Housekeeping Mage from Another World: Making Your Adventures Feel Like Home!, Vol. 7

By You Fuguruma and Nama. Released in Japan as “Kasei Madoushi no Isekai Seikatsu: Boukenchuu no Kasei Fugyou Uketamawarimasu!” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris NEO. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Hengtee Lim.

Generally speaking when you get a book in the current genre of “Cinderella”, be they a villainess or just a betrayed female lead in general, the actual betrayal part is rapidly overwritten by the good stuff. Our heroine finds a new life with those who love and care about her, and finds joys that she never had in the past. And that does happen in this story as well – Shiori is extremely happy with Alec and secure in her job as a housekeeping mage. But she’s also been through not one but two traumatic, world-shattering events over the course of just a year or two, and they still impact her every day. She’s been hiding her past in Japan from everyone for the very simple reason that she can’t prove it. As for her love for Alec, and his true identity as royalty, she’s very upfront about what she wants if she is forced to leave Alec forever – the mercy of death. This book can be chilling.

There’s a new visitor to Storydia – a merchant from the East and her bodyguard. This is bad news for Shiori, who has tried to wave off her background by claiming that she comes form the East. Now that there are actual people from Mizuho here, her story is not going to hold up. Especially as she can’t read the written language they have, meaning that her last desperate hope – that she merely went back in time, and this was some unheard of historical period – is dashed to bits. After a mild nervous breakdown, she finally confesses everything to Alec and Zack, and they do believe her – even through her fears that she’ll be abandoned and left for dead, which understandably still haunt her. That said, Alec’s true past also comes out in this conversation, and now that it’s out in the open, it can’t be ignore anymore – Shiori is going to have to have conversations with the local lord. And the king.

Honestly, over the course of this volume it becomes clear that this adventurer’s guild is essentially an isle of misfit toys for nobles with tragic pasts. We already know about Alec. We’d heard about Zack earlier, but it’s fleshed out more now. And now it turns out that Nadia was meant to marry one of the older princes who ended up dying, and that Clemens was also a noble with a promising future who, after being tricked by a woman, had to flee nasty rumors in order to save his family. That said, I don’t think anyone can quite top Shiori. As I said before, having “magically transported from Japan with no language skills, money or belongings” OR having “my adventuring party/family all grew to dislike me and eventually left me to die in a dungeon” would be good enough tragic backstories. Together… look, normally I would criticize the relationship between Alex and Shiori as being too codependent to be healthy. But after this book? Heck, go nuts.

This is not quite happily ever after yet – Alec and Shoiri are together for now, and the lord approves, but there is still the King to think about. And, um, the little matter that folks are starting to consider Shiori a literal Saint. Ridiculous. Her magic power isn’t even omnipotent! In any case, this was an excellent volume in an excellent, if heavy, series.

Housekeeping Mage from Another World: Making Your Adventures Feel Like Home!, Vol. 6

By You Fuguruma and Nama. Released in Japan as “Kasei Madoushi no Isekai Seikatsu: Boukenchuu no Kasei Fugyou Uketamawarimasu!” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris NEO. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Hengtee Lim.

I’ve talked before about how we’ve been edging closer and closer to Alec and Shiori confessing each other’s tragic backstory, and while we’re not QUITE there yet in this volume, we get the next best thing, which is an extended flashback showing us what happened with Alec, his brother, and his first love. Unsurprisingly, it turns out to involve emotionally immature people making poor decisions, and feels almost nostalgic. It also helps the reader to understand how much more balanced and mature Alec and Shiori’s relationship it – indeed, while it dances around being explicit, the two of them bathe together, and it’s implied some other activities happen. If you define lovers as “stick it in”, they’re not there yet, but they are in every way that actually counts. And they’re also there to help each other with mental trauma, which is good, as this is a very bad book for Alec on that account – and that’s not counting the flashback.

Alec and Shiori have moved in together, and experimented with the “There Is Only One Bath” AO3 tag, but there’s an issue. The hand cream that Shiori uses to make her scarred hands less stiff needs mandrakes, and Nils is out of them. So a group of adventurers goes to a cave to find some mandrakes, avoid their horrible shrieks, and also deal with – I swear I’m not making this up – Brain Suckers, monsters that apparently look like aliens form Mars to Shiori, but who also cause traumatic hallucinations if they touch you. Alec gets touched. After this, Alex makes a decision to finally set up a meeting with his brother (and former lover if she’ll come) so they can bury their past together. That said, he and Shiori have something big to deal with before that can happen: a ridiculously long extra story at the back.

I appreciated the flashback, as it showed us how much Alex suffered, and what’s led him to tend towards “everything is my fault” in his post-royal life (to be honest, a trait he shares with Shiori). I also liked that Rebecca was not some stock villainess but a teenager who sees a chance to get everything she wants and forgets all about what that would mean other than “be with the man I love”. I appreciated that her punishment was, in many ways, the best thing that ever happened to her. As for the side story at the end, it reminds you that ghosts, wraiths and phantoms are very real things in this world, and need to be dealt with – but it also reminds you that nothing in this world is quite as scary as the average Japanese ghost story, and Shiori’s imaginative yokai is pants-wettingly terrifying.

I’m pretty sure the next volume is, if not the final book in the series, at least the payoff, with Shiori finally admitting she’s from Japan and Alec finally admitting he’s a runaway prince. This remains a nice romantic fantasy.

Housekeeping Mage from Another World: Making Your Adventures Feel Like Home!, Vol. 5

By You Fuguruma and Nama. Released in Japan as “Kasei Madoushi no Isekai Seikatsu: Boukenchuu no Kasei Fugyou Uketamawarimasu!” by Ichijinsha Bunko Iris NEO. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Hengtee Lim.

Welcome to Housekeeping Mage from Another World, the Zeno’s Arrow of light novel titles. Every volume we get closer and closer to Alec and Shiori sitting down and talking about their respective pasts, and every volume it continues to not happen. We’re closer than ever here. Shiori has pretty much figured out by researching who Alec really is. Alec has pretty much figured out where Shiori comes from, mainly due to her slipping up on occasion. Indeed, one of the big subplots of this book involves her doing something really impossible for this world. They’re kissing, and petting, and at the end of the book have moved in together. But trauma still holds them back. Shiori is hung up on a) Alec’s status vs. her own, and b) the scars on her limbs from her earlier experiences. Each volume she heals a little more, and we keep hoping to get that final step. Alas, still not quite there.

The bulk of this volume is taken up with a mystery story, though the author makes it a bit easy for us by signposting the guilty party immediately. The whodunnit is not the point. It’s the Nativity Festival, and a singer from another city is coming to give a performance. Unfortunately, someone is apparently trying to sabotage her. Half her orchestra has come down with what appears to be food poisoning, and without a full orchestral sound the performance will not be nearly as impressive. Shiori is asked if she could provide the illusion magic with stories that she’s done at the orphanage to help pep things up. Alec, meanwhile, is asked to help them try to find the saboteur. Is it the singer’s friend, the #2 singer in the city, who might be jealous? Mmmmm… probably not, as when we meet this other singer she’s about as conniving as a ball of yarn.

If I had a nickel for every time Housekeeping Mage from Another World had a major plotline end up being heterosexual when everything before that pointed to it being gay, I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird that it happened twice. This one is not quite as obvious as the one from the last book, but I was very much wondering if this would be a love triangle with the two singers as a couple, but no, this series is far too heteronormative for that to happen. We’re even given a flashforward to assure readers that everyone is properly married in the future. I will also admit that at times the writer gets a bit too syrupy for my tastes… usually when trying to pour on the heteronormativity, in fact. Other than that, this is a very solid volume of the series, with some fun “mystery” and excellent Alec and Shiori interaction, despite their still not quite opening up fully.

Will things finally come to a head next book? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s definitely worth a read.