Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter, Vol. 8

By Reia and Haduki Futaba. Released in Japan as “Koushaku Reijou no Tashinami” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Andria Cheng.

This has been an oddly paced series, mostly due to the prequel being almost as long as the main series itself. We do get an epilogue showing Iris and Dean’s kids at the end, but for the most part Iris’ story ended in the 5th volume, and the last three have just been her listening to her mother finally explain her past. The reason for the secrecy ends up being the fact that most of how she and Iris’ father got together revolves around treaties, state secrets, and nearly averted war, so it’s not something that makes for great anecdotes to tell the kids. It’s also darker than Iris’ story, with more deaths – Iris very much had the fairytale “villainess” story, where almost all obstacles were overcome and they all live happily ever after. Merellis’ story shows that peace was temporarily won, but they didn’t ALL live happily ever after, and there are future tragedies shaping up that she can also do nothing about.

There’s trouble brewing in a neighboring principality, and the first quarter of this book shows us Louis’ father visiting all the lords of said principality and seeing how their power structure works. Some are pawns, some are noble, some are secretly led by their spouse, etc. In order to try to avoid being tricked into war, there’s a huge party held in Tasmeria, inviting all the neighboring lords, and Merellis attends as well… which is good, as it turns out there are also planted guards there to kill off most of the attendees. Fortunately, Merellis is able to stop this with a little help. Unfortunately, it turns out that when all the secret plots are unraveled, one of the main forces behind it is a lot closer to Merellis and her family than anyone would like, and may lead to her being unable to marry Louis.

I did worry that this book would completely slide into political battles and that we would not see Merellis fighting anymore, but no need on that score, as not only do we get her saving the day at the ball through judicious use of murdering the bad guys, but we also see her leading a private army to kill more bad guys, though that does not go nearly as smoothly, and does lead to deaths of some named characters. For the most part, though, the lesson of this book is that you CAN marry the true love of your life, but the politics has to line up as well. With Louis and Merellis it does. For Edgar and Sharia, they get what they want, but are tricked/forced into a compromise that will lead to massive tragedy down the road. And also to the events that kickstarted Iris’ story itself. Being a duchess is hard.

And so this series has come to an end. It took a while, and we got the manga first, so it seems longer, but this was a good example of the “sensible” end of the villainess scale, and had lots of fun worldbuilding. Just be prepared for the extended prologue.

Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter, Vol. 7

By Reia and Haduki Futaba. Released in Japan as “Koushaku Reijou no Tashinami” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Andria Cheng.

If the first book in the “Accomplishments of the Duchess” prequel was about discovering the hellion that Merellis once was, this volume is about showing us how she came to be the woman we know from the main series. In essence, this is also a book about her training for battle, it’s just the battles she’s going to face are in society rather than in the military, and the enemy is anyone who dares to look down on her. And, frankly, she takes to this just as well as she took to being a swordswoman. Frankly, as I’ve said before, Accomplishment of the Duke’s Daughter is not a series to read if you want to see protagonists struggling valiantly against impossible odds. For the most part, it’s about seeing women kick ass, in a variety of settings. In that regard, this volume works perfectly fine. And, in case you were worried we’d lose the awesome swordplay and butchering of enemies, no worries, we get a bit of that as well.

There is an ominous beginning, where Merellis’ father forbids her from taking up the sword and announces she’s going to be engaged to be married to the son of Duke Armelia, a political marriage. She suffers greatly over this for about five pages, but the reader is in on the joke, so we know everything will be fine once she figures out who the duke’s son is. After that it’s just a matter of shifting gears. If she can protect the most people around her through politics rather than the blade, then politics it is. As such, Louis’ mother gives Merellis a crash course in nobility, something she has assiduously been avoiding for the past several years. Just in time too, as it’s time for her to make her debut and attend the academy. Let’s hope it goes smoother for her than it did for her daughter…

I enjoyed seeing how Merellis’ training in military and the sword can be of use to her in society, particularly in how she watches the way people move and stand. Twins who are indebted to her father for saving their lives arrive at the estate, and Merellis can tell very rapidly that a) they have some basic fighting skills, and b) they’re OK to trust. These skills will serve her well. The book’s pacing is sometimes a problem, and sometimes the plots it drops can be more ominous than intended – Merellis’ old maid injures herself and is forced to return home, and there is a suggestion that she will die… which she may indeed have done, as we never hear from her for the rest of the book. It’s at times like these that the series shows off its seat-of-the-pants webnovel roots.

Fans of the main series may still be a bit put off that Iris is only in the wraparound at the start and end of this, but for those who found her mother to be a cool character, good news, here’s more of her.

Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter, Vol. 6

By Reia and Haduki Futaba. Released in Japan as “Koushaku Reijou no Tashinami” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Andria Cheng.

It would be more accurate to call this volume, and apparently the two following it, “Accomplishments of the Duchess”, as we now begin an extended side story telling us about Iris’ mother Merellis. Featured in the first few books of the main series as a caring mother who seemed the sort to speak with her mouth behind a fan, the final book in the series showed us that behind all that etiquette is a dangerous swordswoman who will cut you down as soon as look at you. I said I wanted to hear her story, and it turns out iris does as well. Merellis’ past had never been revealed to her daughter, so Iris asks and Merellis tells up about her childhood, starting with the tragic murder of her mother by bandits, which sets her on a path leading to revenge and… well, revenge. What else does one need? the book was excellent, but fans of the series who loved it for the economic theory might be a bit thrown off.

After her mother’s funeral, Merellis is consumed with rage and a desire to take revenge on the bandits who did this to her family. Her father decides to train her in the sword to at least try to distract her, and, although from her own perspective the gains she makes and slow and inadequate, it’s actually rather terrifying how quickly she takes to it. Soon she is Mer, impersonating her own body double and rising through other guards, then knights, rapidly becoming an amazing military commander. Unfortunately, when all your life is dedicated to one goal, there are obstacles that are hard to overcome, such as your father getting his own revenge for his wife’s death and leaving you with no purpose in life. If only there was a guy her own age she could talk to about this…

As I said before, this feels like a completely different story. Merellis is not a meathead swordswoman, and very much shows she can take charge on a battlefield, but the book shows her worldview gradually opening up, as she goes from “I only care about my revenge” to “now what the hell do I do?” to “I want to protect my family” and then to “I want to protect others around me so that they do not suffer as I have”. At her side, though they’re not a couple yet (the two haven’t even hit puberty by the end of this first novel in the subseries, though the inner artwork may not have gotten that message) is Louis, son of the Prime Minster and Merellis’ future husband. She’s fairly smitten with him by the end of the book, but they also fight,as he tries to get her to see the bigger picture.

I suspect the next book will feature a lot more nobility and gowns and less fighting, but who knows? Merellis was clearly a little hellion until she got married (and then became a big hellion). This is a great book, but it’s nothing like its parent series, except maybe as it regards the greater good and how to move towards it.