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 Mine 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.

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

The fourth volume of Bookworm starts a new arc, as Myne has managed to cajole and finagle her way into being an apprentice shrine maiden – and a blue-robed one at that, the elite noble sort of shrine maiden. But things aren’t all magically wonderful, despite the fact that she can now read books. She has three attendants, all of whom dislike her to some degree, and she is not remotely used to talking and acting as a noble should. Despite having an outlet for her Devouring now, she’s still sickly and weak, particularly when she’s reading so much she forgets to eat. The temple has an orphanage that is a nightmare, and Myne has to deal with the fact that if she wants to do something about it, she can’t just half-ass it – she needs to be a benefactor. Can she overcome all this, plus the fact that every time she finds a “solution” to a problem, it creates five more?

Myne may have the knowledge from her past life, but even her past self tended to be a bit flighty, so one of the biggest roadblocks she faces is her acting the way that a normal kid would act – acting on something as soon as she sees it, without thinking of the consequences. This has always been a headache to Benno, but now it’s a headache for the High Priest as well. Honestly, things would go far smoother if she was to simply ask more “common sense” questions about nobility, but “tell me what I don’t know” is hard to answer. I was rather amused when, towards the end of the book, when trying to resolve the issues with Lutz’s family, she’s given a magic device that literally means no one else can hear her talk. Oh, if only this existed in real life.

As for the three attendants, honestly, Myne wins them over fairly rapidly. One is disturbed she’s not acting like a noble and also worries he’s been demoted; another is a bratty kid who’s just never gotten praise for good work before, and the third is the High Bishop’s planted spy, who is trying to stay on the one path available to her, even though “mistress to a noble” strikes Myne as not something to strive for. We also get the usual inventions and ideas from Myne, as we make pizza, create clothes hangers, and discover that the fruits used in a festival event actually can become the rare paper-giving trombes if mana is poured into them – something that could also have huge ramifications down the road, as now the commoners would have a way to fight the Devouring. Myne has to (once more) be sat down and lectured, as life is not as simple as “now no one will have mana poisoning!”.

Those watching the current anime know this is a slow-burn series, and this volume is much the same, despite Myne also becoming an orphanage director. At least she’s reading books… though her revelation that she doesn’t really retain anything she reads boggles my mind. It really is pure pleasure for her, isn’t it? This new arc is four books long, so I look forward to seeing how Myne makes everyone around her smack their foreheads in future volumes.