Earl and Fairy: The Changeling Princess

By Mizue Tani and Asako Takaboshi. Released in Japan as “Hakushaku to Yōsei” by Shueisha Cobalt Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Alexandra Owen-Burns.

This feels like it was inevitable. Throughout the series we’ve seen our two leads struggle with everything about their love affair, mostly the fact that it exists at all, but also Edgar’s attempts to be a better person (he keeps failing, but he’s making an attempt, and makes it far more often this book) and Lydia’s self-doubt in regards to not only everything Edgar does but also his past and her own life. Her confession halfway through the book that she worries that she’s a changeling feels a bit out of nowhere at first, but gradually the reader comes to realize that it’s informed a lot of her actions in this series. If Lydia can’t trust her own self, can’t even believe that she’s human, then there’s no way she can trust Edgar, and no amount of reassurances and reenactments of the Orpheus legend are going to change that. This leads to a cliffhanger ending that sure feels like, if this series was not a runaway success (which it was), would lead to the 7th book being the last.

Some more of Edgar’s past is catching up with him – this time a pirate crew, which includes Lotte and Pino, two young people who were with him in America. They watched him toy with Betty, another young woman in their group, who apparently turned out to be a long-lost princess, but more importantly, is also missing, and allegedly kidnapped. This also ties in with a request form one of Edgar’s holdings to look into a baby kidnapping which might be down to fairies. Edgar and Lydia, with Raven and Ermine in tow, thus head off to the village, where they find that Ulysses had not only been there before, but was much better at pretending to be the heir than Edgar is – particularly when it comes to getting the village to commit atrocities in the name of “prosperity”. Now Edgar and Lydia have to rescue Betty, defeat a giant dragon wyrm, and also somehow resolve their tortured courtship. Two of those things end up happening.

I appreciated that Ermine got more to do here, and I also appreciate that she’s still not 100% trustworthy. Leaving aside Lydia’s belief that Edgar/Ermine is the real OTP, which has more to do with her own self-image than anything else, there’s the scene with her and Kelpie, shown to the reader but very pointedly not revealed to either Edgar or Lydia. There’s something else going on with her, and I hope it doesn’t lead to her dying – again. Her own fluid identity between selkie and human, and the fact that she doesn’t see herself as anything other than human unless forced, also serves as a mirror to Lydia, whose every move in this book seems to be about resolving what she believes – that she’s a fraud, a fake, and that once she returns to the fairy world everything will be fine and happily ever after. Lotte may set off the cliffhanger in this volume, but honestly I think she did both Lydia AND Edgar a great service. These two need a break.

This was one of the stronger volumes in the series, really showing off the reasoning behind both leads being basket cases. I really want to see what happens next.

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