Stuck in a Time Loop: When All Else Fails, Be a Villainess, Vol. 3

By Sora Hinokage and Tsukasa Kiryu. Released in Japan as “Loop kara Nukedasenai Akuyaku Reijō wa, Akiramete Sukikatte Ikirukoto ni Kimemashita” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Andria McKnight.

At the end of the last volume I wondered where else the story could take us, and hoped that Selene had a “love epiphany”. Well, I got half my wish. She definitely has an epiphany. And while that is eventually good news for the future of the world this book takes place in, but it’s very bad news for every main and supporting character in this series. Honestly, I shouldn’t be surprised. This has always been on the darker end of Villainess books, so wrapping up with a “now we can get married and live a happy, peaceful life” would have felt wrong somehow. We certainly don’t get that, as Selene gets some very bad news about where the last two demons are located, and realizes that, in order to really, *really* fix things, she will have to weaponize being a hated villainess and make it her own.

As Selene opens the book, things are very quiet, with the only worry being Euclis wanting someone to kill him. The other problem, of course, is that they’ve killed four of the six monsters that threaten the world, and the other two are proving very difficult to find… at least until Etoile gets a future vision that tell him the fifth monster is a lot closer to King Euclid than anyone is really comfortable with. Someone has to deal with it, and since Selene is, frankly, the most powerful of them, it’s up to her. Unfortunately, she then discovers the location of the last monster. What follows is inevitable but will also lead to her downfall, so she needs to come up with a solution that will resolve *all* of this – the guardians, the king, the powers, her time loops, and Dier’s immortality – once and for all. That that solution is… well, it’s a happy ending IN A WAY.

The main reason this book succeeds and does not become just depressing as hell is the ongoing dissonance between Selene’s deadpan narration (and, if I’m honest, deadpan personality) and her kindness, which only seems to come out at times when she is forced to make a horrible but necessary decision. The decision she makes, once it becomes clear that she does have to kill the king, is to fight fate. In fact, it’s to essentially slaughter fate and burn the corpse, in an effort to ensure that the cycle of this happening over and over, Dier being immortal but sad, and her being constantly killed and getting increasingly jaded. At least here she can weaponize that jadedness. I did appreciate that almost everyone gets that something is going on – no one, especially not Dier or her sister, believe she’s suddenly turned mad with power, and they all know she’s kind. It is a bit frustrating having her blow off telling them what she’s actually doing, but I get it.

So, in the end, it all ends in fire… minus a cute epilogue that is thematically appropriate but perhaps a bit too pat for my liking. This was a solid little tragedy in the end, a nice change of pace from other “you are NO LONGER my fiancee!” books.

Stuck in a Time Loop: When All Else Fails, Be a Villainess, Vol. 2

By Sora Hinokage and Tsukasa Kiryu. Released in Japan as “Loop kara Nukedasenai Akuyaku Reijō wa, Akiramete Sukikatte Ikirukoto ni Kimemashita” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Andria McKnight.

There is apparently a 3rd and final volume of this coming soon, which surprises me, as right until the end I thought that this book was the equivalent of that new Shonen Jump series that is told “you have 3 chapters to wrap up all your plotlines”. This volume hits the ground running and does not let up in terms of reveals, backstories, and monster fights. Thankfully, Selene is no longer stuck in a time loop, as at least in this book she manages to make it all the way through without resetting. Unfortunately, bad things keep trying to happen to her, leading to a change in her goal: escape this time loop’ is now secondary to ‘live freely and happily and screw everyone else’. Well, everyone else except Dier, of course. The romance in this series is so mild as to be almost nonexistent, but it is there, and deep down Selene is probably “quite fond” of Dier. Just don’t ask her to say it.

Unfortunately, Selene, Dier, and the king find that even taking all the other powers from the guardians is not enough to change the mystery stone tablet. Fortunately (?) for Selene, a solution presents itself fairly quickly: her little sister Soleil has finally gained the powers of the sun, and her mother is now telling Selene to step down. Selene says no, and so the two of them have to have a fight to determine who gets to be head of house. Which… makes little sense, given that Selene is a master of shadow and Soleil just came into her power last week. What’s stepmom’s real agenda here? Well, it’s a big one, and is tied deeply into their family, the past of this country, and Selene’s own late mother. Unfortunately, none of these revelations are particularly good news, and Selene spends most of the book in battle.

I was pleased to see that little sister was not evil as I’d theorized at the end of my first review. She just has an evil mom. That said, Soleil is not all that interesting, being the standard “yes, mother” daughter who must break free of her shackles, etc. Selene is the star of the show, and the reason we’re here. I’ve mentioned her emotional walls before, and they’re still very high, making the narrative sometimes feel as if she’s reading off a phone book when she’s actually facing off against monsters who have possessed her family. The best part of the book is probably Selene’s father, who I had written off as a minor part of the series, returning and showing that, like his daughter, he does actually feel things but has tremendous difficulty expressing them. This forces Selene to have her one and only major emotional moment in the book. That said, it’s only about halfway through the book, so she doesn’t “change for the better” or anything.

The cover to the third volume, due out in Japan next month, has the characters walking into the twilight but looking back at the reader with a smile, and you know what that means. I’ll be back, and continue to hope Selene has a love epiphany or something.

Stuck in a Time Loop: When All Else Fails, Be a Villainess, Vol. 1

By Sora Hinokage and Tsukasa Kiryu. Released in Japan as “Loop kara Nukedasenai Akuyaku Reijō wa, Akiramete Sukikatte Ikirukoto ni Kimemashita” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Andria McKnight.

It’s always nice to see a refreshing variation of the old formula. In fact, this book takes two formulas and combines them. Selene starts off by having her engagement broken by her fiance (who is, of course, in love with her younger sister) and has “dark” powers that are typical of a villainess character. We also get the time loop variation, where our heroine keeps dying and resetting, trying to find the timeline where she can live happily ever after. The gimmick here is that Selene was a kind, fairly shy young women who has been desperately trying to find a solution for nine lifetimes, and once she hits the tenth she decides that all this can go to hell. She’s not quite broken, but she’s certainly now jaded and cynical as hell, and perfectly willing to torture her father to the brink of death in order to become head of house. The trouble is, deep down? She’s not THAT bad, really.

Selene is the daughter of her father, head of the Vixent House and a commoner woman. Ever since her younger sister, Soleil, was born, she’s been treated like crap by her family and the servants. Worse still, she manifests the power of Shadow, which is seen as an ill omen – her family are supposed to manifest sun powers. So she’s locked in a room to starve to death. Or murdered. Or she runs away and is killed. Or she kills herself. Nothing she tries can stop bad things from happening and her going back to try again. Now, in this new life, she’s determined to stop playing nice. She quickly gains control of her family and finds that hey, now that she’s powerful and can theoretically kill them all, the servants love her! But she needs to find out why this is happening, so teams up with… a man who doesn’t exist anymore.

There’s a lot to like here. The one weakness in the book, I’d say, is that Selene is of the “stoic, relatively unemotional” style of protagonists, which can be a bit boring in some places where I had hoped for a bit more oomph. That said, there’s absolutely a reason for her to be that way, so I get it. Her not-quite-romance with Dier is fun – they’re “accomplices” rather than anything else, which made me think of Otherside Picnic. The other family heads with power are variations on a stock type, but none of them are overly annoying except maybe the water user who is obsessed with Selene… and even then, the fact that she doesn’t take him remotely seriously helps. The one shoe that hasn’t dropped yet is her younger sister. The only person in her family who seems to love Selene, Soleil, throughout this book, acts like a loving but somewhat ineffectual young girl. But I’ve read these books before, and I just KNOW that in this situation, she’s going to be evil. That may have to wait for the second book, though.

This wasn’t lights out fantastic, but it was a very solid read, and if you like jaded women who nevertheless are still pretty kind at their core, give it a try.