A Young Lady Finds Her True Calling Living with the Enemy, Vol. 2

By Syuu and Fujigasaki. Released in Japan as “Oguni no Kōshaku Reijō wa Tekikoku nite Kakusei Suru” by PASH! Books. Released in North America by Cross Infinite World. Translated by Kashi Kamitoma.

The thing I think I enjoyed best about this short series (it ends with this second volume) is that it is 100% dedicated to its title. This is not about a young lady finding romance living with the enemy, though the book does end with her marriage. That’s not as important, though, and the confession almost seems like an afterthought. What’s important here is Bertine coming alive in this new country, deciding that she’s going to introduce new cuisines, spices, and finally start up a hotel in order to gain financial independence and make herself happy. More to the point, her determination enables others to achieve the same thing, with one boy seemingly deciding to change the world just because he fell in love with her at first sight (this is not quite true – like Bertine, the love is actually secondary, but it is there). Oh yes, and we also overthrow a terrible royal family, for those who read light novels for the overthrow of terrible royal families. Like me.

Bertine is not only trying to do great things for herself, but for others as well. Her old friend Diana is the Emperor’s concubine, and she is apparently getting passively abused by courtiers because of it. She wants to gift her an amazing necklace to wear to cheer her up. This also allows her to meet Diana’s son Claudio, a twelve-year-old boy who is second in line for the throne but dealing with his father being distant, his half-brother avoiding him, and his mother being unhappy, so he’s not having a good time. Seeing Bertine galvanises him. Meanwhile, Bertine goes to Cecelio’s hometown, meets his parents, and discovers a ton of seafood and spices that the locals think are boring standard stuff, but to people not on the shore is utterly amazing. It’s time to charge rich nobles to eat some more. Then we get a slightly more serious plot: how about a revolution?

I appreciate that, in terms of the revolutio9n itself, Bertine serves as a passive influence on others rather than a direct part (though she is there). For Claudio, she is a reminder that he does not have to passively stand and accept bad things just because of his birth, but can seek his own fortune. This aligns with the Empire, who want to get rid of the lousy San Luenne royal family and now have a much easier way to do so. In addition, the fact that she and her former fiances (who had to break up with her because of politics) are still close allows them to navigate treacherous waters with ease. Everything is about making good contacts and being a good businesswoman. Until the end, when Cecilio says “by the way, marry me”, that’s her relationship with him as well. Partnership comes first.

That said, I’m glad this wrapped up fast. Two volumes seems just about right, especially give that Bertine accomplished so much in so little time. I look forward to the Soup Forest book, just licensed by CIW, from the same author.

Reborn to Master the Blade: From Hero-King to Extraordinary Squire, Vol. 10

By Hayaken and Nagu. Released in Japan as “Eiyu-oh, Bu wo Kiwameru tame Tensei su. Soshite, Sekai Saikyou no Minarai Kisi ♀” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Mike Langwiser.

This is a big old sucker punch of a book, telling you that straight off the bat. And this is clearly deliberate by the author. The first half or so has us following Inglis and company to meet with the Highland’s leader, so that they can try to get Eris repaired, as well as see whether anything can be done about Rin. And despite the island, erm, falling out of the sky onto the oceans, which is surely not an ominous sign, they have a good time. Then the second half of the book hits, and you are reminded of the earlier volumes in this series, which shows the Highland folks to be horrible monsters. That’s still mostly accurate, it has to be said, though a cliffhanger shows there may be even more inner strife than expected. All of this seems designed to build character – for everyone except Inglis, of course. She doesn’t need character development. She just has to hit things.

For those of you full of hope, I have to make you sad: that cover is an utter lie. Inglis stays in her six-year-old body for the entire book. There *is* a beach scene, and we get Inglis wishing they could do it again when she’s back to normal so that she could get a gorgeous swimsuit, but it doesn’t actually happen. That said, the other three girls are attractive, and everyone is being given the deluxe tour. Leone gets an upgrade to her rune, which is now a Special Rune, which I hope does not turn out to be something she regrets later on. As for Liselotte, she apparently has such amazing compatibility with hieral menaces that they offer to make her one. She declines. As for Eris… well, she’s basically the equivalent of a Type-40 TARDIS in a world of far sleeker and more powerful machines. But it’s OK, the totally trustworthy Highland folks will fix her.

I’m gonna spoil a couple of things here, so stop now if you haven’t read it yet. Good book, will read more, but very much a book of two halves. The second half begins when a merchant ship arrives with a princess from Venefic, who is being delivered to Highland to be a hieral menace, but is far more concerned about all her followers, who were also taken up in the ship. So Inglis and the others go to try to rescue them. Yeah. No. Instead we find that most of what makes the Highland Nation go is the equivalent of Soylent Green, as humans are being taken and essentially ground up into pure mana. I actually went “Urgh” out loud. Speaking of hieral menaces, there’s a reason Liselotte has such a good affinity, and it’s not a good one – the hieral menace sent by the pope seems awfully familiar… in fact, she looks just like an older Liselotte. And has the same name as her late mother. Nothing is confirmed, but come on. This also throws everyone off their game.

Honestly, the star of the book may be Rafinha, who suffers more than the others as she tends to see things in terms of black and white, and is finding that in a situation where all the solutions are bad, nothing makes her happy. She can’t even count on Inglis here, as Inglis does not really care even if everything goes to hell as long as she gets fights. Rafinha wants peace. Possibly she’ll get it in the next book, but I highly doubt it.

7th Time Loop: The Villainess Enjoys a Carefree Life Married to Her Worst Enemy!, Vol. 5

By Touko Amekawa and Wan*Hachipisu. Released in Japan as “Loop 7-kaime no Akuyaku Reijou wa, Moto Tekikoku de Jiyuukimama na Hanayome (Hitojichi) Seikatsu wo Mankitsusuru” by Overlap Novels f. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Amy Osteraas. Adapted by Vida Cruz-Borja.

The best part of this book I already quoted on Twitter: it’s Arnold pointing out how utterly ridiculous the premise of this series and all others like it really is. They’re going back over the party that began this series, one which, 5 volumes in, is a lot more suspicious than it felt at the time, and he says, and I quote, “A one-sided dissolution of an engagement in a public venue isn’t something that should happen in the first place.” To be fair, a lot of other authors agree, and this is hardly the first book showing the whole thing is a setup. But it’s always fun seeing Rishe be very clever and then finding that Arnold has already worked this out months ago and was waiting for her to catch up. Because yes, Rishe’s denunciation turns out to have been orchestrated by outside operators, and its goal was – you guessed it – to cause war between Arnold and literally everyone else.

Rishe and Arnold are taking in the opera, which Rishe has been looking forward to. Two surprising events happen: the leading lady collapses, and Prince Dietrich, Rishe’s old fiance, is also present at the event. Rishe is delighted to get closer to Sylvia, the opera singer, who has a reputation for a string of love affairs (and is thus highly amused at a very virginal Rishe) but also finds herself falling in love for real with one of Arnold’s guards. As for Prince Dietrich, he’s mostly an object of scorn and mockery throughout the book, having supposedly run away from home to get away from his beloved Mary, who it turns out has taken over from Rishe in trying to get Dietrich to learn how to be a good prince. That said, is that really the only reason he’s there? And is there really a spy in their midst?

The other best scene in the volume has Rishe and Arnold, walking the battlements in order to try to figure out the best way for a spy to get in, accidentally running into Arnold’s father. They only see each other from a distance, but Rishe can immediately sense the murderous aura, and her first reaction was to try to draw Arnold’s sword in order to protect him – never mind that he’s a better swordsman than she is. I expect the series will end with that final confrontation. Other than that, Arnold continues to soften up, finally giving in and realizing that things work out best when he just lets Rishe do whatever the hell she wants – though he does give her extra sword lessons so that she can properly hit flying arrows out of the air with one. Honestly, of all the couples in villainess books, this may be the best power couple.

The anime had just been announced when this came out, and it’s since aired and was a relative success. And the 6th book is out in Japan as of the end of last year, so hopefully we see it soon, cause this remains terrific.