A Tale of the Secret Saint, Vol. 5

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 have to be honest, I should not enjoy this series as much as I do. It really does a lot of things wrong. At its core is broad humor involving a heroine who misunderstands almost everything everyone says to her, and that’s fine. In fact, it’s almost a genre in itself. And she’s really, really good at not getting it. But it also manages to bring up her very real PTSD that comes from her actual death and everything leading up to her death, to the point where she’s actively repressing the worst memories of it. This is also quite well written and handled with care, but the two plotlines really should not co-exist next to each other as well as they do. In addition, this volume once again is 2/3 of an actual book, followed by endless extra side stories that either tell other character’s POV of what Fia narrated for us, or Fia’s wacky adventures as Serafina in the past. Where we find she was also a giant ditz.

After the events of the previous two books, Fia is now officially a knight, but before she can get down to the business of protecting the royal family, she’s given some time off. She uses this to go north to visit her older sister, aka the one sibling that did not treat her like hot garbage growing up, and also check in with Zavilia, who is no longer a tiny little dragon familiar but has become King of the Mountain – literally. He even has his own dragon cult, though there’s some implication that this is mostly due to pure terrifying force of will. Unfortunately, when she gets back to her home, she’s also met by Guy Osbern, who used to “tease” her as a kid by calling himself a legendary demon. Sadly, he had no real way of knowing the very real trauma that she had in the past from demons, and seeing him again brings it all back.

Again, for the most part this is hilarious. Before she sets off on her journey she runs into “Green” and “Blue”, the royals from the neighboring kingdom who are still just random adventurers to her, and she takes them with her on her journey. Literally everyone except Fia can see they’re Very Important People, but she does not care. She also has a nice dose of accidentally using her saint powers and having to pretend that it’s for some random reason, though fortunately she doesn’t have to restore any severed arms here. Amidst all this, we do get actual plot, if only a bit. The past history of the kingdoms does not quite match up with Fia’s memory of her past from 300 years ago, and Kurtis knows why but does not want to upset Mia too much. What’s more, it turns out that they may not have defeated the real demon lord – and “the demon lord’s underling” is the one part of Fia’s memories that she’s still running away from in terror.

So: this is hilarious You will laugh. But there’s an odd current of deep tragedy also rolling through it, and the resulting taste should not work but does.

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.