By Nozomu Mochitsuki and Gilse. Released in Japan as “Tearmoon Teikoku Monogatari” by TO Books. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by David Teng.
The structure of this book is slightly off, as the author admits that the story got away from them and the island arc that should have concluded the 2nd “arc” of this story ended up being the first third of this 5th book as well. Still, it works out, as we get to see Mia turn a corner and fend off another of her fates written in a long history book… or at least it was long. Yes, sometimes when you’re trying to stop the bad guys who can mess with the fates, you end up finding that your fate can sometimes get even worse. Now Mia’s not being executed at the guillotine or cut down in her adult years for not being Empress, the history books say she’ll be killed in a few scant months. Can she avoid this fate while continuing to work hard to save her kingdom from famine, win over more allies by being kind and charming, and also eat delicious sweets? The answer should be obvious.
The one thing I took away from this book is that I think Mia handles plots against her, or large conspiracies, much better than sudden random events conspiring against her. When she has to deal with a cave-in, a seemingly deadly fish attacking her, or even just horses sneezing in her face, she seems to always end up on the wrong foot. But the larger, more epic scenarios are where she shines – and yes, by now even the narrator is having trouble saying EVERYTHING she does is due to her selfishness and need to eat sweets, although god knows they try to say so anyway. In her confrontation with Esmeralda, where she sees the traitorous past of their nation as found in a secret underground ruin, stares destiny right in the face, and says “to hell with that”, she really is learning to be a good person – and yes, it’s framed as her having to “deceive” Esmeralda by saying they’re best friends, but I don’t doubt it’s actually going to come to pass. Mia is no longer as passive or luck-driven as she was in past books.
The 2nd half of the book, back at school, is even better. Finding from Bel’s now-changed history book how she’s going to die, she takes steps to avoid it, the first of which is getting even better at riding horses. The way she does this is actually quite clever. You see, she gets up early, practices really hard, learns to read the movements of the horse, and treats them well, even going so far as to help save the life of the pregnant horse that she had been eyeing up as a replacement mount (as opposed to the horse that keeps sneezing on her). See? I told you it was clever. Mia is doing things correctly and doing them well. This culminates in the highlight of the book, where she races Ruby, the daughter of the House of Redmoon, in a Belmont Stakes with one of her retainers at stake. The race is fantastic, with Mia being both very much in character (she’s screaming and whining the entire time) but also incredibly awesome. And we also see her changing history once more, as one reason she was executed her first go-round is that she pissed off Ruby so much she persuaded her father not to support them with military might… something that ended up being fatal to them both. This time around, everyone wins, and Mia’s solution to what to do about Ruby is brilliant. I don’t even care if she wasn’t thinking long-term here. It’s still brilliant.
There are, of course, a few plotholes with the new arc, but they’re acceptable. Miabel did not vanish when Mia’s fate changed, despite the fact that she did not live long enough to have kids, much less grandkids. Even the author acknowledges this is a handwave, but it’s fine, as we also get sweet scenes of Miabel managing to stay her innocent, sweet self even in a bad future where she has to be hidden from the world. That said, Mia is still the star, not her granddaughter, and Mia is the reason that these books keep getting better. I can’t wait for the next one, and I would say that this is essential light novel reading.