The Kept Man of the Princess Knight, Vol. 1

By Toru Shirogane and Saki Mashima. Released in Japan as “Himekishi-sama no Himo” by Dengeki Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Stephen Paul.

This book has one big, big thing going for it, which is that I finished it. More than that, I plan to read the next book. That’s a big deal, because this book is dark as fuck. It starts off really bleak, but at about the two-thirds mark I said “ah, good, it’s bleak, but it’s not 100% bleak”. NOPE. It is indeed 100% bleak, and I regretted even thinking it would be otherwise. This is a book filled with violent death, and not just of evil bad guys. The protagonist is an incredible asshole, and does things throughout the volume that are beyond the pale. The Princess Knight who is in the title is somewhat out of focus, mostly as she has to be off in the dungeons for most of the book, but she also has many issues. I have no illusions that this will have any ending other than “everyone dies, but at least they get to choose the manner of their death”. And yet… this was an award winner, and I can see why. You can’t put it down.

Matthew is the Kept Man of the title, and the Princess Knight is Arwin. Her country has been destroyed, fallen to monsters, and the only way she can save it is with a legendary treasure located at the bottom of one of the world’s only remaining dungeons. Matthew is a lecherous layabout who is as weak as a kitten but hella tough, and who, it is said by everyone, sleeps with the princess and is paid by her to do so. As the book goes on, we get to find out Matthew’s actual past, see how he goes about his day when Arwin is in the dungeon, and see him gradually get embroiled in various plots in the dark side of this town – which is, to be honest, the entire town – as he tries to hide the real reason that the princess is so dependent on him.

Translator Stephen Paul, who must have been over the moon to work on this anti-Kirito title after so much Sword Art Online, described this as being “raunchy and funny”, and I’ll agree with him on the first, but I’m not really sure where all the laughs are in this book. Matthew’s comebacks end up being more “yo mama” jokes than anything else, and the best joke in the book is one I won’t spoil, but involves some brothers. It’s definitely raunchy, though I note that the author, who knows his audience will only put up with so much in regards to their heroines, obfuscates about whether Matthew and Arwin are in fact lovers. But the main reason to read this is the sheer jaw-dropping awfulness of everything going on. Matthew’s past and present are awful, Arwin’s past and present are awful, Matthew kills about a dozen people throughout this book, and even those who try to escape the book’s world can’t make it out. It’s a compelling, nasty world.

Again, I hate reading dark stories where everyone dies, but I still finished this and want more. That’s a big selling point. That said, buyer beware.

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