Bibliophile Princess, Vol. 6

By Yui and Satsuki Sheena. Released in Japan as “Mushikaburi-hime” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris NEO. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Alyssa Niioka and Andria McKnight.

It’s been over two years since the last volume of this series was translated. In the interim, we have had the Bibliophile Princess anime, which was good but mostly served to show everyone that Elianna is a much better character on the printed page when we can hear what she is thinking. We have also had a global pandemic, which probably explains the delay on this volume; the author admits they were uncertain about whether to continue with the ongoing story given the state of the world (they started the arc pre-COVID. But we now have the 6th volume, and you get good value for money, as this is about 130 pages or so longer than most of the other volumes. And we need all that space, because finding a cure for the Ashen Nightmare, trying to avoid getting assassinated, and protect her position as Chris’ fiancee. That last one might actually be the most difficult, as Chris’ uncle really, really wants to be the power behind the throne and has his daughter ready to seduce the Prince.

We pick up where we left off, with the one book that has the cure they’ve been looking for having been burnt by the traitorous Jean. Elianna has to make a difficult decision here, which is not helped by Prince Irwin taking the time to press his own suit. Fortunately, they soon realize they have a loophole that can help with that burnt book, and are soon busily finding just the things that help to prevent and then cure the Ashen Nightmare. All that remains is to try to convince the noble-hating commoners that they’re here to help, figure out who’s the real one betraying them (yes, technically it’s Jean, but you know he’s agonizing about it), and then make it back to the capital in time to stop Chris getting blackmailed into dumping Elianna – fortunately, something he’d rather die than do. Will books be able to protect her this time?

Literally, in fact. The strength and weakness of this book is that it positively revels in its cliches, which can make for a lot of nice fist-pumping moments but also feels very contrived. There are not one but two “wait, I thought you were dead but you are alive” moments here, one of which I can just about buy but the other one made me roll my eyes a bit. This series also suffers heavily from the multiple narrators, which are simply hard to translate without sounding awkward – Private Tutor to the Duke’s Daughter has the same issue – and so you get a lot of paragraphs that start “I, Elianna Bernstein, was…” That said, I was so happy to get back into her headspace, especially after the anime rarely let us see it. Every tangent she went off on was a delight.

So a bit of a mixed bag, but overall I was quite happy to read it, and we at last get to the end of this arc. The seventh volume came out in Japan last October, so hopefully won’t be another two years.

Bibliophile Princess, Vol. 5

By Yui and Satsuki Sheena. Released in Japan as “Mushikaburi-hime” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris NEO. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Alyssa Niioka.

Boy, remember when this was a fluffy little puff of a light novel series? Those days are gone for good now, as this book continues its slide into the dark side of things, mostly as it seems the only two people in the world who want Chris and Elianna to get married are Chris and Elianna. There is a possible war going on that both sides seem to want, the Ashen Nightmare has hit the Royal Palace, there’s a woman going around giving out placebos who really wants to be the one to give Chris an heir, and Elianna is forced to disguise herself as a boy and negotiate tragic backstories as she desperately tries to find the one book that can help them figure out a way to cure this disease… and then things get REALLY bad. There’s just a lot going on, and if you were expecting things to end nicely in this book, well, sorry. That said, it’s good writing, and I was drawn into it throughout.

A large chunk of this is from Chris’s perspective, and he holds up a lot better than I would have expected given that the last book ended with him hearing about Elianna going missing. Turns out he suspected something like this might happen. Even worse, there are many, many traitors around, some of whom are old friends of his. This isn’t even getting into the group that wants war, or the group that wants him on the throne but married to someone else. And, given the King is now deathly ill, that group is starting to hammer on things really hard. Oh yes, and there’s the delegation from Maldura, who also have their own agenda involving Chris, and who are really there to see Elianna… who, much to their annoyance, isn’t there. Oh, and did I mention that there’s a cool new gemstone that might be CAUSING this new outbreak?

As for Elianna, she is pretty much herself, and what little comedy there is in this volume comes from the various characters talking about how boyish and unsexy she is, and her deadpan, but irritated on the inside, reactions to this. (There is also the short story towards the end, taking place in happier times, where she and her friends investigate a haunted house and learn of its tragic past.) She too is having to deal with many problems, including the person who has the book she’s looking for, whose son was scapegoated by the Royal Family years ago, and therefore gets someone ELSE saying “you must first say you will never marry Prince Chris”. The ending is not exactly a cliffhanger in terms of danger, but it is very much one in terms of “the thing we were hoping would solve everything is now gone, and we are screwed”. It really makes you want to read the next book.

Bad news about that, alas. This came out in early 2019 in Japan, and there’s been nothing since. The webnovel it’s based on has only recently started moving slowly forward again, and the author is notorious for being slow. So… hope you enjoyed this one, as it’s gonna be a while. That said, this was a decent book, though somewhat low on puffball princess antics. She only tilts her head in confusion twice!

Bibliophile Princess, Vol. 4

By Yui and Satsuki Sheena. Released in Japan as “Mushikaburi-hime” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris NEO. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Alyssa Niioka.

Last time I wrote about how the author of Bibliophile Princess seemed to be running out of ideas, and that the third book was, in large part, a retread of the first book. Apparently between that book and this one, according to the Afterword, the author’s writer’s block got even worse. So, if nothing else, this shows that sometimes a huge amount of pressure can be good for a person, as the fourth volume of Bibliophile Princess is the best in the series to date. Finally accepting that she can’t simply write the same love story over and over again, this time around politics, which have always simmered in the background of every book, come front and center and put Elianna in a position where she has to make decisions on her own in a crisis. All of this without Chris at her side – he’s busy trying to resolve things with the kingdom’s longtime enemy. And another subplot that’s been burbling underground through all the books finally comes to the surface, and it’s terrifying.

Elianna is being sent to Ralshen, a region that, for historical, political, and religious reasons does not have the best relationship with Sauslind. She’s taking Chris’ place as he’s negotiating some sort of peace deal with the war-loving Maldura. A lot of the nation’s past is explained to Elianna (and the reader) in this book; she’s already aware of it, of course, but needs to see how this affects things politically. There’s also a couple of examples of failed marriages, in particular one between a King and a Queen who disagreed over policy decisions, and Elianna is asked, if she and Chris came to such a crisis, what would she do? She’s not sure, frankly, and I don’t blame her – she’s only just come to terms with her feelings for Chris, and so far they’re pretty much agreed about most things.

We meet one of Elianna’s childhood mentors – a friend of her grandfather’s who she calls “Grandpa Teddy”, he’s also a general who has seemingly been supporting her relationship with Chris. But that ends here, and you are once again thrown up against the fact that the Bibliophile Princess world is so political that marrying for love is not something that can happen very often. Elianna finds her upcoming marriage to Chris is also a political marriage, and one that, in the past, has always led to war. She’s not going to let that happen, but it’s hard to buck tradition. Along the way, there’s mysteries to solve, which allows her to do the now-traditional scene where she looks at a book – or, in this case, a painting – and tells everyone what really happened. As for the crisis at the end, I won’t spoil, but it’s been hinted at since the beginning, and leads to an especially nasty cliffhanger.

There is a fluffy short story at the end, taking place mostly about 2 years prior to the main action. It’s OK, but honestly after that cliffhanger it feels out of place. In the meantime, Bibliophile Princess has grown up, much like its heroine, and I can’t wait to see where Vol. 5 takes us.