The Holy Grail of Eris, Vol. 4

By Kujira Tokiwa and Yu-nagi. Released in Japan as “Eris no Seihai” by GA Novels. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Winifred Bird.

A few days ago I reviewed the 4th volume of The Sorcerer’s Receptionist, a series that ended naturally at three volumes and got a fourth anyway, and lamented the fact that sometimes authors and publishers just can’t let something end naturally. That said… there are exceptions. Because here I am reading The Holy Grail of Eris, a series that ended naturally at three volumes and got a fourth anyway, and am absolutely delighted that I got to spend more time seeing these characters get into wacky hijinks again. I guess it simply comes down to the main character. TSR has a tsundere who is constantly in denial, and the fourth book, despite a love epiphany, doubles down on that. Connie, by contrast, is very confident in the love she and Randolph have for each other, and instead struggles with the fact that he’s married to his job rather than her, even when they go on vacation. That said, Connie can’t seem to go on vacation without thrilling adventure following behind her, so she’s not one to talk.

The Kingdom of Adelbide is asked to check in on Ulysses, the young Faris royal with a tendency towards being in peril. He also wants to see his “dear friend” Lucia, who he bonded with in the last book when they were in mortal peril together. So a contingent, including Connie, Randolph, and Scarlett, is sent to the island of El Sol – and Connie has another errand from Adolphus – take Scarlett’s mother’s ashes back to where she grew up. Of course, once they get there chaos begins to unfold. The local noble, Antonio, dislikes Connie on sight; Connie ends up getting dragged into a series of petty lawsuits that need an arbiter who can insult everyone till they surrender (fortunately, she can get possessed and let Scarlett do it for her), and most importantly, the terrorists form the first three books are still around, and they’re after a shipment of fireworks that were being sent for the Summer Carnival festival. Is Connie going to have any time at all for a vacation with her fiance?

Well, no, of course not. That’s not why we read Holy Grail of Eris. We read it for the intrigue, and for the thrills, and for the still hilarious otome game biographies that come after every chapter. Connie may still need Scarlett to possess her when a debate is needed, but she’s perfectly fine on her own when it comes to things like high-speed boat chases… well, it’s a rowboat, so medium-speed boat chases. There’s also a sense that she’s going to end up being one of the many Women In Power in this series, whether she likes it or not, and I honestly think that it will be good for her. Meanwhile Antonio is feeling like a third wheel in the relationship between Lucia and Ulysses (who gets kidnapped, again, but has gotten much better at handling it) and, well, he is, but it’s a toy ship, so we don’t need to worry about breaking anyone’s heart till they get older.

This genuinely seems like the end of the series, a bonus book for fans who wanted more. It was a delight.

The Holy Grail of Eris, Vol. 3

By Kujira Tokiwa and Yu-nagi. Released in Japan as “Eris no Seihai” by GA Novels. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Winifred Bird.

Boy howdy, this wrapped everything up just the way I wanted. OK, I admit, there was not enough Abigail, but I’ve come to terms with that. (And we also get Kimberly Smith, who is James Bond, as the author admits, and also wonderful.) And unfortunately the plot demanded that Connie essentially be stuck in a cell for the latter half of the book. But this actually turns out to be important as it allows us to see that a) everyone around her knows what a good and forthright person she is, and b) it allows Scarlett to have to take action on her own, rather than just stand behind Connie and snark (and occasionally possess her). And while we don’t get Abigail, we do get her daughter Lucia, who is made of 100% pure awesome and who I desperately want to see a sequel series about. She even has her own sidekick! Who is a foreign prince, sure, but let’s not sweat the details.

After discovering the truth of why Scarlett was executed ten years ago, Connie and Randolph go off to confront Scarlett’s father. That said, knowing this doesn’t actually CHANGE anything. Especially as Ulysses’ kidnapping is coming closer and closer to bringing nations to war. Not to mention that Princess Cecilia is still around. Oh yes, and Abigail’s daughter Lucia is also accidentally kidnapped, and added to the pile of children in danger. Connie is very good at running around, finding clues, and getting into trouble, which is what’s needed to find the real culprits… which is why the culprits decide to blame her for the kidnapping, lock her up, and execute her. Problem solved! Except that, unlike Scarlett ten years ago, everyone adores Connie…

By the way, if you are looking for a series with kickass women in it, this is a great choice. Even the villains kick ass, and get dramatic yet thematically appropriate death scenes. The throne war in the neighboring kingdom ends in a way that made me laugh, and also want to go back and read the second book again. The little ‘Character biographies’ that appear throughout the book, designed to read like otome game bios where they update as events happen, are laugh out loud hilarious. The climactic finale is heartwarming and heartbreaking. If there’s one flaw here it’s that I think the author and publisher wanted to leave room for a sequel, so we get a somewhat tacked on addition near the end, featuring the very first thorn in Connie’s side returning like Sadako. But I’ll forgive it, if only as it leads to what is essentially a polyamorous marriage. One man, one woman, and one ghost, as God intended.

The series ends here, but there is a fourth volume in Japan that has a sequel, with Connie and company going to the land of Scarlett’s late mother. However… it only came out in Japan digitally. I highly doubt that GA Novels would let Yen release a print book when Japan hasn’t, and I doubt Yen would license a digital-only 4th volume. So I suspect this is it. Oh well. Great finale, great series. Highly recommended for fans of thrillers.

The Holy Grail of Eris, Vol. 2

By Kujira Tokiwa and Yu-nagi. Released in Japan as “Eris no Seihai” by GA Novels. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Winifred Bird.

The most frustrating thing about this volume is pretty much the same issue I had with the first one: the author is not telling the story I want to read most. Don’t get me wrong, I’m greatly enjoying seeing Connie sort of fumble around and slowly work out what happened ten years ago and why there’s a big chance it’s going to happen again. But frankly, I want the teenage years of Abigail O’Brian. I want a pirate adventure story, I want to see how she ended up at the center of everything and also a madam, I want to see how she inspires absolutely everyone around her. But I suspect all I will get will be the crumbs of backstory I get here, because the author does not want to tell an adventure story, they want to write a mystery. And this volume gives us a lot of answers in the main mystery, though the resolution is still a long ways away. And depends, most likely, on Connie, not Abigail.

Connie is getting closer to the truth, and that’s making a lot of people angry. They try to kidnap and kill her best friend to get her to stop. They murder several witnesses who would have undone all their careful planning. And they have a pesky reporter girl who, sadly, is very much an antagonist in this series. Fortunately, Connie does have a few allies. She has Scarlett, of course, who can still occasionally possess Connie when it’s for the greater good, and whose complicated backstory we learn here. She also has Randolph, her love interest, though both of them being the sort of person that love just bounces off of means that the romance part of the book is more frustrating than anything else. That said, the real selling point is what we find out here: exactly why Scarlett was executed.

I will, of course, not reveal that here – I like spoilers but am trying to get better at not saying them. Nevertheless, it turns out to be a far larger plot than Connie, Randolph, or indeed the reader had planned. It can sometimes be a bit of a stretch to realize that everyone we meet seems to be connected to everyone either in the present, the past, or both, but that’s mystery novels for you. And we also get a few detours that are tense, mostly as while the author is unlikely to kill off Connie or Randolph, they’ve shown they’re perfectly happy to kill off other characters. There actually may be a bit TOO much going on here, as there’s also the subplot of a powerful hallucinogenic drug once again becoming available among the nobility. Everything points to somebody trying to undermine the country. And the biggest bombshell is what some people are prepared to do to save the country. But again… spoilers.

The series has 4+ volumes out in Japan, but I have a suspicion that this arc, at least, will end with the next book. I definitely look forward to seeing what happens – just because the mysteries are solved doesn’t mean the problems have gone away.