Death’s Daughter and the Ebony Blade, Vol. 6

By Maito Ayamine and Cierra. Released in Japan as “Shinigami ni Sodaterareta Shoujo wa Shikkoku no Tsurugi wo Mune ni Idaku” by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sylvia Gallagher.

Generally speaking, if you’re trying not to spoil yourself when reading a light novel, there are several things you need to do. Avoiding covers is almost impossible, but you can certainly avoid the color inserts, which tend to spoil. Don’t read the author’s afterword till you’ve finished the book, of course, as it often asks readers what they thought of the plot twist. And, of course, try not to read the table of contents, because chapter titles frequently spoil. And so (spoiling here, sorry), when I saw that the last chapter before the epilogue in this book was called “The Girl Defeated”, I knew what was going to happen. It wasn’t a big surprise, the series ends with the next book, so there had to be SOME point where Olivia loses a fight, just so she’s not all-powerful. That said, I was surprised anyway. The Girl Defeated is an accurate chapter title, but the chapter itself ends very happily. It’s the Epilogue that kills you.

We’re finally at the big battle between Olivia and Felix… well, OK, there are a few other big battles before that that don’t involve our heroes, but honestly, most of them feel like they’re padding out the book, and resolving a romance by having a superior officer say “hey, clueless guy, get married to the girl who has an obvious crush on you” is possibly the most pathetic thing I’ve seen in this series. The important bit, though, is that Olivia’s army is finally losing badly, mostly as the other side are simply better, more experienced soldiers. So she decides to gamble it all on a one-on-one fight with Felix, sending Ashton back to base and taking Claudia and a few others to forge a path to Felix. Their battle is cool, well-balanced, and a fair fight. Alas, this world is currently being taken over by an evil Dark God, and he interrupts things to gloat at Felix and generally be evil.

I have grown used to the fact that this series is very good at writing instant gratification, with scenes that work well as you read them but fall apart the moment you try to think more deeply about the subject. This is not a bad thing – popcorn entertainment is perfectly valid. But it can be hard to review. I did appreciate that (spoilers again, sorry) after spending the entire series searching for him, Olivia is finally reunited with Z right as she’s about to die – I get the sense that he wanted to let her grow at her own pace till he had to intervene. The whole “now I will teach you the ultimate final move” ending is pure shonen, but honestly it’s a delight seeing Olivia’s face as she’s finally reunited with her “father”. Less delightful is that pesky epilogue – I don’t expect a permanent death, as this series is not that dark despite its title, but it certainly ends the book on a sour note.

So great stuff, provided you don’t look too deeply, and provided you let your eyes glaze over whenever a male captain and his female adjutant have a conversation with each other. Tune in next time for the final book.

Death’s Daughter and the Ebony Blade, Vol. 5

By Maito Ayamine and Cierra. Released in Japan as “Shinigami ni Sodaterareta Shoujo wa Shikkoku no Tsurugi wo Mune ni Idaku” by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sylvia Gallagher.

This series does have, amidst its themes of “war is hell” and the like, a love triangle at its core. This is part of the series’ annoying sub-theme of “all the aides are in love with their commanders” that I dislike, but I’ll ignore that for the moment. Claudia is easiest to understand, she’s a classic tsundere who’s in love with Ashton but refuses to admit it to herself or others. Ashton is in love with Olivia, though it’s not clear if it’s romantic or just a shining ideal, but he is otherwise a classic romcom harem lead, with a few “could these women actually like me?… naaaah” monologues under his belt. And then there’s Olivia, who loves Ashton and Claudia, but I suspect the author is not intending us to be thinking “yay, polyamory”, but rather that we’re supposed to think that Olivia is not quite human and doesn’t understand romantic or sexual attraction. It’s a bit of a mess.

The start of the book features Olivia and company headed to the Holy Land of Mekia, there to meet up with its leader, who has taken a shine to Olivia. They try to lure her to their side with promises of using their resources to find out where Z is, which makes Claudia curse, as this had never even occurred to her to try to offer Olivia, and Fermest can’t do it very well as they’re at war. Still, an incident involving Ashton’s near-death… again… convinces Olivia that she’s not going to change sides for now. In the meantime, the empire continues to have a very bad time, which is what happens when your grand vizier… pardon me, chancellor… is evil and your empire is secretly run by a death god. When the Kingdom comes calling, with Olivia at its vanguard, who will rise up to meet her? And will it be enough?

We get a nice little flashback in this book to Olivia’s parents (though she was originally called Caroline) and are reminded that her mother is of Deep Folk descent, which is leading to a lot of subplots converging. Still, she may have human/deep folk as birth parents but her upbringing is all Z, and that’s what really makes her as inhuman as she seems at times in the series. She has no real fear of monsters that would kill anybody else, and when asked where she grew up, points to the middle of a forest that has a reputation so bad that anyone who tries to investigate it finds their investigators dead. That said… Olivia is also gradually getting more humanity in her, and that’s entirely due to Ashton and Claudia, who are definitely a calming, soothing influence on her, even if they can’t actually stop her from doing what she wants. This series is not going to end with polyamory, but if it *did*, it would be great.

It might also end with most of the cast dead, admittedly. After all, war is hell.

Death’s Daughter and the Ebony Blade, Vol. 4

By Maito Ayamine and Cierra. Released in Japan as “Shinigami ni Sodaterareta Shoujo wa Shikkoku no Tsurugi wo Mune ni Idaku” by Overlap Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Sylvia Gallagher.

Getting back to a niggle I had last time, I will grant the fourth volume of the series this: the adjutant in the battle here does not appear to be in love with her commanding officer. That said, we do get a lot of similar beats, where the younger adjutant is told to retreat so that the older commander can die protecting the retreat. I admit that I am very fond of just how many women are in this book, and of course it stars Olivia, who is a monster in human form. All the same, I’m seeing similar things happening over and over in this series, and would not mind a female adjutant who stays behind and dies so that her commander can get away. You know, as a change of pace. I’m also not all that happy with the running gag of the women in love with the oblivious men, even as I will reluctantly admit that’s truth in literature.

Olivia’s success is having repercussions. First with her and her close companions – she’s made a major general, and given an army of her own to command, with Claudia and Ashton by her side. She gets to attend royal balls, where she interacts with the King, and also meets emissaries of foreign nations, like the Not At All Suspicious (TM) Sofitia. But in addition, her mere existence has caused the Empire to try to find other ways to win, such as proxy wars that they force an allied nation to take up for them (it goes badly). And Fernest is also having to deal with invasions of its own, though it’s helped there by the commander and the ruler in charge of the invading state both being very, very stupid. Don’t poke at Olivia to see what she does, you won’t like it.

There’s a lot of plot stuff going on here, to be honest, but Olivia’s actions seem to flow around it. Apart from trying to find out where Z has gone off to, she really has zero interest in all of the political machinations happening around her. She’s aware it exists, and does tell her aides that she is aware that Sofitia is probably inviting her to Mekia for nefarious reasons. But she’s never, ever had any fight cause her trouble since she last saw Z, and that doesn’t change here. Her reputation is starting to be less “oh no, that’s not possibly true” to “OH MY GOD IT’S HER”, and she’s definitely going to be facing stronger opponents, but I’ve yet to see anyone who can really take her on. Which might be for the best. No one is reading this book to see Olivia struggle and have self-doubts. She can delegate that to Claudia, probably.

This is a good “military strategy” series, provided you aren’t turned off by Olivia’s glorious OPness throughout. Frankly, that’s why I read it.