Raven of the Inner Palace, Vol. 3

By Kouko Shirakawa and Ayuko. Released in Japan as “Kōkyū no Karasu” by Shueisha Orange Bunko. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Amelia Mason.

This volume delves deeper into why everyone insists that the Raven Consort always be alone. Throughout the book we see Jusetsu just generally being nice to people and helping them with their personal trauma. She’s a good egg. And she’s also gaining another bodyguard here, even though he may be a spy (or a double agent… it’s that kind of book). She might even get in more ladies-in-waiting, though I think Jiujiu might have something to say about that. She’s growing closer to the emperor, though I don’t think she really realizes what those feelings are yet. (It doesn’t help that she has to have jealousy explained to her, and doesn’t get it.) That said, the end of the book is worrying. Having good friends is fine, especially as the emperor is going to work on saving Jusetsu. But the way some people are reacting to her actions is beginning to look a bit like worship. And, as we see in this book, new gods are not always a good thing.

As with the previous books in this series, there are four chapters, each of which has a self-contained “mystery” but each also adds to the larger narrative. A lady-in-waiting is being haunted by a ghost, but the ghost is just standing there and not doing anything. An ancient ghost wanders the inner palace lamenting… but if the ghost is so ancient, why has it only started appearing this last week? A scholar new to the palace has a ghostly arm pulling on his sleeve, trying to stop him from… something. And, as is traditional with this series, the book ends with one of the consorts near death, this time because of a cursed item that was actually meant to kill Jusetsu. Throughout all this, Jusetsu takes care of the problem while struggling to come to terms with her need for people around her.

The best part of the book is its emphasis on the fact that people have more than one side to them, and that just because you had a bad time because of something that someone else did does not mean they meant you to have a bad time. The lady-in-waiting;s ghost was upset with her for fleeing while they were left to die… but they also told her to flee out of love. This also allows Jusetsu to come to terms with her mother’s own sacrificial actions, which were meant to save her even as they also made her suffer. As for the horror part of the book, there’s less of it this time around. It was a bit eerie how one of the supporting characters was revealed to not really exist and just smiled and said “Yup, bye”. And the resolution of the third chapter was basically “well, now I know why I have a ghost, but I can’t stop what I’m here for, so welp”, which is realistic but unsatisfying.

The book overall remains an excellent read for fans of “emperor’s palace” books and dark mysteries.

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