Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!, Part 2: Apprentice Shrine Maiden, Vol. 4

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 review contains more spoilers than usual. I’ll try to keep the big ones to after the cover art.)

To my annoyance, the book starts off with a scene between the villains, each trying to prove that among the sneering evil bastards, they are the MOST sneering evil bastards. To my relief, it’s all uphill from there – as always, Bookworm’s books are long but they feel like they’re too short. Myne is trying to get her kid’s picture books off the ground, which involves experimenting with colored ink as well as getting new wax for their stencils. the second quarter of the book has a lot of the arts and crafts we’ve come to love from this series. (It also has the author, in probably the funniest part of the book, write in “Myne and Lutz as an adult married couple” and have it be DEAD ON.) Unfortunately, right at the start of the book an abandoned baby arrives at the orphanage, and Myne, trying to convince a reluctant Delia to care for it with the others, makes a big deal of Delia being the child’s big sister. This sets off a terrifying change of events that will shake up the lives of everyone – and result in a major fatality.

Though we’re not quite going to be leaving the temple yet, I suspect this may be the last we see of Delia as a major character. I had wondered if Myne would ever manage to win her over to betraying the high bishop, and sadly the answer is “not really”, though this isn’t helped by everyone keeping secrets from Delia because… well, she’s a spy. At least she avoids execution. Indeed, this book is filled with executions and threats of executions galore, and it’s a reminder of just how dark this world can be when it’s not about “hey, let’s make paper!”, and when the archduke is pondering whether it would be easier to simply have Myne’s family executed, you get the chills. Fortunately, Myne has her fingers in too many pies to make this really feasible, especially given that her printing press is the proverbial genie that cannot be put back in the bottle. No, instead of everyone around Myne getting executed, the simplest thing is for Myne to die.

And so we end this arc, with Myne dead. Fortunately, we have a new heroine in Rozemyne, who is the hidden daughter of a noble adopted by the archduke, and who happens to look, talk and act just like… OK, yes, Rozemyne is Myne, something most people are immediately made aware of. But the cover story is very important, and the scene where Myne has to say goodbye to her family as a family is heartbreaking. We know they’ll meet again (if anything else, I’ve seen Tulli on a few book covers coming up), but it’s not the same. Indeed, the cover story is magical, to the point where even Myne’s magical contracts change names. As for the Archduke himself… well, I admit, I didn’t see the reveal coming, though others may disagree. Certainly he helps to rescue Myne in the nick of time from a hideous fate. We’ll see how the double act holds up in the next arc. (The book proper ends about 2/3 in, and we get some very good post-Myne short stories, including some subtleties in regards to the High Priest’s aide, and how his seething cauldron of anger is not as secret as he’d like.)

The next arc is titled ‘Adopted Daughter of an Archduke’, and as such I expect a lot of noble life, probably some bullying – Rozemyne will likely find it hard. That said, she’s now in a majorly important position, the daughter of the MOST important man, and as we saw here, has enough mana in her to whip up a prayer to 5 or 6 gods, all at once, and have it work fine. No need to worry, even if Myne has left us, Rozemyne should be just fine. This was an excellent volume in the series, despite the “I am eviler than the most evil person!” villains.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!, Part 2: Apprentice Shrine Maiden, 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.

A very telling quote comes about a quarter of a way into this volume of Bookworm, with the High Priest and Benno meeting to talk about Myne. “We must think of a plan at once. Benno, what means are there to control this thing?” The “thing” is Myne, and it seems very rude, but to the regular citizens of this world, it’s absolutely true, especially in this volume, as Myne is about to invent movable type and the printing press. In previous volumes we’d seen Myne come up with ridiculous ideas, but they were ideas – even the paper – which could still reasonably fit into a very class-based world and not create too much of a fuss. This is a very different story – nothing will ever be the same again. If you add that to the ridiculous amount of mana she has, it means that Myne is not so much a young girl as a nuclear weapon. Sadly, this means she may lose her family.

This is the third of a four-volume arc. The first arc was “Daughter of a Soldier”, and this one is “Apprentice Shrine Maiden”. Glancing at the subtitle of the next arc shows that Myne will be moving up in the world once again. It’s a horrible decision for her, as she loves her family, and they love her. Notably, the High Priest is not compromising one bit at this point – there’s no “oh, but you can still see your old family” here, mostly as if Myne is a noble, she’ll be nowhere near her old life. The book also hammers home why this is important. We see suspicious guild leaders trying to kidnap her, suspicious nobles trying to kidnap her, and the cliffhanger shows another evil noble on the way – one who likes small children, which is very disturbing given that this world shows off how young girls can “move up in the world” mostly by becoming concubines. Myne can’t simply walk around town coming up with cool new ideas anymore.

The book is well-written as always, and very long, also as always. The main new character we meet is Sylvester, another noble who, as Myne describes him, is an adult with the mind of a 6-year-old boy. There’s clearly more to him than that, but she’s also not wrong, and I admit that I found him to be more obnoxious than anything else. Fortunately, the noble who’s supposed to adopt her looks a lot more reasonable. Myne also gets a permanent bodyguard, one of the two knights who were “protecting” her in the past book. He’s a bit of a schmuck, to be honest, though he’s nice at heart. And, as noted above, Myne has her movable type thanks to a craftsman who loves working with small, detailed pieces. Now Myne is sponsoring him, something he’s rapidly coming to regret, as it’s hard to deal with Hurricane Myne. Oh yes, and new baby! Myne gets to be a big sister… if only briefly.

Supposedly Myne has until she’s ten years old until she’s to be adopted. That said, the cliffhanger implies not only bad things for Delia (who I worry about even though she’s a spy), and I suspect that that timeline may be moved up. Till then, this remains one of the most addicting light novels around. Watch the anime as well!

Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!, Part 2: Apprentice Shrine Maiden, 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.

We’ve sort of gotten to have a light and dark side to these new Bookworm volumes. The light is the travails of Myne the merchant and orphanage director, as she finally succeeds in making a book for her as yet unborn little sister, and in passing also invents the exacto knife, the roller brush, and the like. This part is a fun little slice-of-life series, and everyone in it is nice. Benno may be grumpy, but he’s nice at heart, the attendants are (eventually) nice, the plucky young orphans are nice… it’s relaxing to read. And then there’s the dark side of the book that gets into the life of the noble class and magic, where we realize that Myne having absurd amounts of mana is going to shake this world to its foundations, that there is a definite class war going on beyond just the High Bishop, and that Myne is being desperately coached by the High Priest so that she doesn’t grow up to be imprisoned and forcibly bred. It’s a big “YIKES” all around.

Also meriting “Yikes” is the ending to the novel, where the High Priest decides to find out once and for all what’s up with Myne. The way he does it will be familiar to anime watchers, as he gives her a magic potion that allows him to look through her memories. He does this without her consent – the potion is meant for criminals – and the fact that he feels bad about it and she later consents after the fact does not ameliorate this. It does, however, allow her to ‘refresh’ her memories of her past self, and say goodbye, at least in her own mind, to her mother, so some good does come of it. It also shows the High Priest why Myne is the way she is, and I hope will lead to him being a stronger ally in the future, though honestly, he is already doing a pretty good job given she’s now dealing with assassination attempts.

The cover, as ever, is sort of an abstract image showing bits of the plot. We see scattered books, which are from when an arrogant noble (who we will no doubt see again) decides to break up Myne’s book room for the lulz. The background features a runaway trombe, which is a lot more terrifying when it’s a blood-eating plant creatures that is slowly killing Myne, who is for once straight-up terrified (though we now learn she can psychically communicate with Lutz when under great stress, which doesn’t help much here but might down the road). The lion is there to show us that magic is a much bigger deal on the ‘noble’ side of the walls. And the staff is because she’s there to bless the land, which, as noted, is not helped by the Knight who, primed by the High Bishop, decides to try to kill her off. I can’t see things going well for him.

This is another very long book, but the last half flew by. We also get two short stories going into the heads of one of Myne’s new attendants, who learns Myne is not like other blue shrine maidens, and one of Myne’s chefs, who rightly sees this as a means to a better career that doesn’t involve being a waitress/sex worker. The worldbuilding in this book likes to remind you that career options for non-rich women in this world are not optimal and a lot of the service ones involve sex work in some way or another. On the bright side, the battle sequence towards the end of this volume is going to look amazing when animated this spring. In any case, this is an essential light novel read.