Maiden of the Needle, Vol. 1

By Zeroki and Miho Takeoka. Released in Japan as “Hariko no Otome” by Kadokawa Shoten. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Kiki Piatkowska.

This book’s plot and characters have a familiar feel, to the point where the biggest surprise I had in the first volume is that the male love interest has a goatee. So permit me to talk about one of my pet problems with light novels in general, which is that the writers don’t feel content to have antagonists be bad people, they’ve got to be THE WORST PEOPLE EVER. Sure, you could have a simple parent who favors one daughter over the other and just, y’know, frowns when she walks by, but why do that when they can starve her to death, lock her in a room, not teach her anything (which is an issue given the heroine is inevitably a reincarnation from Japan), etc? Oh yes, and let’s make them incompetent as well. And secretly housing possible terror weapons? Hell, even the heroine’s Japanese family was awful. Of course, this means you don’t have to worry when they’re all inevitably executed. Serves them right! Easy peasy.

In Japan, Tsumugi was dealing with an abusive father, a cowed mother, and her joy was hanging out with friends. Then she dies (I assume from the traditional traffic accident) and she is reincarnated as Yui. In this world, which is the traditional sort of fantasy kingdom, her family is supposed to have a special power to weave protective magic. Unfortunately, they’ve fallen on hard times, possibly as they’re all evil (see above), and the first fifteen years of her life are a living hell. Then she’s sold to another merchant for a large sum and, once given adequate food, water, and actual explanations about how things work, turns out to not only be a prodigy but close to a goddess, with her powers being able to heal fairies (the main source of magic here) and also cure fashion faux pas. But will she survive long enough to be acknowledged?

Yui is probably the reason I enjoyed this more than it possibly deserved. She’s a character that has to walk a fine line. She is definitely still suffering the effects of her abuse – even after proper food and water, she still looks thin and years younger than she is, and she has trouble speaking through the entire book, with extended conversations leading to coughing fits simply due to her never speaking before this. But she’s relatively matter of fact about things, not being too excited or too depressed. The book does not have much time to devote to her suffering in any case, as this is 100% the story of Yui being amazing and everyone praising her for being amazing. It’s fairly charming, and never annoyed me the way I’d expect, but this is a book you should only read if you love Cinderella stories, and it definitely has a lot of light novel cliches. In addition to the abusive family, we also get the shy but large-breasted knight, and the maid who loves cute things (including our heroine).

This could easily have ended in one book, but there is apparently a second, as Yui needs to power up so that, when she cuts off ties with her family, she isn’t cursed. I’ll probably pick it up.

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