Dahlia in Bloom: Crafting a Fresh Start with Magical Tools, Vol. 4

By Hisaya Amagishi and Kei. Released in Japan as “Madougushi Dahlia wa Utsumukanai” by MF Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Osman Wong.

If the first few books of this series are about how Dahlia is not ready to enter a new relationship so soon after the wounds of her old one, this new volume is about how she soon may not have much choice. Dahlia has rocketed to stardom almost overnight, and it’s not really a surprise that people are assuming that either a) she’s not a magical toolmaker at all but just a pretty face fronting for someone else, or b) her backers are financing her because they want access to her body. Neither one is true, of course, but you can see why someone who knows nothing about Dahlia might think that. Unfortunately, Dahlia is the sort to internalize any worries is stress that she has, so it’s very difficult to get her to kick back against this and take charge. Fortunately, when this does happen, it’s pretty awesome to watch. As for Volf, well, you get the impression that he will realize his feelings before she does, but they’re both still incredibly stubborn.

Since Dahlia is going to be selling stuff to royalty pretty soon, and Volf has frankly been avoiding interacting with them, both need a crash course in manners and etiquette. After this… and several scenes showing them eating and drinking, with a pile of descriptive pages discussing same, she’s ready to sell the new portable camp stove. She’s also figured out a way to make self-cooling fabric, which essentially runs wind through your clothing… a great boon to a town like this one where all the clothes are heavy and stuffy. Things are looking up, and she and Volf both plan to do deeds that might net them a barony. Unfortunately, before she can sell to the Order of Beast Hunters, she needs to get the approval of the treasury, which is casting a disparaging eye upon her.

We’ve seen this before in prior books, but it’s really hammered home here: Dahlia and Volf act like they’ve been married for some time, and when you combine that with their constant refrain of “we’re just good friends”, it sends the mother of all mixed signals. That’s fine for Volf, who mostly has to deal with sudden bouts of jealousy when she’s interacting with other men, but Dahlia can still be painfully naive when it comes to how she has presented herself, and it leads to bad assumptions. Fortunately, once she starts nerding out about magical inventions, no one can really doubt she is the genius she says she is. She’s also getting better at asking for help, and we meet another guild whose leader might become a regular in the future… provided he does not drug Ivano again. Honestly, Dahlia’s barony is likely going to happen sooner rather than later… and I get the feeling it may screw up any relationship between her and Volf rather than help it.

This was a very strong volume in the series, one of the better fantasies for female readers J-Novel Club is putting out. Its magic system is similar to others (slimes, etc.) without feeling like an RPG, and the leads are terrific. More, please.

Dahlia in Bloom: Crafting a Fresh Start with Magical Tools, Vol. 3

By Hisaya Amagishi and Kei. Released in Japan as “Madougushi Dahliya wa Utsumukanai” by MF Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Nikolas Stirling.

I mentioned this in my review of the second volume, but it bears repeating: These two are a wonderful couple who absolutely should not get together at this point. Even the rest of the cast agrees with me. No one dares bring it up with Dahlia, who is still being treated with kid gloves, frankly (then again, it has only been a month since she was dumped by her fiance the day before her wedding), but everyone is planning for her business to be SO successful that she gets made a baroness, which would solve most of the issues with her marrying Volf. Not that she really has clued in to her own feelings yet. Volf has clued in to his own feelings, but his solution to the problem of class differences is terrible, as is fortunately pointed out to him by his older brother. Really, for the moment, they’re best as they are seen here: inventing new things, creating hilariously bad and terrifying magical swords, and eating and drinking a lot. A whole lot.

Much of this volume is spent with Dahlia trying to find a way to make the portable stove even smaller, so that it can be easily carried by knights when they go on their missions. We get into the nitty gritty of materials needed, cost, and how much to change – this book does not skimp on the business insights. That said, Dahlia is still showing off some painful naivete in this book. She’s trying to deal with the gossip about her and Volf, but it’s not something that you can just smile and hope it goes away. More concerning is the fact that she has so little self-worth that she gives away valuable creations at the drop of a hat, not realizing that she needs to convey a better idea of what she is as a proprietor rather than as a friend. As for Volf, well, his biggest concern is a monster that creates an illusion of a loved one – something Volf has never really had to deal with until now.

We already pretty much knew that Dahlia was having trouble dealing with the death of her father, and here we see that she’s also still having trouble dealing with her previous life in Japan, where she had a still living mother when she overworked herself to death. Honestly, she may have a similar fate here unless events conspire to get her and Volf together, as we see her lose track of the entire day working on another invention. She also says she plans to never get married, which is fine right now given that she and Volf are already acting like – and are mistaken for – a married couple. You can absolutely see where the rumors come from. The scene where they buy the matching glasses and amphora in order to have even better alcohol is really great, and shows that when they do manage to get past their own personal demons, they will be an amazing power couple.

But that’s for future Dahlia volumes. For now there is outside barbecue, a strong cider, and Dahlia’s vague feeling that she wants Volf to be by her side forever. Huh. Wonder what that’s about?

Dahlia in Bloom: Crafting a Fresh Start with Magical Tools, Vol. 2

By Hisaya Amagishi and Kei. Released in Japan as “Madougushi Dahliya wa Utsumukanai” by MF Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Nikolas Stirling.

Last time I said readers should not be surprised if this romance series turned into romance in the next book. It turns out that it may take a bit longer than that. Both of our protagonists are suffering from the death of a beloved parent who was their whole world. Moreover, due to different circumstances, both of them are avoiding love at the moment. As a result, while to the eyes of the reader it might look like they’re basically dating at this point, it really is merely a series of dinners, with the occasional experimental magical sword crafting as a side dish. That said, by the end of the book I think Volf is starting to realize how he actually feels about this captivating young woman/drinking partner. As for Dahlia… well, it’s going to be a bit. Heck, we can’t even credit her break up as being responsible for her avoiding love, as it’s made clear in a side story here that Tobias was also not even on her radar. She’s just dense to love. As are they all.

Fortunately for the reader, Tobias and his new bride are entirely absent from this book, which instead focuses on one major flaw that Dahlia has: she does not realize that her new inventions are stunningly revolutionary, rather than just off-the-cuff things that she can casually give out over drinks and dinner. This includes toe socks and insoles, something she suggests when hearing about Volf and his fellow knights having to battle in a swamp and constantly having issues with wet boots. As it turns out, Athlete’s Foot is a huge problem among the men in this world, and Dahlia’s creation – as well as advice she gives them based on experience from her past life – it enough to set up meetings with royalty. And let’s not even get into the magic bracelet she gives Volf that essentially allows him to leap tall buildings in a single bound. She really does not know her own strength as a craftswoman. Fortunately, everyone else does.

I joked on Twitter that the series was called “Dahliacoholic”, and it’s certainly true that pages and pages of this already very long book are devoted to her and Volf sitting around and having dinner and drinks and more drinks. Fortunately, she pretty much only does this around Volf, and he’s as bad as she is but also a gentleman. He also has a woman who he has an agreement with that they pretend to be lovers – for Volf it’s because he wants to avoid the adulation he tends to get walking around town, and for Altea because she appears to have been interested in his mother more than any man in her life. They both make good cover for each other. Which is good, as otherwise rumors about Volf and Dahlia would be rampant. She doesn’t quite have the social standing to be involved with a noble at the moment… but that may change if she keeps inventing at this speed.

I do think these books could stand to be shorter – like their main couple, they enjoy lingering over dinner and drinks and are in no rush to go home. That said, the mood of this book is excellent, and it manages to be a “slow life” that is actually slow, unlike a lot of those sorts of books.