, the one Mia will eventually get to, with everyone alive and married off. It’s nice to actually *see* Grandma Mia rather than just hear about her. As for Citrina… well, I suspect the start of Book 12 will help. At least, I hope so.
I haven’t even mentioned the other high point of the volume, where Valentina tells us what the Chaos Serpents actually are. This was one of the best in the series. And again, the arc ended at the end of the book! Keep it up!