Though I Am an Inept Villainess: Tale of the Butterfly-Rat Body Swap in the Maiden Court, Vol. 1

By Satsuki Nakamura and Kana Yuki. Released in Japan as “Futsutsuka na Akujo dewa Gozaimasu ga: Suuguu Chouso Torikae Den” by Ichijinsha Novels. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Tara Quinn.

As I think I’ve said before, I’m not the biggest fan of bodyswap stories. It’s just a personal squick, and always makes for uncomfortable reading, particularly when one of the people swapped is responsible for it. And also a terrible person. So, as you can imagine, the premise of Though I Am an Inept Villainess did not fill me with glee. That said: villainess book, one of my big genres. Also recommended by the authors of Bookworm AND Apothecary Diaries AND Saint’s Magic Power Is Omnipotent. This book had a huge amount of expectations for me. As always with my reading, it would probably depend on the lead character. How does she react to this? How does she fight back? Also, unique to bodyswap stories: how does the rest of the cast not immediately sense something is off? Especially in a world where bodyswapping IS possible? Well, good news all round: the book passes both tests with flying colors. In fact, the book is amazing.

Reirin is a beautiful court lady beloved and doted on by everyone, though also suffering from illness frequently. A butterfly. Keigetsu is a gangly, freckled, bitchy court lady that everyone hates, mostly as she’s terrible to anyone she doesn’t have to suck up to. A sewer rat. Then one day Keigetsu pushes Reirin over a balustrade… and Reirin wakes up in Keigetsu’s body. Which is now in prison, awaiting execution. She’s been bodyswapped! Worse, thanks to the nature of the swap, she’s physically and mentally unable to explain this to anyone. So, now she’s got to somehow avoid execution – which involves being eaten by a starving lion – and then somehow make a life where everyone hates her and she’s in this… wonderful, healthy, robust body? Meanwhile, Keigetsu discovers that Reirin isn’t just sick a lot, she’s at death’s door most of the time. Whoops.

Reirin is astonishingly good. Her combination of joy and guilt over being able to suddenly do ordinary things like eat fried potatoes all the time is hilarious, of course, but she also gets to unleash the tempered blade that is her personality, honed under years of training to not die from fever at any given moment, and use it to do things like show righteous fury, or spend an entire night sewing a new robe for her attendant (the old robe was damaged when the attendant tried to murder her). We also get the sense that she’s not fully formed yet – there’s a realization towards the end of the book that she always tried to keep everyone at arm’s length and made every conversation as if it would be her last, and she’s just realizing now how sad that is. As for the swap itself, I appreciate how everyone IMMEDIATELY realizes that there’s something up, as Keigetsu’s personality has done a complete 180, but it takes till the end of the book to actually figure out HOW. This means there’s less annoying bodyswap humor, which I always dislike. I will admit I wasn’t as fond of Keigetsu in Reirin’s body, but that’s because her character journey is “oh fuck (slowly begins to die)”.

There is a particularly vicious cliffhanger at the end of this volume, not helped by the extended short story that follows (though the short story is excellent, giving much needed backstory to several characters.) It is going to make waiting rfor the next volume a chore, though, especially as I’m not sure how they’ll keep the bodyswap up. Regardless, I found this book a wonderful read.

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