Earl and Fairy: The Elegance of a Villain

By Mizue Tani and Asako Takaboshi. Released in Japan as “Hakushaku to Yōsei” by Shueisha Cobalt Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Alexandra Owen-Burns.

This may come as something of a shock to all of you, but I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to light novels. As such, you’ll need to simply smile and nod when I tell you that my reaction to hearing about the license of Earl and Fairy was not “oh my god it’s a 20-year -old series” or even “oh my god it’s 33 volumes long”. but rather “oh my god it’s a Cobalt Bunko title”. Back in the day, the main reason I became interested in light novels at all was due to an anime – based on a light novel – called Maria-sama Ga Miteru. That was ALSO published by Cobalt Bunko, Shueisha’s novel line for young women. For years, Shueisha light novels were in the “nope” category of license requests, and even after it opened up a bit Cobalt was still “nope”. This is a big deal, folks, and hopefully opens doors. The good news is that the book itself is a classic shoujo potboiler.

Lydia is a bit of an eccentric young woman. Leaving aside her red hair and green eyes (which in England in the time period this is set in means she’s a target of abuse), but she’s also a self-proclaimed “fairy doctor”, trying to follow her late mother. For the most part, no one believes anything she says. Then, when journeying to see her father in the city, she’s kidnapped – and then kidnapped again by a different kidnapper rescuing her from the first kidnapper. Her rescuer is Edgar, a handsome if somewhat jerkass man who not only is the chief suspect in a string of horrible murders but is also possibly the heir to an earldom that has connections to fairies. Only Lydia can help with her fairy knowledge… which Edgar doesn’t really believe in either.

The ‘category’ on my page says this is ‘earl and THE fairy’ because I reviewed the Viz Media manga of this series a long, long, time ago, and they translated it with the extra the. The whole series is old-school shoujo fantasy, and it’s all the more enjoyable for it. Lydia is quick-thinking and intelligent, doesn’t trust Edgar but feels drawn to him anyway, and thankfully is not a constant ball of aggrieved rage, which, frankly, Edgar sometimes deserves. He treats Lydia horribly, but we’re meant to listen more to his two servants, who note how nice and charming he’s being to her rather than resorting to his usual behavior (i.e. threatening to kill). He’s just as drawn in as she is. Also, this is definitely a fantasy, because spoilers, fairies really do exist. The mythology is actually very well done, and there’s nothing here that would scream “this is Japanese” at all. Which may be a good selling point in this era of “long title that is also the plot” books.

I urge people to pick this book up. It’s a good story, buying it means we’ll get more of it, and buying it even more means we might get more Cobalt titles in the future. Less Isekai’d dudes with swords more of this.

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