Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!, Part 1: Daughter of a Soldier, Vol. 3

By Miya Kazuki and You Shiina. Released in Japan as “Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa Shudan wo Erandeiraremasen” by TO Books. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by quof.

Tempting as it is to have the series be 20+ volumes of Myne and Lutz sitting around and making paper, it’s no surprise that we’re going in a different direction. More accurately, the moment that Myne found out there was an easier way to get at books, she was going to go after it no matter what. Of course, Myne being Myne, she chooses the one thing that will upset everyone, as the way to get to books is to become a shrine maiden at the local temple… which is composed mostly of orphan children abandoned by society who are worked to death. No wonder the family is against it. But of course, this is the thing. Myne is weak. Even after a temporary cure of the Devouring (though it’s just putting it off), she’s still really, really weak. So honestly, provided she gets some leverage, shrine maiden might be a perfect job for her. Fortunately, finding leverage is what Myne is all about.

I will admit that I wish the religion had been given a bit more emphasis in earlier volumes. As it is, it feels like the Church comes up right about when the plot requires it to. It at least gets a bit of development, with a nice story about how the Gods work, and a prayer pose that unfortunately looks like a very popular Japanese meme image, causing Myne to lose it with laughter during her own baptism. (It also provided the inside color image, because really it deserved illustration.) On the same note, Myne finds out more information about The Devouring right when the plot requires it as well – there doesn’t seem to be a taboo on discussing it, so it’s a mystery as to why Myne just now finds out that it’s due to too much mana inside her. It is clever to show that the only reason she hasn’t died yet is due to the reincarnated memories, which allow her more adult brain to control it better.

There is, believe it or not, an actual action sequence in this very inactive light novel series, as when Myne shows up with her parents to the temple, the bishop has an attitude of “we’re taking your daughter forever now, goodbye”, and gets upset when both she and her family refuse. This allows her father to kick ass and take out several priests at once, in a sequence that would be ridiculous if it lasted any longer than the two paragraphs it does. Likewise, Myne had better start learning how to control her Devouring/mana, as in her rage she ends up nearly killing the Bishop for attacking her family. It’s a startling scene. That said, it does given Myne the leverage she was seeking out, and fortunately the High Priest is a lot more sensible than the Bishop.

So Myne is off to the Temple, but can still see Lutz and her family and innovate. Oh, and she gets to be treated like a noble shrine maiden, not a slave shrine maiden. And, most importantly, BOOKS! But will it really be that easy? We’ll find out in the next arc of Bookworm, which seems to be four books long.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!, Part 1: Daughter of a Soldier, Vol. 2

By Miya Kazuki and You Shiina. Released in Japan as “Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa Shudan wo Erandeiraremasen” by TO Books. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by quof.

This was a stronger volume than the first one, which I already liked quite a bit. The reason for this is that Myne has essentially accepted this world and who she is in it, and thus does not spend quite as much time railing against her weak body and her fate of being in a world with no books. There’s still a number of times when Myne gets discouraged by everyone being faster/stronger than her, but it isn’t as exhausting this time. It helps that Myne is starting to succeed, and she and Lutz are managing to make their paper dreams come true, help create and invent luxury items for their benefactor, learn the ins and outs of trade, and even make friends with a cute nobleman’s daughter. Unfortunately for Myne, she still has THE DEVOURING, a sickness that seems like it will eventually kill her, and the cure is so expensive that even nobles think it’s super expensive. Can Myne survive?

The highlight of the book, easily, was Lutz confronting Myne about who she really is. Urano getting reincarnated in a weak, sickly girl (who apparently had dreams of living in modern Japan) is all very well and good, but there’s too much dissonance for a child who observes her as closely as Lutz has. He angrily calls her out, and it’s interesting – and a bit horrifying – too see Myne offer to essentially commit suicide to solve the problem… though that won’t get the “real” Myne back. Thankfully, Lutz ends up accepting the new Myne, but we’ll have to see how this goes going forward – Benno also seems to have figured things out, but Myne is not ready to open up to him yet.

The book also gives us a lot more detail about the world Myne is a part of, setting up what is a long series of books. There are other cities, but most residents will never, ever go beyond the one they live in. Marriages can be difficult as well – a side story tells us how Otto met and married his wife, and it involved the fact that she was about to be married off to someone that she wasn’t fond of but could not reject or it would impact their family and business. Fortunately, she and Otto seem to get along well. (Honestly, most of the women and girls we’ve seen in this book are pretty strong characters.)

One last thing to note – through two volumes, there’s not really all that much that I would consider objectionable in a standard light novel way – no hot springs peeping, casual lechery, etc. Myne notes that Otto’s wife has large breasts, but that’s about it. It is, in fact, a novel you could quite happily give to a young teen or older child and have them tear through – though it might not be exciting watching Myne make paper, there are a few action scenes here and there. Briefly. Ascendance of a Bookworm’s second volume is better than its first, and is a good read for anyone who loves books. I can’t wait to read the third book, which ends “Part 1” of Myne’s story.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!, Part 1: Daughter of a Soldier, Vol. 1

By Miya Kazuki and You Shiina. Released in Japan as “Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa Shudan wo Erandeiraremasen” by TO Books. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by quof.

There are people who read books about characters who are transported/reincarnated to another world in order to see fantasy battles, game-style powerups, harem antics, and a lot of plot packed into the first volume of the series. And I am here to tell you that those people should run screaming from Ascendance of a Bookworm, which I loved but is the very definition of “slow buildup”. In a way it’s sort of like Mushoku Tensei, in that a “loser-ish” protagonist is killed and reincarnated as a small child. But Rudy is born with lots of skills and gets training to use them fairly quickly. Myne, meanwhile, not only wakes up as a six-year-old in a fantasy medieval town that has few to no books, but she’s also constantly feverish and weak – even walking a short distance exhausts her. But, and I’m sure she’d be yelling at me for glossing over this, the important point is that there are NO BOOKS for her to read.

In Japan, Urano loved books so much that she was reading them in her family’s book-filled room when an earthquake struck, burying her under the books and killing her. Now she’s woken up as Myne, the youngest in a family that loves but doesn’t quite know what to do with her, as she’s almost always bedridden. Even now that she has Urano’s memories, she’s still weary after only a little activity, and it takes the entire book to get to the point where she can walk around town normally. Worst of all: no books, no paper, ink is super expensive, and the literacy rate for “commoners” is low. Sure, nobles have books, but Myne isn’t one of those. What can she do? Buy a book? Her family is poor, and there are no booksellers. Make paper? Much harder than it sounds. Clay tablets? Foiled by her sketchy knowledge from her prior life. Sure, she can read and do math faster than most kids, but with only one erasable slate to her name, what’s a book girl to do?

As you might guess from the unwieldy title, this is a long-runner. Part 1 is three volumes long. This first volume is fairly lengthy, and it’s also the shortest in the series – others will be longer. It does, however, reward a patient reader. There’s some terrific worldbuilding here, with Myne finding out about things at a reasonable pace. Myne can be very frustrating – her selfishness and anger is a problem throughout the book – but it makes sense given her health and situation. She really is that weak and feeble till about halfway through this, and seemingly has none of the “when you reincarnate, you get this cool sword/goddess/smartphone” cheats we’ve seen in other series. Thankfully, Urano read constantly, so has book knowledge… but the series does a good job of showing how that’s frequently not enough. (Helpfully, her mother was also a super handicraft woman, so Myne can break out a few skills beyond reading.) The book rewards patience, but it can be very frustrating seeing Myne bash her head against a wall over and over. While complaining.

There’s a revelation right before the end of the book that I won’t spoil, but it sounds like it will lead the way towards future arcs in the series. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a different kind of isekai, or are weary of “OP” heroes, this may be right up your alley.