The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt (Hey, How About Treason?), Vol. 9

By Toru Taba and Falmaro. Released in Japan as “Tensai Ouji no Akaji Kokka Saisei Jutsu ~Sou da, Baikoku Shiyou~” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jessica Lange.

As we’ve now gone through about nine volumes of this series, it’s good to remember that the initial premise was that Wein was trying various ways to abdicate his responsibilities, and failing for the most part because a) he’s too good at his job, and b) he won’t do it if it means the people of Natra suffer. For the last few books, that’s mostly been forgotten, to the point where the title almost seems archaic. But this book reminds us that yes, Wein really does not want to be running his country, and he is still trying to take steps to avoid being the ruler. Fortunately for Wein, he has an adorable little sister with even more charisma than he has who sucks up knowledge like a sponge. The most interesting scenes in the book are when he asks Falanya is he really is “good” to the Flahm, and if so, how? Getting her to stop hero-worshipping him is a good first step.

Wein and Ninym are on their way to Ulbeth, a nation divided into four regions: Muldu, Altie, Roynock, and Facrita. In theory they all are distinct areas with their own distinct rulers but united as an alliance. In practice, they all hate each other. Wein has been invited by Muldu’s representative, Agata, a Holy Elite who wants Wein’s help to undermine the other nations. Of course, Wein is not about to do this out of the goodness of its heart, but (as with most books in the series) complications suddenly turn up. Who’s going to win this mini-throne war? Can everything be solved by simply marrying as many couples as possible? And, most importantly, if something happens to Ninym, has Wein matured enough as a person not to simply kill every single person in the nation?

Slavery, as a concept, is so prevalent in light novels that it has become one of the worst cliches, and Genius Prince has been no exception. The Flahm have been presented in the story to date as an oppressed and hated group, and even in Natra, which supports them to an extent, Wein and Ninym have to merely be content to be ruler and aide and nothing more. The backstory of the Flahm has been teased in previous books, but here we get (secondhand) most of the story. I’ll be honest, it’s handled a bit better than other stories of its ilk, but still makes me a bit uncomfortable. On the up side, spoiling the previous paragraph a bit, we’re now seeing Wein be big enough to have someone kidnap Ninym and NOT destroy them completely. Alas, poor Ninym for once is the damsel in distress – her pulling a Wein and bewailing it at the end is hilarious.

I have a sneaking suspicion this series will end with Falanya on the throne and Wein and Ninym running off somewhere together, but we’re not there yet. Till then, this is a solid volume.

The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt (Hey, How About Treason?), Vol. 8

By Toru Taba and Falmaro. Released in Japan as “Tensai Ouji no Akaji Kokka Saisei Jutsu ~Sou da, Baikoku Shiyou~” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jessica Lange.

You get the sense that towards the end of this series, whenever it does end (the 11th volume is out in Japan), it’s going to involve a Big East vs. West battle, with Natra in the middle of it. In a way, that’s what we’ve been getting for a while in a political way – both the Empire (and particularly Lowellmina) and the West’s religious Alliance (with Caldmellia trying to use Wein for her own amusement and to make him suffer). And, fair to Caldmellia, we almost get that here as well. We get Wein accused of murder – again – and needing to clear his name, we get one of the West’s nations invading the merchant city on the border, which comes as quite a surprise to its own leader; and we get introduced to the Holy King Silverio, who at first looks to just be a propr being held up so that the real villain can work behind the scenes, but in reality is… well, terrifying. Can Wein think his way out of this?

We also, though it’s more of a teaser for later books, get a better look at the Flahm. They’ve always been an odd combination of albinos, black slaves and Japanese burakumin, but here we see that they’re not a united front, as several in their faction feel they need as many positions of power as they can get to prevent the tide turning against them again. The other viewpoint, which includes Ninym, is that they should fill positions with their best people more than just warm bodies, and in any case she has no interest in regaining their old kingdom but wants to do what’s best for Natra. There’s also a really sweet moment when, after seeing wein asleep in their carriage on the way to the conference, she kneels down and snuggles up against him. This is also pretty bittersweet as well – Ninym does not feel she can ever explicitly show her love as it can’t ever happen. I hope we can find a way to fix that.

We also get to have my other favorite character, Falanya, come along to the conference this time around, mostly to continue to make valuable connections. I suspect the biggest will be her meeting Felite – it does get a color page, after all – but it’s also interesting to see the back and forth between her and her adviser, the “formerly evil” Sirgis. He’s being genuinely helpful and showing her how to be more politically savvy (yes, memorizing all those faces and names really is important), but he also wants revenge on Wein, and a throne war is the way that he’s going to try to get it. Falanya says that if he tries to turn her against her brother she’ll cut him loose, but I have a suspicion she’s going to find that a lot harder to do than she thinks. We’ve been setting up brother vs. sister since Book 4, and I can’t wait.

So another solid book in the series, which currently has an anime racing through its first books at a very rapid pace. It won’t get to this one this season, but perhaps if it gets another…

The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt (Hey, How About Treason?), Vol. 7

By Toru Taba and Falmaro. Released in Japan as “Tensai Ouji no Akaji Kokka Saisei Jutsu ~Sou da, Baikoku Shiyou~” by GA Bunko. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jessica Lange.

This series continues to do what I want it to do, and that makes me very happy. There’s some whining and complaining from Wein here, but nit’s kept to a minimum. There’s a larger role for his sister, with promises of more to come in the future. There’s a lot of very clever people trying to outfox each other, succeeding, then being upended by someone else. And in the end it turns out that the unloved son, who is the least suited for the throne, is the only one who really wins here. There’s also a lot of discussion about what it means to rule a nation… and an empire, for that matter. All of Wein and Lowellmina’s old classmates get cool things to do. Including Ninym, who continues to function as Wein’s minder and sounding board, but also shows that she’s dangerous on her own. Basically, if you like this series, you’ll really like this volume.

The throne war in the empire is heating up, and Demetrio, the eldest son, has decided to advance things by having himself baptized in the holy land, the first step towards becoming the new Emperor. Naturally, none of the other candidates, including Lowellmina, will stand for that. She invites Wein and Ninym to the Empire to discuss an alliance… but on the way there, they’re waylaid by the first prince’s soldiers, and have to pretend they’re there to answer HIS summons to discuss an alliance. Which is awkward, because a) the alliance letter was meant to be a formality, no one expected Wein would agree to it, b) the first prince is the one with the lowest chances of becoming Emperor, and c) this is probably all part of Lowellmina’s plot to use Wein to further her own interests. Fortunately, Wein had a backup plan. His sister.

There’s a fair amount of military battles in this book, and we get to show off the strategist and the swashbuckler in Wein’s “college days” party being fairly awesome. Wein himself, as with the previous book, is more of an influencer here. Indeed, he has to be, as he been put in a very awkward position. But he’s got a sharp mind, and he knows that all three factions have their own issues. (The second prince doesn’t really seem to want the job, to be honest.) It also would not be a new volume of Genius Prince without a new eccentric character, in this case the Prime Minister of the empire, who has some wonderful ideas for what makes a good ruler but also seems to ramble on about anything and everything and randomly collapse. He was fun. The best part, however, was seeing the continued development of Falanya. Events are conspiring to pit her against her brother in a civil war, even to the point where she’s hiring a vassal who’s one of Wein’s former enemies. That said, I think the two siblings adore each other too much for real conflict to arise.

So yes, good volume, and of course it has a nasty cliffhanger, as it looks like we’ll be seeing more of the secret cabal that rules over the other half of this territory. Enjoying this series more and more.