The Apothecary Diaries, Vol. 11

By Natsu Hyuuga and Touko Shino. Released in Japan as “Kusuriya no Hitorigoto” by Hero Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Kevin Steinbach.

Every once in a while on television you get a season where a character doesn’t appear for a while, or only appears on a couch, because the actress is pregnant or the actor has broken a leg. Or in Doctor Who, you get “Doctor-lite” episodes where he’s busy filming something else, so you write something where he’s absent most of the time. Obviously a book does not need to do that, but you might be forgiven for thinking that this volume had to have Maomao and Jinshi be fairly sedentary for a while, and not involved in the action all that much. Instead, the entire climax to the book is one of the big payoffs we’ve been waiting for, but Maomao is completely absent from it. In her place, we get confirmation about a character”s true agenda (which we all guessed), and get another character’s tragic backstory, which turns out to be very, very relevant.

We’re still dealing with the aftermath of the grasshopper invasion, not helped by the occasional aftershock of grasshoppers passing through. They’re low on food, low on fuel, and low on medicines. Maomao is helping to make “not quite as good” medicine with the next best thing, while also taking the time to save the life of a little girl who finds that hair and persimmons don’t mix. That said, the Western Capital is doing it’s best,. and it’s all thanks to… no, not Jinshi. Well, yes, Jinshi, however, someone else is taking all the credit, and that someone is Gyoku-ou, who has an agenda, and it involves the rumors that he thinks he has completely figured out about Jinshi’s parentage and a fierce desire to go to war with another country. Can he be stopped from dragging Jinshi into a war he doesn’t want any part of? And what does coal have to do with all of this?

Having worried you all, fear not, Maomao is in the majority of this volume. She’s separated from Jinshi most of the time, which means he spends much of the book in a bad mood. This is not helped by the fact that Chue squealed to Jinshi about the fact that Rikuson asked if Maomao would marry him last volume. This leads to some amusing scenes of Jinshi being jealous and angry and Maomao mostly being annoyed, but as it turns out there’s a very good reason behind what both of those characters did. They know who the important people are in the Western Capital, and the most important is not Gyoku-ou. That said, I wished he’d be a good antagonist, and he absolutely is that, coming across as clever, brutal, and with grand ambitions that sadly are a bit beyond his means. He’s also deeply tied up with the backstory we’ve been chasing about the Yi Clan, and I’d love to talk about that, but it really is a good spoiler.

All this plus a brief cameo from Yao and En’en, and even more Chue. Still one of the top light novel series coming out over here.

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