Maiden of the Needle, Vol. 2

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.

I’m still really enjoying this series, possibly more than it deserves. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, being another variation on the Cinderella story we’ve seen come up a lot in light novels lately. The first volume features Yui being rescued from her terrible fate and given all the love and comfort she’s ever wanted, but the second volume shows that things are not exactly happily ever after yet. There’s still far too many curses around this kingdom, be it from the old king’s late wife or from Yui’s twisted family. But Yui is developing at just the right pace, not abusing her “I’m from Japan” buttons too much, and frankly still unable to eat more than half a plate of dinner or speak for longer than 30 seconds without coughing. I appreciate that the abuse has not gone away no matter how loved she is. As for the rest of the cast, well, this is a book filled with people discovering their old family bonds. Sometimes they were deliberately hidden, and sometimes they were nearly destroyed.

Due to her constitution, Yui is leaving Rodin’s employ for the moment and going with Argit to Menesmetlo, which has winter weather – and also a labyrinth where they might be able to find some things to help undo all the curses. Once there, all the girls quickly check out the hot springs – but what at first seems like a “wacky” comedy scene with everyone trying to stop Mimachi from sexually harassing Yui gets more serious when she accidentally activates a long-buried underwater terminal, which can apparently transport certain people to the Gods’ dwelling. No, Yui does not go to the gods – but Senri, a commoner maid who’s as normal as can be except for her superhuman strength, does, and finds out a lot of secrets about her family. Meanwhile, Yui’s old family is quickly sliding faster and faster into evil, and a purge is required.

The other girl on the cover, by the way, is Yui’s sister Meilia, who, like the rest of her family, had turned on Yui over the years, but is pretty much the only one who regrets it, and finds herself wishing she could see Yui again. The scenes with Meilia may be the best in the book, filled with subtle horror (the pain Meilia is in from the weight of the spider on her shoulder, showing that it’s turned into a monster even though she never looks at it), non-subtle horror (the end of the Nuir family itself, as well as the friendship bracelet from Yui being what saved Meilia’s life and soul), and also bittersweet redemption (Mei is saved, but has lost her memories, and the implication at the end of the book is that she’ll live the rest of her (admittedly very happy) life without ever seeing Yui again). It’s hard being a child in a dissolute family of spider monster manipulators.

Unfortunately, this series comes out VERY slowly in Japan, and the third book is not yet on the horizon. Till then, enjoy this story of fairies, spiders, and girls who don’t realize they’re descended from gods.

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