Crest of the Stars: Princess of the Empire

By Hiroyuki Morioka and Toshihiro Ono. Released in Japan by Hayakawa Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Giuseppe di Martino.

I was excited when I heard that this got picked up by J-Novel Club. I’d read the Tokyopop so long ago that I’d forgotten almost everything about it, but I definitely remember enjoying it. It’s old-school science fiction, the sort that not only introduces you to the main characters but also builds an entire political galaxy, delves deeply into engineering and battle terms, and also invents an entire alien language for the reader to immerse themselves in, complete with not only translations but phonetic pronunciation. It’s also a novel rather than a light novel, so aside from the cover, don’t expect any interior illustrations. As for the story itself, it takes a while to get going, but once Lafier shows up and meets Jinto, things really start to take off, and the last quarter of the book is fantastic. It also leaves you on a cliffhanger, so I’m grateful more is coming.

The book opens on the planet Martin, where the seemingly arrogant and ruthless Abh Empire has just invaded. They basically have a choice – get taken over peacefully or not peacefully. Jinto, the 10-year-old son of the planet’s leader, rapidly discovers that his father not only chooses “peacefully” but also decides to become an Abh noble and leaves the planet… which means everyone suddenly hates Jinto by association. Seven years later and a far calmer and mellower Jinto has been going to schools to learn about his new status as an Abh (albeit not by genetics) and is ready to begin life as a quartermaster. He’s met by a young woman who is, like all people born Abh, gorgeous, and who also seems stunned he doesn’t recognize her. As a result, she asks him to call her Lafier, and they get on like a house on fire. Of course, this assumes that he can make it to his new position, as suddenly the Abh are under attack by the Human Empire.

I will get a few things out of the way here. First of all, it’s Lafier with an r, which is not what I’m used to from prior releases. It didn’t take too long to get used to it, through. The same cannot be said for the vocab peppered throughout the book, which is a LOT. At the start of the book every third word seems to get its own alien term, pronunciation guide, and English equivalent, and after a while it can verge on annoying. That said, it really does help to sell the Abh as a different culture. Plus as the book goes on previous alien terms are merely put in bold type, so you don’t actually have to deal with learning the words too much. The main reason to read the book, as I said, is Jinto and Lafier. They’re both great, immediately likeable personalities, and they bounce off each other well. The last quarter of the book has them dealing with a self-serving baron (who has his own harem, something that is NOT painted as a good thing) and I can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance.

There’s also some good, moving writing here as well, particularly in the doomed space battle 2/3 in. If you want some nice chunky sci-fi with lots of alien terminology, it’s absolutely worth checking out. Just don’t let the vocab lessons get you down.

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