I Want to Escape from Princess Lessons, Vol. 1

By Izumi Sawano and Miru Yumesaki. Released in Japan as “Kisaki Kyōiku kara Nigetai Watashi” by PASH! Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Camilla L.

I went into this wanting to like it. I’d heard rumors that it was being disparaged on forums because it had one of THOSE shoujo boyfriends. You know, controlling, possessive, etc. The sort that seemed to be in every title from Viz Media circa 2002. The rumors are not QUITE true… OK, they’re maybe half true, but that’s not why this book doesn’t work. The book doesn’t work, chiefly, because its heroine is a dimbulb, and not in the fun way. She wants to be Katarina Claes, but she’s just too manic, too aggravating, and the eccentricities that are supposed to explain why everyone is doing this after ten years just read like her not bothering to try to deal with anything at all. Add to this a writing style that screams “I’m so wacky!” every page, a big brother that makes the sadistic prince look like a cupcake, and the standard “anytime I am embarrassed, I overreact in a ridiculous way” character tic, and this is hard going.

Leticia is a duchess who has been engaged for the last ten years to Clarke, the crown prince. This means she has been getting grueling lessons in how to be royalty for those last ten years. So when she spots her fiance with Brianna, a buxom black-haired beauty, she leaps to the conclusion that their engagement is broken (perhaps she’s read this plot in 87 other light novels) and immediately flees the palace, flees her house, and flees to a backwater part of the country, where she plans to climb trees, fish, and do all the other things that she was never able to do when she was a princess in training. There’s just one problem. She’s still engaged. Clarke really, really, really loves her. And now she’s coming back with him, and will not be allowed to escape once more. Even though she keeps trying. Again and again and again.

I hate reading too much into this plot, because it’s clearly meant to be a broad comedy, and everyone in it should be treated as a caricature. But the moment you try to apply a realistic lens to any of this, it becomes desperately horrible. We only see one flashback of the “princess lessons” themselves, but they’re apparently so brutal that they essentially shut Leticia down for ten years, to the point where she doesn’t even listen or react to people in any normal way. Um… that sounds like abuse? Clarke, at least, calls off the lessons once she is captured. As for Clarke himself, the book can’t decide if he’s a sweet lovestruck prince pretending to be a yandere sadist, or if he really is a yandere sadist. Oh yes, and the entire plot is resolved by the 112th page, meaning the last third of the book is a series of after stories giving us various short clips of what comes next, all with the same thrown together style.

On Twitter I called this the stupidest light novel I’d ever read, which ended up not being quite true. The plot did justify itself within its own framework. But boy was this a chore to get through. Somehow there’s a Book 2, which actually might be better than the first, as it focuses on Brianna, the gold-digging girl who keeps hanging around even after her role in the “plot” is long since dispensed with. That said, it’s not enough for me to read it.

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