Crest of the Stars: A War Most Modest

By Hiroyuki Morioka and Toshihiro Ono. Released in Japan by Hayakawa Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Giuseppe di Martino.

When we left Jinto and Lafier, he was locked up in an evil Baron’s swank apartment along with the evil Baron’s sympathetic father. What follows for the next third or so of the book is a well-executed action movie, as we get escapes, chases, battles to the death, a clever use of propellant, and the two of them reunited and on their way once more. Unfortunately, it would appear that “drop Jinto off and continue on her merry way” is just not in the cards for Lafier, as the delay means that there’s now a huge war that they have to somehow get through. They’re able to evade pursuit in space, but that won’t last long, so they land on a planet that, it turns out, has just been captured by the enemy. Now they have to hide out, disguise the fact that Lafier is Abh, and try to get back off the planet and to safety. But they’re both smart kids. What could possibly go wrong?

It has to be said, the best reason to buy this volume is Jinto and Lafier’s pathetic attempt at being on the run. They are the worst wanted criminals ever, made even more silly when they hold up some joyriders and steal their car, then… hole up in the first inn they find for days at a time, thinking everyone will simply ignore them. This is very much played for laughs, though it’s more of a wry smile sort of laugh (that said, I was amused at Lafier trying subtly to convey to Jinto that she needed privacy to go to the bathroom, though I could have done without the author patting himself on the back in the afterword). By the time the resistance shows up to “kidnap” them, you’re ready to thank God that someone can save these idiot kids from themselves. Perhaps the crusty old cop who’s being forced to work with the planet’s new conquerors might help as well.

We get an origin story of the Abh here from Lafier, who’s rather matter-of-fact about it but it’s still pretty dark. There are also a few scenes away from our star couple, as we see the Empress of the Abh dealing with the human ambassadors “negotiating” with her, which goes about as well as you’d expect. You can see that the Abh are upset about Lafier’s supposed death, or at least as upset as Abh are allowed to get. And the war also seems to be coming towards them, though I suspect they won’t be so easily rescued. A lot of Japanese science-fiction has that old-fashioned space opera feel to it, and this is no exception. The Abh tend to be a fill-in for Japan at times, so it’s no surprise that they’re being shown as the good guys, but the author tries to make it clear how that appears to everyone else. It’s just the narrative sides with them.

Again, this is a good work of science fiction, and doesn’t feel like a light novel at all. It’s worth it as a real change of pace for those who are tired of isekai. Also, nice hat.

Crest of the Stars: Princess of the Empire

By Hiroyuki Morioka and Toshihiro Ono. Released in Japan by Hayakawa Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Giuseppe di Martino.

I was excited when I heard that this got picked up by J-Novel Club. I’d read the Tokyopop so long ago that I’d forgotten almost everything about it, but I definitely remember enjoying it. It’s old-school science fiction, the sort that not only introduces you to the main characters but also builds an entire political galaxy, delves deeply into engineering and battle terms, and also invents an entire alien language for the reader to immerse themselves in, complete with not only translations but phonetic pronunciation. It’s also a novel rather than a light novel, so aside from the cover, don’t expect any interior illustrations. As for the story itself, it takes a while to get going, but once Lafier shows up and meets Jinto, things really start to take off, and the last quarter of the book is fantastic. It also leaves you on a cliffhanger, so I’m grateful more is coming.

The book opens on the planet Martin, where the seemingly arrogant and ruthless Abh Empire has just invaded. They basically have a choice – get taken over peacefully or not peacefully. Jinto, the 10-year-old son of the planet’s leader, rapidly discovers that his father not only chooses “peacefully” but also decides to become an Abh noble and leaves the planet… which means everyone suddenly hates Jinto by association. Seven years later and a far calmer and mellower Jinto has been going to schools to learn about his new status as an Abh (albeit not by genetics) and is ready to begin life as a quartermaster. He’s met by a young woman who is, like all people born Abh, gorgeous, and who also seems stunned he doesn’t recognize her. As a result, she asks him to call her Lafier, and they get on like a house on fire. Of course, this assumes that he can make it to his new position, as suddenly the Abh are under attack by the Human Empire.

I will get a few things out of the way here. First of all, it’s Lafier with an r, which is not what I’m used to from prior releases. It didn’t take too long to get used to it, through. The same cannot be said for the vocab peppered throughout the book, which is a LOT. At the start of the book every third word seems to get its own alien term, pronunciation guide, and English equivalent, and after a while it can verge on annoying. That said, it really does help to sell the Abh as a different culture. Plus as the book goes on previous alien terms are merely put in bold type, so you don’t actually have to deal with learning the words too much. The main reason to read the book, as I said, is Jinto and Lafier. They’re both great, immediately likeable personalities, and they bounce off each other well. The last quarter of the book has them dealing with a self-serving baron (who has his own harem, something that is NOT painted as a good thing) and I can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance.

There’s also some good, moving writing here as well, particularly in the doomed space battle 2/3 in. If you want some nice chunky sci-fi with lots of alien terminology, it’s absolutely worth checking out. Just don’t let the vocab lessons get you down.