The Executioner and Her Way of Life: The Cage of Iron Sand

By Mato Sato and nilitsu. Released in Japan as “Shokei Shoujo no Virgin Road” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jenny McKeon.

This series continues to go back and forth between things I quite enjoy and things that kind of irritate me, and in this book they’re about fifty-fifty, meaning it gets a reluctant recommendation. There’s far less Akari in here than I’d like, though her scene with Momo was the highlight of the book, and promises good things for the book after this. We also get an amusing new addition to the cast, a colleague of Menou’s who seems to be a airheaded flirt, though it’s implied throughout that this personality is a front. Which is a shame, as I liked it better than the personality that showed up later. There’s lots of cool fights, all of which seem to point to the value of “being pretty good at everything because of working really hard” rather than “has an innate natural gift”. Which I’d appreciate more if it was not undercut by the implication that the supposedly hardworking woman is in reality Very Special Indeed.

Menou and Akari are making their way through the desert, which turns out to be another area that was completely devastated because of a Japanese isekai gone horribly wrong. Things start off badly as Akari has already been kidnapped as the book begins, and Menou has to infiltrate a criminal organization to rescue them. There she runs into an old colleague from the orphanage, Sahara, and the three of them proceed to a nearby oasis city, with Menou now having to suffer the attention of *twp* bokes. Arriving at the city, she and Momo get the help of Princess Ashuna, who is essentially in this book to be cool and not much else. Unfortunately, she and Menou have to fight off a dangerous crime lord, so Menou sensibly leaves Akari back at the hotel. Which ends up being the biggest mistake she makes in the book.

The problem I have with Sahara is likely down to the character skewing away from my tastes. I really like the ‘sleepy ditzy flirt’ sort of character, and when Sahara is revealed to in fact be a ball of jealousy and envy, I wonder what the point was in having her be likeable for 3/4 of the book at all except to annoy me. Then again, when the reverse happens – i.e. when Akari gets her suppressed memories back – I actually tend to like her more, so hey. And yes, everyone is angry at Menou for being ‘the chosen one’, and Menou keeps insisting that she’s not all that great and is just a fairly normal person, which is fine except it’s pretty clear that she’s also got a past that’s been completely suppressed. Which just makes me more annoyed.

Basically, it’s hard to like anyone in this series because they could turn into something completely different down the road. I know that “change is a process” is the theme of the books, but there’s a bit TOO much change. Right now, Momo is my favorite character because she’s at least consistent. That said, sure, I’ll read more.

Also, naming the new character in your desert-themed book Sahara is kind of like naming your dog Spot.

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