The Holy Grail of Eris, Vol. 1

By Kujira Tokiwa and Yu-nagi. Released in Japan as “Eris no Seihai” by GA Novels. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Winifred Bird.

If you think the cover art suggests a villainess story, you’re right, though this is once again a variation rather than a straight up “reincarnated as the otome game villainess” sort. That said, almost all those books, as well as many of the variations, have the same kind of scene in it. Usually near the start. Our villainess finds herself at a party or ball, surrounded by men who are sneering at her with hatred and contempt, accusing her of terrible bullying towards the “heroine” of the game itself. This public shaming usually kickstarts the plot in some way or another. But wait, I hear you say. I love those kinds of scenes, the ones that show the dark and seedy undercurrent of nobility. What if I could have an entire book filled with them? And also make it a detective thriller? If you are this sort of reader, the Holy Grail of Eris is hear for you. There’s escapades, and murder attempts, but mostly there’s so much vitriol you could probably start a glassmaker’s shop.

Constance, aka Connie, is our heroine, and frankly, she’s a bit of a drip. Her father, a viscount, is known for being sincere and honest at all times, aka an easy mark. The family is deep in debt. But it’s OK, as she’s engaged to the son of a wealthy businessman… who, unfortunately, is currently having an affair with another noblewoman. All this comes to a head at a party where Connie is shamed and accused in the proper Villainess Novel way. Sadly, she has no one to come to her aid… or so she thinks. Enter Scarlett Castiel, a duke’s daughter who was executed ten years ago for attempted assassination of the (current) Queen. Scarlett possesses Connie and solves the problem by means of a photographic memory and a heaping tablespoon of “being a magnificent bitch”. However, now Scarlett demands Connie’s help in return… to find out what REALLY happened ten years ago!

Not gonna lie, this is a heaping helping of fun, despite the almost obligatory child slavery ring subplot. (In the book’s favor, none of the main cast buy a slave.) Connie and Scarlett are both very flawed heroines, and while together they can just about solve some mysteries, Connie tends to be easily caught and also terrible at lying. But this makes them endearing and easy to root for – we’re not getting any powerhouse OP villainesses here. The other characters are also most arrogant nobles, but they come in various shades, including our love interest, who is a standard Japanese romance novel type, but I don’t dislike that. I also loved the character of Abigail O’Brien, who is several times compared and contrasted with Connie herself and also seems to be an underworld boss and super Madam (in the capitalized sense of the word).

This is supposedly over at three volumes, though a fourth one appeared in Japan last month as a digital-only book. That means we are unlikely to linger too long on the central mystery or what the Holy Grail of Eris is (the fact that Connie’s last name is literally Grail does not come up in the text, and may just be there for flavor). Still, if you like mysteries where the heroine spends most of her time getting caught, and everyone being absolutely terrible to everyone else, this is a winner.

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