Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower, Vol. 9

By Miri Mikawa and Kasumi Nagi. Released in Japan as “Ikka Kōkyū Ryōrichō” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hunter Prigg.

This is one of those volumes where the audience knows the answer that the rest of the cast are searching for, but even by the end of the book they still have not quite figured it out. So much of this volume is about sacrificing personal hopes, dreams and happiness for the sake of the country, and the assumption that, deep down, everyone else will also be doing the same thing. Unfortunately for them, we’re able to peer inside Shusei’s head, and we’ve already read the previous eight books, so we know why he’s so determined to burn the entire country down to get what he wants. His birth father was able to throw it all away for the sake of love, but Shusei cannot do that, given Rimi’s position. He has to throw away everything else so he can have Rimi. And even Rimi still doesn’t quite get that, mostly as she still has the self-worth of a bent blade of grass at the side of the road.

After the events of the previous book, Kojin and Renka are being politely held at the palace so that it can be determined what happened to Rimi. The only trouble is that Rimi refuses to point any figures. That said, the answer is obvious, and Shohi has his first massive temper tantrum in some time. This results in Kojin resigning and going back to his seaside estate, and Renka saying she’d like to take up the position being offered, but won’t do it without the Chancellor agreeing to it. And the Chancellor just resigned. So someone has to go to Kojin’s estate and play peacemaker, trying to persuade him to give Shohi another chance so that the country can remain peaceful and stable. The perfect choice to do this, obviously, is the woman Kojin recently tried to murder.

Fear not, those who worry about such things, there is plenty of food in this volume, and it plays the major role in reconciliation here.l Not between Kojin and Shohi, though that happens as well, but between Kojin and Shusei, as we learn that sometimes when you think the only answer is “tough love” but you’re also terrible at real human emotions, it can come off as hatred. I always love how these mysteries are filtered through Rimi, who is actually trying to understand why they’re stubborn and unyielding but can only do so in terms of imagining what foods would and wouldn’t work on them. Kojin’s breakdown is very well handled, and I also enjoyed reading about how yes, his wife really DOES love him, surprise! That said, all this is drowned out by the cliffhanger ending, as Shusei makes war inevitable.

I am assuming that the next volume will be that war. I am also hoping that we finally get a reveal as to Mars’ identity, if only so they can be killed off. (There was an attempt at a tragic backstory here, which didn’t work well because it was too similar to the main tragic backstory.) In any case, this remains an addictive shoujo thriller.

Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower, Vol. 8

By Miri Mikawa and Kasumi Nagi. Released in Japan as “Ikka Kōkyū Ryōrichō” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hunter Prigg.

I hope people don’t read all my reviews of this series in order, because I inevitably end up repeating the same thing over and over again: this is a series about food. It’s there in the title, where it says these are Rimi’s CULINARY chronicles, not her rise to power or her romantic adventures. Likewise, you know that eventually in these books there’s going to be a big crisis, and it’s going to be resolved by a meal. OK, in this particular volume it’s not actually resolved, but it’s at least defused, which is good enough. Rimi spends a majority of this book in hiding, which means that she can’t say her name, and her identity is constantly called into question, given that she’s very bad at hiding it. Who is she? The future empress? The court flower? A poison that will destroy the entire country? None of those, really. She’s a cook. Food – and not just any food, but the RIGHT food – is how she interacts with others.

We pick up where we left off last time, with Rimi kidnapped by the Chancellor, who locks her in an old building on a far away estate, where he will quietly kill her once he makes arrangements. Fortunately, before he can do that, she’s rescued by a passing hottie (which feels ludicrously unrealistic even by the standards of this series, but hey). What’s more, the hottie is the very same person who’s being recommended to be the new Minister of Works. Now we have The Emperor desperately trying to find Rimi, Shusei desperately trying to find Rimi, the Chancellor, once he discovers she’s gone, desperately trying to find Rimi, and her mysterious benefactor being understandably unwilling to let her go because Rimi refuses to say who she is. In other words, situation normal for the Court Flower books.

Much as I would like it to be kicked slightly to the side, there’s only one OTP in this series, and it’s Rimi and Shusei. They reunite here, and Rimi opens up and admits that she’s still in love with him, but it’s hard to get past sheer male stubbornness, especially when said male thinks that he’s really being political. Frustration levels are high. On the bright side, the new character, Ryo Renka, is wonderful, an excellent addition to the cast who I hope we see more of. Ryo is also deeply tied into the past of the previous generation, which also includes Shusei’s father and the Chancellor, and it’s that past that provides the clue to help Rimi escape her deadly fate. I enjoyed the fact that this tim around the food has to be made in a rush and sloppily – because that’s how it was made originally by the amateurs who cooked it. It’s all about the vibe.

This has three volumes to go, and I expect civil war before the end. But it will be civil war with cooking, no doubt. Still greatly enjoying this, one of the strongest volumes in the series.

Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower, Vol. 7

By Miri Mikawa and Kasumi Nagi. Released in Japan as “Ikka Kōkyū Ryōrichō” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hunter Prigg.

I’m starting to get the feeling that the consummation that keeps getting put off between Rimi and Shohi is never actually going to happen. Leaving aside the fact that Rimi still thinks of herself as a mom more than a lover to him, there’s also the fact that the Chancellor exists. There are other aides in this book as well, and some of them like Rimi and some of them dislike Rimi, but they all seem to see Rimi as, well, as a real human being. The Chancellor, on the other hand, regards Rimi as this sort of otherworldly poisonous creature whose mere presence destroys the Emperor and everyone around him. Leaving aside the fact that there’s a name for that and it’s called “being the protagonist”, it does mean that Rimi is going to find becoming Empress very hard to do. We already knew that, of course, but it’s getting even harder, especially with the arrival of an even bigger rival than the Four Consorts: a better political marriage match.

Rimi is delighted to hear that the court will be seeing the return of Shar, ambassador from Saisakoku. Things get less delightful when the delegation also has an extra person, Princess Aisha. The princess is gorgeous, and is clearly there to deepen ties between the two countries. What’s more, the best way to do this would be to move Rimi quietly to the side and let Aisha be impress. It’s the sensible thing to do. That said, Shohi is reluctant, not just because he loves Rimi, but also because the young princess is a little hellraiser, running around the court like a bull in a china shop and taking very badly to any attempt to criticize her. When things finally blow up to the point that the princess runs away, Rimi and company need all the allies they can get to find her. Even if that means seeing Shusei again.

This series is mostly a romantic thriller, but I do appreciate that in every book there’s always one scene which is hysterically funny, and here it’s right in the center, with Princess Aisha showing off to the four consorts in a way that is both jaw-dropping and also makes you want to find a ball to see if she can balance it on her nose. The best part of the book is Rimi and Aisha’s relationship, as, even though she knows that Aisha is there to destroy everything Rimi has done up till now, she can’t help but try to make things better because she’s that sort of person. (She does, this, of course, with a meal, in case you’d forgotten what book you’re reading.) Shohi too continues to develop and grow into his Emperor title. If it weren’t for the Chancellor, there would be very little getting in the way of their union.

Sadly, there is the Chancellor, and another vicious cliffhanger. We’ll have to wait till next time to resolve it, but I remain addicted to this series… so much so that I look forward to Sugar Apple Fairy Tale in a few weeks from Yen On, by the same author.