I’m Giving the Disgraced Noble Lady I Rescued a Crash Course in Naughtiness: I’ll Spoil Her with Delicacies and Style to Make Her the Happiest Woman in the World!, Vol. 3

By Fukada Sametarou and Sakura Miwabe. Released in Japan as “Konyaku Haki Sareta Reijō o Hirotta Ore ga, Ikenai Koto o Oshiekomu -Oishi Mono o Tabesasete Oshare o Sasete, Sekai Ichi Shiawase na Shōjo ni Produce!-” by PASH! Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Yui Kajita.

Oh dear. I’d say “and it was going so well, too”, but to be honest I had a few issues with the first two volumes of this series as well. This third one, though, feels like an episode of that game show where you send contestants into a supermarket and they have to stuff as many groceries into a cart as they can in 60 seconds. Theoretically the final volume in the series (more on that later), this volume seemingly had one plot left to deal with: Charlotte’s family and her past as an abused child. Admittedly this is a tricky plot to write when you’re doing a sweet romcom that uses the word “naughty” as its main gag, but clearly that was going to be the thrust of it. We do get that, but it’s lost in an avalanche of “everything but the kitchen sink”.

Now that Allen and Charlotte have confessed to each other, they can only get closer. Unfortunately, Charlotte casually mentions that tomorrow is her birthday… a fact that literally everyone in the cast except for Allen seems to have known, and they’re all lining up to deliver the absolute best presents, while Allen flails and is pathetic. Finally settling on “a kiss once everyone is asleep”, he then runs into another problem: Charlotte’s body holds two souls, the second one being the former Saint of her country Lydilia, who has occasionally been taking charge of Charlotte’s body (that’s how she escaped so easily), but now wants Allen to kill her as she is tired of life. (Kill her soul, I hasten to add – Charlotte would be fine.) That’s still not good enough for Allen, and now he has to find naughty things to please a completely different noble lady.

I cannot begin to describe how the first third of this annoyed me. Suddenly this non-isekai series is filled with reincarnations from Japan, who are busy creating ramen cafes. Our mail carrier catgirl turns out to have been searching for her missing twin sister… who she finds within 2 pages of her explaining this. The “perfect birthday present” section is excruciating, with Allen suddenly becoming ten times more pathetic than he’s ever been. Lydilia’s plot works best, especially when the narrative turns serious, but it also feels like it was shoehorned in so that the same “sharing souls” concept could be used to explain part of the overcomplicated solution to Charlotte’s past abuse. Lastly, the final scene with Allen and Charlotte meeting as children actively made me snarl at the book in its obviousness.

Still, at least with this last volume, we’ve… End of Part One, you say? More books coming? Sigh. If you really enjoyed this, you might try more, but this third volume just annoyed me.

The Oblivious Saint Can’t Contain Her Power: Forget My Sister! Turns Out I Was the Real Saint All Along!, Vol. 1

By Almond and Yoshiro Ambe. Released in Japan as “Mujikaku Seijo wa Kyō mo Muishiki ni Chikara o Tare Nagasu: Imadai no Seijo wa Anede wa Naku, Imōto no Watashi Datta Mitai Desu” by Earth Star Luna. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Dawson Chen.

Sometimes a title can work against you. When I first saw this title, which (as with so many other light novel titles out these days) describes the plot, I focused on the words “oblivious” as a personality trait of the heroine, and was expecting something along the lines of Bakarina or Villainess Level 99. This is, however, definitely not that kind of book. It’s not on the level of I Swear I Won’t Bother You Again! (the gold standard of dark villainess tragedies), but this is definitely one of the more serious “disgraced noble” books, and the main obstacle through much of it is the heroine’s own self-loathing due to years and years of abuse and neglect. It ends up being… good. It’s very readable. It does, however, have quite a few problems, one of which is also directly linked to its title: this book gives away almost everything it’s going to do long before it does it.

Carolina Sanchez has had a rough life. Her mother died shortly after she was born, and her older sister has never forgiven her for this. Carolina has “good, but not great” grades, and no magic, whereas her older sister is the Saint, one with great magic potential who can heal people. Her father is remote. And now their kingdom has gotten into trouble with the far more powerful Empire, so they need to marry someone off to make amends. Marry someone off to the second prince, who ha a reputation of being a bloodthirsty psychopath. And we’re not going to marry off the very important Saint, are we? Enter Carolina, who is railroaded into this. Fortunately, this ends up being fantastic for her… well, mostly. There are multiple attempts on her life. But I mean, compared to where she started the book, it’s fantastic. It is, however, very bad for her older sister, who finds she is far, far less powerful now that her “magicless” sister is far away.

Carolina is a nice person who is dealing with having to have self-worth for the first time in her life, and I like her as a heroine. Certainly the supposedly bloodthirsty prince (who turns out to be a sweetie) falls in love with her almost instantly. That said… this book telegraphs its punches something awful. At the end of the first volume, none of the characters have figured out that the Oblivious Saint Can’t Contain Her Power, only the readers and the writer know. Which is honestly frustrating, not cool. I kept yelling “test her for magic again! Come on!” Instead we get hints, which… we know. Why are you hinting about something you literally told us in the title? (And yes, the Japanese says the same thing.) We also get told about the power struggle going on between the two princes, which is mainly because the prince who should rule is magically sick and will be dying soon. UNLESS… there’s an oblivious saint around! This is also not resolved or hinted at, but is obvious.

I enjoyed reading the characters, though again even the backstory for her guard was predictable. Recommended for those who don’t mind reading something where you know everything that happens before it does.

Nia Liston: The Merciless Maiden, Vol. 1

By Umikaze Minamino and Kochimo. Released in Japan as “Kyōran Reijō Nia Liston: Byōjaku Reijō ni Tenseishita Kami-goroshi no Bujin no Kareinaru Musō Roku” by HJ Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by okaykei.

I appreciate a book that can subvert expectations right off the bat. The cover of this book features the titular heroine sitting on a throne, with blood spilled at her feet. The subtitle is “The Merciless Maiden”. The narrative explicitly says she’ll grow up to be absolutely terrifying. And the start of the book shows us her origin: in order to save his own skin, a disreputable mage, hired to save the life of a sickly young noble girl (who has, in fact, already died), transplants the soul of a fierce warrior who lives only for battle and desires a glorious death. Throughout the start of this book you get Nia Liston casually mentioning how strong she really is. But we very, very rarely see this. This book is, until near the end, the definition of a slow burn. Instead, what we get are Nia Liston’s adventures in livestreaming. And honestly, if it were “Nia Liston: The Impassive Presenter of a TV Show”, I might not have picked it up.

After being reincarnated into Nia’s 5-year-old body, the nameless warrior (who cannot remember much of anything about their past life aside from battle lust) has to spend much of her time making it so that the body does not immediately die. Fortunately, there’s chi and cultivation and all that stuff that I am thankful we don’t go into too much detail about, and eventually Nia gets healthy again, to the delight of her parents and older brother. She then proceeds to try to learn about the world she’s living in, as subtly as possible (i.e., not very) asking her maid about who the Liston family are and what they control. The answer, for the most part, is “magivision”, which is, of course, magic television. In order to show off their daughter’s miraculous recovery, they decide to have her host a show of her own. But… will she ever get to be merciless?

Yes, it does eventually happen, though I was going to wonder if it would be subverted. Nia goes on so much at the start about how much damage she could do to people with just her pinky finger that I thought the gag would be that she was a mere 5-year-old girl in reality. But no, when she spots her co-star (she ends up acting in a teleplay near the end) being accosted by thugs, we see her gleefully getting in a bit of the old ultraviolence. Nia is not training to do anything but make her body healthier – the martial arts skills are all innate, advanced, and extremely powerful. So, of course, the main reason to get this is to see other people’s reactions to a 5-year-old girl beating up over a hundred mafia goons, which range from terrified (the goons) to intrigued (the co-star, who asks “can I watch?”), to over the moon (her maid, a former adventurer, who basically says “PLEASE TRAIN ME”).

The next volume has Nia head off to boarding school, and I assume will focus more on the fighting than the livestreaming, though I could be wrong. In any case, if you want to know how to do slow burn plotting properly, this is a good example.