By Kureha and Yamigo. Released in Japan as “Fukushuu wo Chikatta Shironeko wa Ryuuou no Hiza no Ue de Damin wo Musaboru” by ArianRose. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by David Evelyn.
I was excited to read this one, but unfortunately I think it ended up a bit of a mess, for several reasons. It certainly improves after the first section, which is good, as I was tempted to drop it ten pages in. Our heroine is Ruri, who is pretty, smart, has a mother who’s a model, etc. The trouble is she has a “best friend” named Asahi, who clings to her like a limpet… and whenever Asahi’s around other people, they start to love Asahi and hate Ruri. As a result, her life has been miserable, with various attempts to get away from Asahi always meeting with failure. This even includes accidentally getting transported to another world. Ruri ends up there, but so do Asahi and four of her classmates… and now the kingdom they’re in is hating on Ruri too. Will being exiled to certain death in the forest actually improve Ruri’s life? And where are the Dragon King and the White Cat in all of this?
I had several issues with this book, but let’s start with the biggest, which is Asahi. She’s meant to be annoying, and I am grateful she only shows up at the start and the finish (I started calling her “C-Ko” after a while.) But her passive powers mean that, as Ruri herself says, she’s ruined Ruri’s life but can’t be actively blamed for it. She has some sort of passive brainwashing power and isn’t aware of it. This is annoying, as she’s not really evil, just aggravating and oblivious. To a reader, that’s worse. Things are not helped by the Kingdom they find themselves in, populated by humans in a world of demi-humans and beastmen. The King and his Head Priest are so cartoonishly evil that Yosemite Sam would be telling the writer to make them more nuanced. Now, it’s possible that Asahi is getting an important character arc ahead, which this sets up for. But somehow I doubt it.
The rest of the book is better, though still variable. The second large chunk, showing Ruri living in the woods with an elder Dragon woman and learning that she’s got piles of mana and is beloved by spirits, is important because it shows us she’s not really cranky all the time except around Asahi… but it also takes a long time. It’s not until over halfway through the book that we get to the Dragon King’s land, and Ruri ends up as a White Cat. Though she can turn back when she wants, so even this was slightly less than I expected. The not-romance between the Dragon King (who’s drawn to her but thinks she’s a cat) and Ruri (who, having heard humans are hated here, is not willing to change back) is sort of sweet but also potentially troubling.
Things are set up for a climax where Ruri’s true form is revealed, she stops the war, and she confronts Asahi and makes her see the truth. Only one of these things happens, and the confrontation is a damp squib. I think I’m so used to light novels that are written as one-shots, which then develop extra books when they get popular, that I was not ready for a book intended to be multi-volume from the start. This means no plots are resolved at the end. There’s potential in the future, which is why I’ll read the next volume, but mostly this book existed to frustrate my expectations.
Also, the revenge is really half-assed. And why is this another isekai with slavery? And… OK, I’ll shut up now.