Altina the Sword Princess, Vol. 14

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.

Nothing annoys English-speaking fans quite so much as a series they’re enjoying being unfinished in Japan, and their usual logic is to blame the publisher for not being told that it wasn’t going to continue. This is, of course, nonsense. In regards to this particular series, it was very popular in Japan, its 14th volume had come out only 10 months earlier, and the author was also riding another hit with the How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord series. It looked like a great license, and it is. I’ve enjoyed this series a great deal. It’s fun, has great military strategy and battle scenes, likeable leads with a tinge of romance to them (but not too much), and each volume is pretty short, which, trust me, is a plus for me these days. Unfortunately, Both the American and Japanese publishers are still at the mercy of one thing: the author actually writing more of the book. And it’s been almost four years since the last volume. Hope it doesn’t have a nasty cliffhanger… oops.

We pick up where we left off last time, with Altina and Regis going to war against Spain (or rather Hispania). For the most part, things have been going fairly well, even though both Regis and Altina have had to deal with the fact that they can’t do battles with no fatalities anymore. Indeed, they even have the spare time to debate the nature of Altina’s pacifism, and how, while Regis supports her ideals, he realizes that they are, in fact, idealistic, and no not take into account human nature. That said, he has a bigger problem, as it turns out Hispania has its own eccentric strategist, and she’s just as good if not better than Regis – and seems to lack his moral scruples. With our heroes on the verge of victory, will the price they pay be the life of their chief strategist?

The mental battle between Regis and Mariam, Hispania’s secret strategist, is the best reason to read this book. It’s not the first time we’ve seen Regis pressured and doubting himself, but it has more impact now that he and Altina have come so far. He almost calls off his plan, except that his soldiers have already enacted it – and, fortunately for him, it works really well. Unfortunately, as I said, Mariam is every bit his equal. And I mean that in both strategy and being a weirdo. Not her muteness, of course, though I admire her writing speed. No, I mean that she doesn’t really care if her nightgown is riding up, or whether people think of her as a noble lady, or even whether she commits treason on paper. She’s the distaff Regis in every way except for the final few pages, where she does something that Regis wouldn’t have. I’d say it played on the religious fervor of the Hispanians… but that didn’t really seem to be a factor for the strategists.

And yeah, that’s a nasty cliffhanger, as this book came out in September 2018, and there haven’t been any more since. You could blame the even more popular How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord… but that last had a volume a year ago. When you read a writer’s story, you have to depend on the writer to write it. Let’s hope he gets back to it soon.

Altina the Sword Princess, Vol. 13

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.

A lot of Japanese fantasy novels tend to take place in “Europe with the serial numbers filed off”, and Altina the Sword Princess is no exception. That said, in terms of the haves versus the have-nots, one look at the map provided at the front of the book will show that the country belonging to our heroes is head and shoulders above the others. Sure, the battle against Britannia was rough, and Hispania seems to be doing the same sort of piracy that Spain was said to be doing back in the days when massive Empires controlled Europe. But Belgaria, the equivalent of France, is not really hurting either. Especially with its new King on the throne, who is not a dissolute reprobate. Unfortunately, what the new King is is someone who will only want eternal war. As a result, the new head of the army Altina and her strategist are headed down south to try to stop the equivalent of Italy from taking several highly prized cities.

Several surprises await Regis and Altina in this book. First of all, Britannia has finally decided to overthrow its current Queen after that disaster of a campaign and is looking for the next in line… who happens to be traveling incognito with our heroes. Secondly, the generals that have made up the fighting force in the south so far seem… slightly off. The Sixth Army is to be praised for having few casualties… but that’s mostly as it keeps retreating. The Eighth Army is at least more gung ho… indeed, their own general seems a little TOO gung ho. And what’s more annoying, the land and cities that are being lost are some of the most fruitful areas in Belgaria in terms of vegetables and wheat… meaning princes are going up due to shortages. The piracy is not really helping. Given all this, it’s no wonder that stopping Elenore from hitting on Regis is low on Altina’s priority list.

With every volume in this book the stakes have gotten higher, and I appreciate the book calling this out. First of all, we get real dead soldiers here, as Regis has to force the other armies’ hands with his own strategy, while at the same time fighting the Etrurian Army. He can’t rely on tricks and schemes to win the battle anymore… he has to find a way to get peace. Which means that he and Altina have got to do something about Latrielle, because the moment they achieve results here they’re told to invade Hispania. Latrielle will not be happy unless he’s fighting someone, the antithesis of what Altina wants. Something has to give soon, and it’s likely going to mean civil war. We also get some good discussion here on ways to fail but not get removed from your post… unfortunately, with Regis in charge, that changes swiftly. Both southern Generals are a different variety of infuriating, so this is for the best.

So, will the next volume be in not-Spain? Or will the gears of war start turning inward? If you like military fantasy, this continues to be a must buy.

Altina the Sword Princess, Vol. 12

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 volume is divided into two parts; the main story, which runs to a little over half of it, and a side story showing us what Jerome has been doing since he left Altina’s side. Gonna be honest, I’m far more interested in the former than the latter, so let’s get Jerome out of the way. He and his men are at the front, where the attacking nation is the one whose beloved princess was just murdered by Latrielle. The main fortress should not have an issue taking them on, but there’s a problem with a small, remote fortress that is trying to protect a city of older folks and kids. What to do? Have Jerome go over there and take charge. This whole section was meant to show off how badass he is, and there is some of that, but mostly it showed me that if a woman is not Altina he will happily punch her unconscious. I’m happy to leave him at that front.

The main storyline starts with Regis managing to reunite with Altina (and thus preventing a bloody battle, as she was quite ready to go to total war over his alleged death). Unfortunately, despite his best efforts with the rumors going around about patricide, he’s unable to prevent the coronation, meaning the dream of Altina ruling the Empire is dead. That said, Altina does not seem particularly put out by this, partly because she’s a bit of a meathead, but also because as long as she can continue to strive towards her ideals she’s fine taking whatever role. That said, she may not have been expecting the role she ends up being given: Latrielle, somewhat backed into a corner by Altina’s feats of war heroism and the presence of Regis (who he tried to have murdered, if you recall) at her side, makes her the head of most of the army.

The most striking scene in the book is probably Latrielle ascending the stairs to his coronation while being haunted by everyone that he had to murder in order to achieve it. There’s a very Shakespearean quality to him, complete with a seemingly tragic past love. He’s mostly blind, still somewhat wounded, and the man he fears could lead to his downfall pops up fine and dandy with the fourth AND third royals at his side. Macbeth never quite had this many obstacles. I did also like the occasional stabs at humor, the best of which was Regis realizing that he forgot to write his sister and let them know he wasn’t dead, and that the fake headless body was even shipped to her. That’ll go well. That said, even the author admits that this book is mostly setup for a new arc, as Altina and Regis head to the south to a new battlefield… with an incognito Britannia princess in their cargo.

And then there’s the cliffhanger, as a woman I’d honestly totally forgotten about pops up asking for help. Altina continues to be a strongly written military fantasy… provided it stays away from misogynistic warriors.