Crest of the Stars: A War Most Modest

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.

When we left Jinto and Lafier, he was locked up in an evil Baron’s swank apartment along with the evil Baron’s sympathetic father. What follows for the next third or so of the book is a well-executed action movie, as we get escapes, chases, battles to the death, a clever use of propellant, and the two of them reunited and on their way once more. Unfortunately, it would appear that “drop Jinto off and continue on her merry way” is just not in the cards for Lafier, as the delay means that there’s now a huge war that they have to somehow get through. They’re able to evade pursuit in space, but that won’t last long, so they land on a planet that, it turns out, has just been captured by the enemy. Now they have to hide out, disguise the fact that Lafier is Abh, and try to get back off the planet and to safety. But they’re both smart kids. What could possibly go wrong?

It has to be said, the best reason to buy this volume is Jinto and Lafier’s pathetic attempt at being on the run. They are the worst wanted criminals ever, made even more silly when they hold up some joyriders and steal their car, then… hole up in the first inn they find for days at a time, thinking everyone will simply ignore them. This is very much played for laughs, though it’s more of a wry smile sort of laugh (that said, I was amused at Lafier trying subtly to convey to Jinto that she needed privacy to go to the bathroom, though I could have done without the author patting himself on the back in the afterword). By the time the resistance shows up to “kidnap” them, you’re ready to thank God that someone can save these idiot kids from themselves. Perhaps the crusty old cop who’s being forced to work with the planet’s new conquerors might help as well.

We get an origin story of the Abh here from Lafier, who’s rather matter-of-fact about it but it’s still pretty dark. There are also a few scenes away from our star couple, as we see the Empress of the Abh dealing with the human ambassadors “negotiating” with her, which goes about as well as you’d expect. You can see that the Abh are upset about Lafier’s supposed death, or at least as upset as Abh are allowed to get. And the war also seems to be coming towards them, though I suspect they won’t be so easily rescued. A lot of Japanese science-fiction has that old-fashioned space opera feel to it, and this is no exception. The Abh tend to be a fill-in for Japan at times, so it’s no surprise that they’re being shown as the good guys, but the author tries to make it clear how that appears to everyone else. It’s just the narrative sides with them.

Again, this is a good work of science fiction, and doesn’t feel like a light novel at all. It’s worth it as a real change of pace for those who are tired of isekai. Also, nice hat.

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