The Applause of Marielle Clarac

By Haruka Momo and Maro. Released in Japan as “Marielle Clarac no Kassai” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris NEO. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Philip Reuben.

This is another one of those volumes where all I want to talk about is the last quarter of the book, but I will try to restrain myself. This is not to see the main storyline is not good or interesting, as it’s very good. As you can imagine with that title, the story revolves around the theater, as an acting troupe that Marielle and her husband go to see is suddenly interrupted by a threatening message… from Lutin! Or is it? This doesn’t seem like his style. We know Lutin is around because his master, Prince Liberto, is there to meet his fiancee Henrietta, one of the princesses of the kingdom. Everything seems great there… till Henrietta notices that Liberto always has a mask of “charming smile” going on, and begins to worry that she has no clue how he really things. Marielle needs to solve both these problems, and she does so with her usual talent of getting involved, accidentally stealing evidence, getting captured, and flirting with her husband.

Marielle is growing up in some ways, and I can’t really call her a scatterbrain anymore. Indeed, as we see near the end of the book, her ability to analyze and lay bare the emotional turmoil around romance is second to none. That said, to Simeon’s frustration, she’s always going to get involved in potentially lethal situations, because that’s just the sort of series that the two of them are in. It was amusing to see that, after going undercover, escaping, getting caught and interrogated by Lutin, and falling asleep in a cold room, she finally comes down with a bad cold, something she was proud of never having had before. (I thought at first it might be signs that she’s pregnant, but if that happens it’s not in this book.) She’s the very model of an amateur detective, and everyone has basically stopped trying to discourage her from this and instead they use her as sort of a guided missile of “trouble follows her” to get to the bottom of things.

The mystery is solved way before the end of the book, and we’re left with the last quarter, where everything is taken to another level. Henrietta is having a nervous breakdown over the fact that she can’t tell what her fiancee is thinking, and the solution is apparently to have her (and her allies, including Marielle and Julianne) locked in a tower with only one high window, which Liberto must scale to prove his love for her (and also to show that he can make faces other than “pleasant smile”). This works even better than planned, as Marielle’s plan is essentially to humiliate him until he snaps, and it works beautifully. This is topped by his true feelings towards his fiancee, which are entirely political and not romantic in nature… something she promptly accepts. It wasn’t that she worried he didn’t love her, it was that she worried she had no idea what he thought AT ALL. Now that he’s said what he thinks, a steady foundation can be built.

So all in all an excellent volume, and I don’t even mind that these books tend towards the lengthy. It’s worth it to spend more time in Marielle’s head.

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