Walking My Second Path in Life, Vol. 1

By Otaku de Neet and Kurodeko. Released in Japan as “Watashi wa Futatsume no Jinsei wo Aruku!” by Earth Star Entertainment. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Shirley Yeung.

It can be somewhat difficult to recommend light novel series at times, particularly the ones that are licensed over here, which tend to be marketed to the anime/manga fan, and generally speaking the male anime/manga fan. Many is the time I’ve read a series with many points to recommend it, only to have the storyline have a hero who gains about eight other women in love with him, or where the story is fine but the illustrations do nothing but show off the half-naked female form. Even The Faraway Paladin, which is about the closest comparison I can make to the title I’m reviewing, has elements of the classic “reincarnated in another world” story to it, though that lessens as the series goes along. But Walking My Second Path in Life is the first light novel I’ve read, I believe, that I can honestly say: this does not feel like a light novel. It feels like a romance book (with little to no romance) written for the average female North American reader.

Our heroine is the twin sister of the new Queen of a country. In fact, Fie is also, technically, married to the King as well – the twin sisters were a package deal. The problem is that Fie is the Unfavorite, and also has a reputation for being horrible. As such, the King gives her a pavilion of the palace to live in, with servants who one by one quit till she’s left alone to, presumably, starve to death. (The King’s callous motivations are rather ambiguous throughout.) Choosing not to do this, she instead comes across a flyer trying to get squires for the company of knights. She thus decides to cut off her hair, dress as a boy named Heath, and use the rudimentary sword training she got as a princess when someone bothered to give her the time of day to become a knight. The rest of the book is her life as a squire after achieving this, which (despite her best efforts) keeps occasionally intersecting with her old life – not least of which being the identity of her company commander.

The unfortunately named Otaku de Neet (it’s apparently a tortuous kanji pen name, but it leaves the fan who knows those two terms feeling very wary) has done an excellent job with Fie, who is your typical bright, enthusiastic young lad sort… except she (the book uses female pronouns throughout, and also calls her “Fie” in narration- Heath is a secret identity, after all) has a crafty, snarky, mean side to her as well. The mean side to her actually makes up some of the best scenes in the book, such as when she (in a flashback as Princess Fie) beats up rapist pedophiles with impunity, or when she gets around the fact that one of the squires has found out her secret by blackmailing him and treating him as a dog (trust me, it’s far more lighthearted and hilarious than it sounds). She’s a nice person at heart, though, be it Fie or Heath, and the rest of the main cast are also people who, while some are more fleshed out than other, I genuinely enjoy reading about. (I am morbidly curious about the other twin, who Fie never interacts with in this book.)

I won’t spoil some of the other great scenes – suffice to say the entire chapter with Cain is a treasure from beginning to end. I will note there is an attempted rape of an underage servant here, but Fie nips that in the bud before anything can happen. The illustrations are cute and fit the materials quite well. Even the squad member who dresses up as a woman in order to spy on the enemy is treated with (relative) respect and not made into the “comedy gay man”. Plus, since it’s only two volumes so far in Japan, you’re not laying out a lot of cash. I can’t even call it a fantasy – there doesn’t appear to be any magic in this world, it’s just a straight up medieval kingdom sort of world. If you like books with (pardon the expression) strong female leads, I highly recommend this series, possibly the biggest pleasant surprise I’ve seen from J-Novel Club to date.

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