Death’s Daughter and the Ebony Blade, Vol. 2

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.

It’s probably time to bring up Michael Moorcock and the series Elric of Melnibone, a series that I’m 100% sure that Maito Ayamine has read over and over again. This particular light novel series happens to feature a silver-haired protagonist who wields a sword that supposedly takes the souls of those it kills and gives them to their patron. Which, well, is exactly what happens in Elric as well. That said, Death’s Daughter and the Ebony Blade does not remotely have a sense of tragedy or pathos in it, running instead on “gosh, that murderous military scamp, isn’t she adorable?”. In the Elric series, you can be reasonably certain that everyone around Elric, particularly his love interests or close friends, will die. Olivia has Ashton has her not-quite-love interest, and Claudia as her “in my heart, this is an OTP” best friend/morality chain, but I have little worry that they’ll be killed off anytime soon. The same can’t be said for anyone else on the side of the Empire.

After the events of the first book, Olivia has gotten a bit of a reputation. In fact, she’s being called a monster, something she is not happy with. (Later she gets upgraded to “God of Death”, which pleases her much more). The book rapidly becomes a series of battles where the moral of the story is “if Olivia is here, or able to get here in the nick of time, we will win. Otherwise, bad things will happen.” The Empire tries sending some of its strongest warriors to fight her, and then a few of its generals. The outcome is the same. It helps that she has Ashton’s tactics, of course, which are also rapidly being appreciated more and more, by her allies if not by the Empire. Can someone come along that causes Olivia to reflect on what she has become? Or is it just “I want to eat delicious cake and butcher enemies, and this town has no cake?”.

In case it was not crystal clear, you should only be reading this series if you have no trouble with a moral void of a main character. In any other series, Olivia would be the terrifying villain. Indeed, I was sort of expecting Claudia to turn to Ashton at some point, possibly after Olivia had decided on the blood and skulls-themed family name as the one she’ll take going forward, and say “Are we the baddies?”. No, you’re not, but that’s really only because there are no goodies in this book, really. Everything can be abandoned in the name of military victory. There is some lip service paid to what it means to be a good lord of a city, in terms of protecting the people who live in that city from harm, but even there the lesson is taught by the execution of the errant lord.

Essentially, this is a very dark series, but it’s not written in a dark manner. It’s written as if this is Haruhi Suzumiya with a sword. That sort of dissonance is probably what makes it interesting.

Death’s Daughter and the Ebony Blade, Vol. 1

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.

It has become very common in novels these days, be they Japanese or no, to have something that is basically “I want to write my kind of book, but it won’t sell unless I give it the current popular gimmick”. So we get isekai economic policy books, and isekai military history books, and villainess fantasy magic battle books. Death’s Daughter and the Ebony Blade sort of falls into that category, though the genre it’s using – generally referred to as “raised by wolves” – isn’t hugely popular. The idea is that you have a protagonist who was raised by something so outside of normal humanity that they grow up to be very weird. Technically Faraway Paladin should have been this, if he hadn’t basically grown up to be Superman. But Olivia in Death’s Daughter definitely qualifies. She is described more than once as lacking in manners and common sense. But boy, she can kill people really, really well.

Three shinigami discover a baby outside of an abandoned temple, and rather than eat the baby’s delicious soul, one of them decides to try raising them as a child. Olivia gets fifteen years of combat practice, history lessons, and not much else. Then one day her mentor simply vanishes without a trace, and she goes off to look for him. Meanwhile, the Empire is battling the Kingdom, and the Empire is winning. For some reason, while searching for her shinigami dad, she decides to join the Kingdom as a soldier, something she does by going to the nearest Empire stronghold, decapitating everyone, and presenting their heads to the general. This is good enough for them, and now we watch Olivia tear her way through enemies, befriend nerdy guys who have a good eye for tactics, and try to learn what it’s like to be human.

To be honest, that last part doesn’t happen very much. The biggest flaw in this book is that Olivia does not really develop all that much as a character. Sure, she’s introduced to the wonders of soft bread and cakes, but she still does not understand how humans think, and mostly does not bother to try. I did appreciate that her aide (and oh boy, there’s an OT3 there I’d love to see but will not) is able to get her to dress up and perform basic award etiquette, but that’s about all we get. (Also, be warned, there’s a “the chest is too tight/the hips are too loose” gag here. I thought those were banned by the Geneva Convention?) The bulk of the book, though, it military combat, with the Empire gradually realizing that the tide is now turning against them, thanks entirely to the presence of Olivia cutting down most of their important generals.

This is the sort of series where I know development will be slow in coming, so I’m willing to give it more time. Olivia is fun, and I also liked Ashton and Claudia. Recommended only if you like military histories and don’t mind a lot of battle carnage, though.