Earl and Fairy: The Spectral Lover

By Mizue Tani and Asako Takaboshi. Released in Japan as “Hakushaku to Yōsei” by Shueisha Cobalt Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Alexandra Owen-Burns.

This review, by necessity, features major spoilers for this volume, and I recommend not reading it till you finish it. I will put the cover (which does not spoil) first to allow you to avoid the spoiler.

Earl and Fairy’s first volume was clearly written as a one-shot. Most series are. Not everything is created to be a massive hit without having to actually sell the books first. And sometimes authors look back at decisions they made in the first book, when they were not expecting it to be, say, a 33-volume behemoth, and think “man, why did I do that plot twist? It worked great for a single book, but I could have done so much more with the character?” Mizue Tani was clearly thinking exactly that when she was writing up the plot of this volume, which features… well, come on, you have to guess what I’m talking about given I’m discussing major plot twists from the first book. She’s back, there’s a supernatural explanation, and it’s cool.

Edgar has been attending a seance held by a suspicious medium (one who seems to recognize him) that is meant to help a mourning woman marry off her late daughter’s ghost. Oddly, someone else is also attending the seance pretending to be him… and creating nasty rumors in the tabloids, rumors that Lydia (who doesn’t trust Edgar more than she can throw him) immediately believes. She’s also annoyed that she has to pretend to be engaged to him for reasons we saw in the last book. Then she’s promptly kidnapped (again, it’s that sot of series) and when Edgar and Raven track her down, she seems to genuinely be possessed by the spirit of the woman’s dead daughter. Well, possibly her daughter. And also only possessed half the time. Is this another of Ulysses’ clever plots?

So yeah, Ermine’s back. Arguably this ruins the tragedy of her death in the first volume, but frankly I always found her death in the first volume rather annoying, so I don’t really mind this all too much. She’s now a selkie, as apparently this is how she was saved from death in the first place. Unfortunately, having betrayed Edgar and Raven in Book 1, she’s got to do it again, this time because Ulysses has her “skin”, in the form of a glass bead, which if destroyed will kill selkies for real. We’ll see how long she lasts this time around before what I suspect will be a slightly better death. As for Lydia and Edgar, he is at least starting to get why she doesn’t trust him in the least – he has to stop treating her like a solution to his problems. That said, I think most of the readers are siding with him more than her right now – we do want a romance novel, after all.

I greatly enjoy the writing in this series, because (I have observed) it’s nothing like modern light novels. Anyone looking for something different, come get this.

Earl and Fairy: A Gentle Proposal

By Mizue Tani and Asako Takaboshi. Released in Japan as “Hakushaku to Yōsei” by Shueisha Cobalt Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Alexandra Owen-Burns.

If you’re looking at that subtitle and thinking to yourself “Oh good, we’re going to move past the shoujo “bad boyfriend but so hot” tropes and have them get together, I have some very bad news for you. This series is 3 volumes into a 33-volume run (in Japan, I’m not expecting miracles from JN-C), and the closest you’re going to get in this volume is Lydia saying she will “think about” falling in love with Edgar. And honestly, it would be far too fast right now, given where the characters are. This is an old series that came out back in the day when you could greenlight something long, so the development is slow and languorous. Edgar is still trying to figure out where to prioritize getting revenge for everything that’s happened to him and what he feels for Lydia. Lydia, meanwhile, cannot fathom ANYONE being interested in her, and still regards everything Edgar says as false. Which is not 100% true – but is not quite a lie either.

Edgar and Lydia’s back and forth, will-they-won’t-they is soon joined by a new inhabitant of Edgar’s house: Paul, an artist who Edgar has decided to give a bit of patronage to. They seem to have a past history, which is very interesting given Edgar’s past. Indeed, Paul is not even sure if this is the same boy, given that the last he’d heard the boy and his entire family were all dead. There’s also a fairy with a moonstone ring, trying to get Edgar to accept it so that he can be married to the Queen of the Fairies. Unfortunately, the ring has been stolen by a kelpie, who has known Lydia a long time and wants to use the ring to have HER return with him to Fairyland forever. As for Lydia, she mostly just wishes everyone would go away and let her get on with her work.

The frustration is the point, of course. At many points in this volume you want to strangle both Edgar and Lydia. Crucially, it’s rarely at the same time. Edgar ends up coming across much better when he stops pressing so hard, but he simply can’t find it in hiself to keep that up, and when he presses too hard he comes across as a bit scary. Lydia is already a girl who rarely dealt with real humans as a kid, and the one party she went to had the classic “boy who likes her pretends he asked her as a joke because it’s too embarrassing” plotline, and it’s twisted her entire viewpoint of herself. (The red hair doesn’t help – remember, redheads are still abused in this period.) But when push comes to shove, they will both sacrifice themselves to save the other, and that’s what really matters.

I don’t think it will take 30 more volumes to get a confession, but I suspect we’ll have the status quo for a bit. If you like old-school shoujo with good worldbuilding, this is perfect.

Earl and Fairy: Beware the Enticing Trap

By Mizue Tani and Asako Takaboshi. Released in Japan as “Hakushaku to Yōsei” by Shueisha Cobalt Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Alexandra Owen-Burns.

I was very excited when Earl and Fairy debuted from J-Novel Heart, but I will admit that I underestimated the backlash that the series got from some areas of the community. This is an old-school shoujo series, and it stars an old-school shoujo love interest. If you don’t know what that means, look up “Black Bird” or “Hot Gimmick”. Though Earl and Fairy does not go nearly as far as those two series, it is definitely in the school of romance that is “he starts off as the worst, but gradually gets better due to the influence of our heroine”. And given this is a long-running series, it’s going to be very gradual. Edgar is not going to suddenly soften up and tell Lydia his deepest secrets. Moreover, given that he thinks Lydia would be perfectly happy to walk off and never see him again, don’t expect him to stop giving affectionate overtures that may be unwelcome. That’s how these series roll. Tender romance will be along in a bit.

Lydia has been hired by Edgar as his Fairy Doctor, meaning that she’s now living in London. Of course, this being a supernatural mystery series as well as a romance, trouble is following her around. Or, more accurately, following her employer around. A young woman has disappeared, and was last seen in a carriage with none other than Edgar. There’s a bogey-beast in the vicinity, and it’s not clear who its master is. Rosalie, cousin to the missing girl, is very much attracted to Edgar, and thus very annoyed that he only seems to have eyes for Lydia. The fog, always terrible in London of vaguely Victorian times, is even worse because of the threat of the Fogman. And possibly worst of all, Lydia is finding herself wanting to get closer to Edgar, and she has absolutely no idea why.

Lydia, I will admit, does suffer from some of the worst traits of a shoujo heroine. When she blithely walks into an abandoned warehouse with a girl that she already knows is antagonistic towards her, you will want to smack your forehead. She’s no shrinking violet, but sometimes that gets her into trouble as well – her desire to take quick and decisive action is what gets her soul trapped near the climax of the book. As for her relationship with Edgar, she’s not close enough for him to open his heart to, but that also means that she’ll never take any affectionate overtures he makes seriously. Nico, Lydia’s walking, talking, sarcastic cat (just throwing that out there for those who are still on the fence about this series) tells Edgar if he wants to win Lydia over he needs to stop lying to her. Unfortunately, Edgar has been hurt so much by so many people – and had nearly everyone who trusted him die – that this may not even be possible.

To sum up” great shoujo potboiler. Lydia is naive but awesome. Have patience with Edgar. Give Nico some tea and fish.