Spy Classroom: To My Dearest Grete

By Takemachi and Tomari. Released in Japan as “Spy Kyoushitsu” by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Nathaniel Thrasher.

It’s always tricky writing the second volume of what was clearly meant to be a one-volume stand alone. There’s a bit of reshuffling the cards, a lot of “our work is not yet done”. More importantly, we have to find out about the rest of the cast. Spy Classroom 1 was terrific, but it really only gave insight into two of the girls, so we need to get into a few more heads. Here, aside from Lily (who is clearly the ‘main heroine’), we have Grete, who gets the bulk of the heavy lifting and is the planner of the group; Sybilla, who is the straightforward “when all you have is a hammer” type; and Sara, the meek animal lover. Note that none of these are the girl (girls?) on the cover, as she’s elsewhere during the contents of this book, something the author apologizes for. (Indeed, she’s also on the cover of Book 3, which seems excessive.) In any case, these three, plus Lily, get the important mission of helping Klaus take out a spy.

Klaus is not particularly happy about this, as he doesn’t think that any of the girls are ready to do major spy missions – indeed, Lily and Sybilla are poleaxed when they find out that they’re part of the team chosen. As for the mission, well, there’s an assassin going around killing off left-wing politicians. Nicknamed Corpse, he always makes it appear as though they jumped to their death. And next on his list is influential politician Uwe Appel. Grete, Lily and Sybilla arrive at his house pretending to be maids, while Klaus and Sara provide backup. Of course, there are a few tiny problems. Lily is a classic clumsy shoujo heroine, so asking her to be a maid is a reach. The man they’re protecting seems to be angry constantly and find everything wanting, including them. And Klaus really isn’t doing much except giving the occasional piece of advice. Is this really so straightforward?

Of course it’s not – as with the first book, there’s a lot of Christie-style twists that I will try not to spoil. Amusingly, the identity of the villain is not one of them – those are the easy clues left out for the reader to pounce on so that they miss the other stuff. But it’s quite well written (that said, as I’ve noted before,l I tend to be a sucker when I read mysteries, so YMMV). As for characterization, Grete and Sybilla get the bulk of it. We learn their tragic backstories (as does Uwe, who seems to be a lot more savvy than he lets on most of the time) and root for them, particularly Grete, who is not only dealing with her burgeoning love for Klaus but also androphobia (yes, both at the same time). This resolves in a way that made me smile, as the series reaffirms that it’s not gonna be romantic but is instead about family. Which these kids are.

I’m startled how fast I’ve taken to this series. We’re only two volumes in and I’m already putting it up there with my favorite LN series of all time. It’s just a great read, lots of thrilling action and emotional turmoil. And accidental poisoning. All the best light novels have that. In any case, the third book promises to focus on the remainder of the group, and I can’t wait.

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