A Tale of the Secret Saint, Vol. 4

By Touya and chibi. Released in Japan as “Tensei Sita Daiseijyo ha, Seijyo Dearuko Towohitakakusu” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Kevin Ishizaka. Adapted by Matthew Birkenhauer.

I’ve talked before about how this series frequently can’t decide if it’s just pure comedy or if it has true tragedy embedded within it, but in one way it definitely fills the comedy mode, and that’s because the reader is left wondering, after four volumes, how long Fia can possibly be able to keep her reincarnation a secret given how absolutely lousy she is at hiding anything about it? The difficulty is that this is half of the humor (the other half just being Fia in general, unrelated to her past). So I suspect the answer is “it will get revealed right before the series comes to an end”, and it’s still ongoing as both a webnovel and a light novel. So this means I will have to put up with the fact that it is increasingly unbelievable that no one else picks up on this except the OTHER guy who has reincarnated memories. I mean, that’s the gag. It’s just a really belabored gag.

We pick up right where we left off 2/3 of the way through Book 3 (which is to say the end of the main plot), with Fia having to deal with the fact that her former bodyguard from her previous life, Canopus, has regained his memories and is now Captain Kurtis of the Thirteenth knights. Fortunately, he seems willing to go along with whatever she says. UN-fortunately, that’s because he’s just as obsessed with her sainthood as the rest of the Sutherland people, if not more. Things are not helped by the fact of Fia constantly accidentally doing Saint things while completely failing to realize they’re abnormal. The third volume was about the drama that surrounded Cyril and his homeland, but this volume is surrounded by an utter LACK of drama. With Fia around, everything’s fine.

Despite my grousing in the first paragraph, this is still an enjoyable volume, mostly because Fia is so fun and likeable. We’ve seen flashbacks that show that this is not just a function of her past memories interfering with her present ones – she was always like this. So we get things like her trying to explain to the local healer how to make the cure for their deadly disease by essentially saying “here are the ingredients, the actual amounts used are up to you” and having everyone stare at her in a sort of daze. I am slightly less enamored of the additions to her reverse harem, especially as we now have TWO who are a bit too obsessive for my liking, but honestly, Fia’s obliviousness is also something that will probably last until the final volume (and Cyril, let’s face it, has a very big lead on the others). Fortunately, this also ends this arc, so we’ll start a new one in the next volume, possibly involving those color-themed royals from previous books.

This is never going to be in any best of the year lists, but if you like Katarina Claes-types who are also far, far too powerful for their own good, this is definitely one to keep up with.

A Tale of the Secret Saint, Vol. 3

By Touya and chibi. Released in Japan as “Tensei Sita Daiseijyo ha, Seijyo Dearuko Towohitakakusu” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Kevin Ishizaka. Adapted by Matthew Birkenhauer.

I think I’m going to have to give up and accept that this series is never going to be quite what I want it to be. It will continue to have broad comedy and horrible tragedy rubbing elbows with each other, and not always be successful at blending. It will also consist of about half the actual book I want to read, and half side stories and extra stories. That said, now that I have done that, this was a pretty good book, giving us an extended flashback showing us exactly what life with Serafina was before her tragic end. Unsurprisingly, she’s a lot like Fia. We also meet Serafina’s aide, the Blue Knight, and learn of a near tragedy that happened a few years before said tragic end, which involves a pandemic and an uncaring government doing nothing to stop it because racism. Again, I think this was written before COVID, but…

That’s Serafina on the cover, by the way, rather than Fia, as well as Canopus, her Blue Knight. The book starts in the present, though, with Fia being invited to join Cyril as he returns to his homeland of Sutherland… which is also the homeland of Canopus, so Fia is interested in going so she can visit his grave. Unfortunately, Cyril’s parents were both of the Bad Royal variety, and as a result the populace has a seething hatred for knights in general and Cyril in particular. This may change with the arrival of Fia, who happens to look exactly like the sacred saint that they venerate. Can Fia manage to keep her true identity a secret, find out about Cyril’s tragic past, and attempt to assuage the population? Especially given there’s a return of the pandemic she fixed three hundred years earlier…

The answer to at least one of those questions proves to be no, though it also ties in with a rather vicious cliffhanger, so I won’t talk about it much here. (The cliffhanger is on Page 177 of 225, which is why I find the side stories kind of aggravating). There’s a rather serious look at racism here as well, especially in the “300 years ago” sections. The Sutherland people are actually an island people who moved there, and they have darker skin as well as slightly webbed hands – which, as you might imagine, leads to a lot of rage and disgust – the ever popular “filthy” gets used – and also gives us a hint as to why Serafina’s family ended up betraying her in the end (hint: because they’re bad people and she is not). I will admit that the introduction of the 13th Brigade Captain, which I honestly barely noticed at first, proves to be a bit convenient – but that’s only in hindsight, so I’ll have to give it a pass.

Fia is still deeply dippy a lot of the time, but that may change with the next book, which might force her to be more serious. Till then, this was better than the first two volumes.

A Tale of the Secret Saint, Vol. 2

By Touya and chibi. Released in Japan as “Tensei Sita Daiseijyo ha, Seijyo Dearuko Towohitakakusu” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Kevin Ishizaka. Adapted by Matthew Birkenhauer.

At least I can respect its consistency, as the 2nd volume of Secret Saint has exactly the same flaws as the first volume did. It can be a lot of silly fun, especially when Fia is forced to be the straight ma in the group despite the fact that she is an airhead 100% of the time. This even holds true, mostly, for the fighting scenes when our heroes are battling the most deadly monsters they’ve ever seen before and Fia reacts the same way you would if you spotted a blue tit in your bird book. On the other hand, it does mean that when we get to the more serious stuff involving the pasts of both Fia and Zavilia, it feels out of place. It’s written well, don’t get me wrong, but out of place. Also not helping things is that this book is technically only 130 pages – the other 80 or so are side stories, interludes and bonus stories, meaning we don’t get much of the main plot.

After the events of the first book, it’s clear that Quentin, at least, has figured out who Fia’s tamed familiar really is. Unfortunately, that makes him into goofy airhead #2, as when he’s talking about powerful monsters he gets obsessive and over the top. The knights are going to set out on a mission to try to drive out the black dragon that is presumed to be in the forest and send it back to its lair, thus solving the “why are so many monsters hovering around here lately?” problem. There are two issues with this plan: 1) the reason the powerful monsters are coming around is they’re drawn to Fia; and b) the powerful black dragon is in fact the familiar that she’s putting bows on to make it look cuter. Still, I’m sure nothing will go wrong, even if it means forcing all the soldiers to deny everything they just saw.

While they feel awkwardly out of place, I will admit that the more serious parts of the story are also the most memorable. Zavilia’s past is the Ugly Duckling gone horribly wrong, and its moral is basically “people are assholes even if they’re dragons”. Far more impactful is Zackary, the most sensible of the captains, trying to get Fia to confess who she really is. She almost does, and feels like she can trust him, but when she starts to do so she has a complete panic attack. This is quite well handled, and Zackary does a good job of helping her recover and backing off, but it’s clear that the trauma of her past life is not remotely something she has gotten over, and therefore allies are going to need to either rely on good faith or assume that the world has turned weird.

I’d argue that if you’re looking for fun overpowered dimwitted swordswomen, Reborn to Master the Blade is probably a better choice. This is still pretty good, thogh, I do hope volume 3 gives us a bit less “let’s pad out the book with other people’s POV”.