Altina the Sword Princess, Vol. 4

By Yukiya Murasaki and himesuz. Released in Japan as “Haken no Kouki Altina” by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Roy Nukia.

This book starts off with Altina and company, who are recovering from running away from the palace only to find themselves attacked by the country whose fort they overtook in the second volume. What’s more, war has just been declared between their nation and Britannia. So they’re in a pinch – can they defend what they took and ALSO send troops to defend the country? Well, we might find out next time, because this book isn’t about Altina, but her older brother Bastian, who has essentially been exiled to Britannia for being too much of a handful, and is busy going to school as a disguised noble. Unfortunately, the OTHER disguised noble at his school, Eliza, is suddenly in the middle of a nasty power struggle between those who want war and those who want peace. We know how it turns out (war is at the start of the book, after all), but getting there is entertaining and feels like a different series by the same author.

Altina sometimes had tendencies of “idiot hero” in the first three books, but could also strategize and listen to more tactical advice. Bastian, on the other hand, is absolutely the very definition of idiot hero to a ridiculous degree. He’s writing a book, you see (despite some spelling mistakes), a book of derring-do and adventure and really cool battle scenes. He is, in other words, under a severe “middle school syndrome” spell, which is even more annoying given he’s in the equivalent of high school. He’s also from a different country, though, and so has to deal with petty bullying from other guys who are asking why he’s always writing in that book, then taking the book and keeping it from him. Never let it be said the author doesn’t know his tropes. Of course, once Eliza vanishes and then needs rescuing, it turns out Bastian is really an insanely overpowered guy who can run as fast as a horse and has a magical dagger. Frankly, his own life makes the better story.

Eliza is the preferred heir that the dying queen wants, but she’s a pacifist, and the people seemingly want war – or so we’re told. Fortunately, there’s another princess who can be Queen that is more amenable to war, provided that it’s not dull. Margaret is the polar opposite of the relatively innocent, staid Eliza – she’s the seductive vamp type. The power mostly resides in her aide, Oswald, who does want war – infinite war, forever. He’s that sort of guy. The two of them actually make quite a good double act, and I hope we see them both again. Admittedly, it does also mean that this book doesn’t have a very happy ending – Eliza and Bastian are on the run, her country is at war, and the one thing she had that could prove she was the rightful heir is lost in their escape. It’s a downer all around. But hey, at least they’re not dead. The author is not quite that mean.

Despite ending on a down note, this is a fun, breezy read, and another strong entry in the series. Next time I expect we’ll get back to Altina.

Altina the Sword Princess, Vol. 3

By Yukiya Murasaki and himesuz. Released in Japan as “Haken no Kouki Altina” by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Roy Nukia.

Having given us a military story for the first two volume, Altina now dives headfirst into the politics of medieval succession, as she and Regis return to her Empire’s home for a formal get together. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. She was set up to fail as the commander of her remote base, and succeeded; she was set up to fail by taking an untakeable fortress, and succeeded; now she’s back home so that her brothers can make use of her once and for all in their own power struggles. Of course, each has their own problem. The first prince was poisoned recently, and since recovering has looked rather weak… among other things. The second prince is in the strongest position, and has his own version of Regis, but still feels the need to reach out to Altina. And there’s a third group of nobles also jockeying for position, and their leader seems to really, really like Regis. Fortunately, this is the one area where he’s an idiot.

It has to be said, Altina is a much better military commander than she is a princess, and she likely realizes this; she’s too straightforward and honest to manipulate. Which at times is a problem, such as when Latrielle, the second prince, offers to have her join him and her hot-headed response is exactly what the situation doesn’t need. Fortunately, she is smart enough to realize Regis needs to be there, and he comes up with a very elegant solution to a difficult problem though admittedly it also involves immediately fleeing as quickly as possible to avoid being killed. He is helped out by Auguste, the first prince, who has a rather poorly kept secret that nevertheless has persisted. Speaking of secrets, Eric continues to be a good, if excitable bodyguard to the princess, but gosh, it’s so odd how he doesn’t want to change in front of Regis and keeps blushing all the time about it. And asks him about daughters who are trying to keep their family traditions no matter what. Wonder what that could be?

These are short books, and the writing is snappy, so the prose flies by. Unlike some other series by this author, there’s also minimal fanservice, so it’s safe to recommend to other folks. I will admit that we do lean very hard on Regis being so self-loathing and modest that he is unable to see why any woman would possibly be interested in him, despite Altina, Clarisse, Elenore, and Eric (oh what a giveaway) all making overtures of some kind or another. This doesn’t just apply to his non-romance either; he regards his tactics as fake because they come from books he’s read, and therefore has a low opinion of his own brilliance. It’s frustrating, but makes sense for his character, and I hope he slowly grows out of it. (Also, we get some details on the books he enjoys reading, and wow, this world has some bizarro fantasy novels.)

There’s setup for a war that looks like it will happen next volume. In the meantime, if you like political intrigue, fiery redheads, and something you can polish off in an hour or two, this is your book.

Altina the Sword Princess, Vol. 2

By Yukiya Murasaki and himesuz. Released in Japan as “Haken no Kouki Altina” by Famitsu Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Roy Nukia.

This very much feels like the 2nd part of a two-parter, and in fact I think a re-release of the series in Japan saw these two grouped as a single novel. It picks up right where the first one left off, and sometimes that can be a problem, as Altina still has a broken arm, which makes swordfighting difficult. Unfortunately, the plot is not going to wait for her to recover. There are barbarians at the gate – literally – and Regis has to come up with a plan to solve that. The Empire has sent a couple of evil inspectors to see how things are going/sabotage Regis and Altina. What’s more, they’ve been given an impossible order, to attack one of the best defended forts in the area and emerge victorious. In other words, they’re being sent off to die. Of course, there’s an easy way to get around that. They just have to win against the impregnable fortress. Easy-peasy.

Again, the series succeeds best due to its two very likeable leads. Altina is a young, impetuous princess who nevertheless has a really good head on her shoulders, does not believe in needless killing, and knows exactly what she’s fighting for. Her speech to the soldiers as they’re about to storm the fort is fantastic, and reminds you how important the right motivation can be. As for Regis, he remains very clever and very self-deprecating – it takes moving mountains to get this man to admit that he was responsible for something good happening. He also has his amusing flaw, which is his love of books, and that leads to some excellent banter between him and Altina. They’re clearly intended to be a couple in then future, but the author has quite rightly decided not to rush things, which is fine.

There is an attempted rape in this book, from one of the evil inspectors, I will warn people. I do wish that this was not a common “show they’re evil by having them do this” plot. In addition, at the end one of the maids tries to force herself on the suddenly popular and single Regis, and that’s just as bad. Other than that, however, the book is relatively free of all the fanservice-laden exploits you might see in, oh, one of the author’s other licensed series. We also meet Eric, a young soldier who is devastatingly handsome, devastatingly earnest, and who I suspect I should be using gender-neutral pronouns in describing them, as they seem to be hiding a secret (which would be less obvious if the author hadn’t gone “did you spot that? Hmm? Hmm?” in the afterword). He makes a nice change from the rest of the soldiers, who are more like the grumpy Jerome, who seems to get constantly angry at whatever Altina and Regis do but then does it anyway.

Next time Altina will be headed back home to meet the family, and I suspect political intrigue will follow. Till then, enjoy this nice, breezy read.