Secrets of the Silent Witch, Vol. 4

By Matsuri Isora and Nanna Fujimi. Released in Japan as “Silent Witch” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Alice Prowse.

What is supposed to happen after Monica fulfills her mission and whatever happens with Felix happens? I think, in Monica’s mind, that what will happen is that Monica Norton will suddenly vanish, having to “withdraw from school”, and Monica Everett will go back to her little cabin in the woods and live a quiet, cloistered life as she always had. There’s just one slight problem with that, which is that Monica is growing and gaining more emotional depth the longer she’s at the school. The combination of her father’s death and the abuse she suffered afterwards had left her with the ability to only see people as a series of numbers. But as she’s made real friends and learned how to actually socially interact, Monica sees them as people with actual feelings now. Of course, this is not all good – she loses a battle here because, even though her opponent is obviously bluffing, she can’t simply see her friend who is being threatened as “numbers” anymore. Monica will find withdrawing back to her cabin very hard.

This may be a fantasy world, but it’s still taking place in a school, which means it’s school festival time. No, we’re not doing maid cafes or haunted houses – the festival runs more towards presentations of magical theory. But the student council still has to move around and make sure everything runs smoothly. Of course, things do not run smoothly. Another of the Seven Sages arrives, and he’s a pain to deal with but basically harmless. He’s searching for a cursed artifact, which unfortunately ends up in the hands of The Littlest Petty Noble, whose feelings of one-sided love for Felix subsequently take a turn for the worse. And then there’s someone else who’s infiltrated the school, and they’re in a clever disguise. Can Monica sort all this out? And can she do so without revealing who she really is to the wrong people?

Claudia remains an absolute delight, and will probably continue to remind me of Hanajima from Fruits Basket. Speaking of characters from other manga and anime showing up in the book, it’s really hard to see Ray Albright in this book and not think of Tamaki from My Hero Academia, who also seems to have “socially inept” at his main feature. Oddly, his appearance here shows off how far Monica has come since the first book, as she’s now the outgoing one by comparison. The “boy of the book” in this not-quite-reverse harem is Cyril, whose subtle romantic overture to Monica is completely misinterpreted by her, but that might actually be for the best. By now I’m actually hoping that this does not end with a standard romantic ending – if ever there was a series that needed the “friendship ending” like a reverse otome game, Silent Witch is the one. Give this poor baby some good friends.

Assuming she can somehow solve the impending crises, that is. Crises which will have to wait, as the next book is apparently a short story volume. In the meantime, this series remains an absolute delight.

Secrets of the Silent Witch, Vol. 3

By Matsuri Isora and Nanna Fujimi. Released in Japan as “Silent Witch” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Alice Prowse.

It’s not just the Silent Witch, really, everyone in this series has secrets of some form or another. The most obvious one is the Second Prince, who everyone calls a puppet and certainly has “I must obtain the throne” as his goal, but one gets the sense that “And them I will let my grandfather rule with me as a puppet” is NOT on his agenda. Monica, of course, has her main secret mission, but there’s also the fact that she would really rather NOT have Prince Felix find out her real identity given how much it consumes him. And there’s also her time at Minerva Academy before this series, which comes back to haunt her in a big way this book, as it turns out intermural sports are still a thing in this world, and that does not just mean the school sports teams (I don’t even think this school has sports). Monica is about to come face to face with another secret – one that haunts her.

Monica is still recovering from the events of the previous book, but at least she now has her two “sports” classes. Horseback riding is a bit awkward now that her friend Casey has withdrawn from school in a concerted effort to not be executed for an attempted assassination on the second Prince. Fortunately, Felix is there to help her discover such impossible talents like “how not to fall over immediately”. Then there’s her chess class, where she proves to be a prodigy – but that comes back to bite her, as she’s now part of the three-person chess team facing off against her old school. But there’s no way that anyone from her old school would recognize her, right? She has a disguise! Unfortunately, the worst POSSIBLE person is on the other team – a guy who helped turn Monica into the complete wreck she (mostly) is today.

I note I haven’t even been able to mention the back half of the book, which has some really good stuff involving Felix, and also a tear-jerker involving Monica’s father. But honestly the middle of this book feels like the real climax, with Monica finally facing the asshole whose petty jealousy and overweening pride trampled on any feeling she might have, and realizing… why do I have to care about this guy anymore? Why is he worth my time? Now, to be fair, the nature of the plot means that he actually does do one or two noble things here, and we probably WILL see him again, but I appreciated the effort, which is more than some other books make. We also get to see more and more how people at her school DO value her as a friend and care about her, though I think if you asked her about it she’d think that it will all vanish once her “mission” is over. We’ll see about that.

I had thought this series was three volumes when I first heard about it, but now we not only have a 4 and a 5 but a short story volume as well. It makes sense, the writing in this is fantastic, and Monica herself is someone I could cheerfully read for 800 pages. If I were Kadokawa, I’d ask for more as well.

Secrets of the Silent Witch, Vol. 2

By Matsuri Isora and Nanna Fujimi. Released in Japan as “Silent Witch” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Alice Prowse.

Technically this book has a real plot. We even see it here! There’s an assassination attempt against the second Prince. It is, in fact, the climax of the book. And Monica stops it, which is why she’s at the school. That said… I highly doubt anyone reading this series is on tenterhooks to find out who’s behind all this. We’re here for the adventures of Monica at school, being bullied and feeling panicked but nevertheless persevering. If I’m going to be honest, the highlight of the story was not that big climactic scene near the end, with math magic and Monica exhausting all her magic. It was in the middle of the book, where a bullying attempt on Monica goes horribly wrong and consequences are slowly but surely dripped out against the perpetrators. I’d argue this was more of a tense atmosphere because Monica has minimal to no regard for herself, and if the book were about someone trying to assassinate HER, this series would be much shorter and probably more depressing.

Despite all her best efforts, Monica is managing to gain friends and slowly adapt socially to the academy. Even if she’s sometimes not good at spotting tsundere friends. We also get a couple of new cast members in Glenn, a loud and somewhat obnoxious mage who was probably added to the cast because it lacked someone of that type; Casey, a tomboyish young lady fro0m the sticks who quickly takes a shine to Monica; and Claudia, who has clearly been watching the Netflix series Wednesday and taking it a bit too much to heart. Someone IS definitely trying to kill the second prince, that’s for sure, but most of this book is about Monica’s school life, as she learns the joys of chess, the horrors of ballroom dancing, and just who she can trust.

Isabelle is on the cover of the second book, and has a major role in the middle, which pleases me, as I thought she was merely going to be a one-shot gag. She *is* a gag, yes, but the gag is that she’s not an actual petty teenage bitch, but a “villainess”, which means that she has the nobility and knowledge of who to protect that regular petty teens do not. When she goes up against the girl who poisoned Monica (even if it wasn’t MEANT to be attempted murder, it still was), it’s quite a sight to see. I also liked seeing her bond with Felix over the Silent Witch. That said, I am a bit worried about Felix, who proves to be a bit of an obsessive fanboy about Monica’s alter ego. I fear that when the secret gets out their relationship is going to change, and not in a way that Monica will like.

This is not that long a series – I believe there are only four volumes, plus an “After” volume, so my worries may be answered in the next book. That said, I love reading Silent Witch because it’s FUN, and Monica is a fantastic lead character. Get this one.