Taking My Reincarnation One Step at a Time: No One Told Me There Would Be Monsters!, Vol. 4

By KAYA and Naru. Released in Japan as “Tensei Shōjo wa Mazu Ippo kara Hajimetai: Mamono ga Iru toka Kiitenai!” by MF Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Amy Osteraas.

I am frequently proved wrong when I write reviews of light novels, but it’s rare I’m proven this wrong this fast. Last volume I wondered if we could get a bit more of happy, joyful Sara because I was annoyed with cranky, grouchy Sara. I am prepared to do a complete 180 – after this volume, I think the reason I find Sara most interesting is because she’s always so bitter about everything. First of all, it helps to differentiate her as a character from various other plucky young girls who were reincarnated and now have massive amounts of power in their adorable teenage bodies, and secondly because it’s not really tied into her past life in Japan. We know she spent most of it sick, and that is why she seems to find such joy in seemingly normal things in this world (like the butterflies), but the cranky “why are you telling me what to do/including me in your drama?” is entirely her own self, and it’s just fun.

Sara, Allen, Nelly and Chris are headed towards Nelly’s hometown to get Nelly’s family to become Sara’s guardian, so that she is less likely to be forcibly abducted by the knights. On their way there, they come across a village dealing with an infestatio0n of seven-colored swallowtails, a butterfly monster whose skin can cause paralysis when touched. When they arrive in Hydrangea, Nelly’s hometown, there is some predictable family stuff, and we learn that Nelly is basically exactly what we guessed she was, but their dungeon is also having a swallowtail infestation. In addition, Sara seems to have finally realized that when she’s not being pushed into it by anyone, she really DOES want to be an apothecary, so she starts learning basic things at the guild -her education with Chris having been erratic, to say the least.

One source of Sara’s constant simmering annoyance is the fact that everyone is trying to decide her future for her, be it passively or actively. Chris, of course, wants her to be an apothecary, and that’s one reason she took so long to decide she actually likes doing that. Nelly and Allen want her to be a hunter, since she’s got fantastic power and ability for it, but, as we see in possibly the best scene in the book, she simply doesn’t have the stomach for it – she can’t kill off monsters like it’s a game, she sees them as living creatures who don’t deserve to die. I loved her delight at seeing hellhounds in Hydrangea’s dungeon, essentially putting them on the same level as her wolves from back home. Speaking of home, it’s interesting to hear that the ‘Dark Mountain” is not just a dangerous place, but a real dungeon – dungeons simply work differently in this world. So Sara was essentially reborn at the bottom of a dungeon, like a final boss. How apropos.

The cliffhanger ending of “if we can’t take her by force, we’ll take her by marriage” implies she’s going to have to go to the capital next volume, so I do not expect her snark to recede anytime soon. This remains an enjoyable reincarnation series.

Taking My Reincarnation One Step at a Time: No One Told Me There Would Be Monsters!, Vol. 3

By KAYA and Naru. Released in Japan as “Tensei Shōjo wa Mazu Ippo kara Hajimetai: Mamono ga Iru toka Kiitenai!” by MF Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Amy Osteraas.

It can sometimes be difficult, when a series is told entirely from one person’s point of view, to remind ourselves that they may not necessarily be the best narrator for the job. Sara tells the entire story in these books, and for the most part that’s fine, but there is a good deal of snark, apathy and general grouchiness to her entire character that makes the narration fun but also reminds us that everyone else doesn’t necessarily adore her. That said, the people she’s grouchiest to (Ted, the knights) generally deserve it. As the series goes on, I’m hoping that we get more of her joyful delight at seeing the ocean, which we get at the end of this book, and a bit less of her “whatever, I don’t care” attitude when people try to railroad her into annoying things. Though she’s right, she really should settle on figuring out what to do with her life soon.

Sara and Nelly head back to Rosa to do some shopping for clothes, but end up getting sidelined by a ton of plot. The other Invited we met in the capital last time, Haruto, has arrived in the town, and is acting like a 10-year-old kid – which, to be fair, is about when he died in Japan, so Sara has a big leg up on him. More dangerously, the knights are returning to get Sara and forcibly have a noble adopt her and get her working for the state. She really does not want to do that, so after letting Haruto and fellow Invited Bradley handle the cottage on the mountain, she, Allen and Nelly join Chris is a trip to a town two weeks away that is trying to train new apothecaries. Unfortunately, when they get there it turns out almost every single apothecary has in fact left the town. Oh yes, also frogs. LOTS of frogs.

Because Sara has for the most part been living on a mountain with a mentor who does not really care about much of anything, or else in a town that is very clearly the “last dungeon” town in this fantasy world, she has not really had a normal isekai reincarnation like everyone else in this series. That’s clearly for the good, as it turns out that while reincarnates are coddled, they’re also pretty much used as government-sponsored slaves, with a name change. You can see why – Sara is really, REALLY powerful, and we see more of that here, though at last we seem to have finally hit a magic thing that makes her feel tired rather than just being easy as pie. The next book is set up by Nelly suggesting they go to her hometown to get her family (who are nobility) to adopt Sara, which should stop the knights from trying to abduct her. I’m fairly certain it will not be that simple.

So yeah, Sara’s not sure what she wants to do with her life here yet, but till she’s safe and can relax, I don’t really blame her. Also, the gimmick is that Sara attracts monsters, right? I think we all get that by now, even if the cast don’t yet. She’s a Monster Magnet.

Taking My Reincarnation One Step at a Time: No One Told Me There Would Be Monsters!, Vol. 2

By KAYA and Naru. Released in Japan as “Tensei Shōjo wa Mazu Ippo kara Hajimetai: Mamono ga Iru toka Kiitenai!” by MF Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Amy Osteraas.

This series continues to interest me far more than I expected, possibly as, while it is doing a lot of the usual fantasy tropeland stuff (mana, guilds, etc.) it at least manages to avoid game stats and power levels. Our heroine and her too-young-to-be-a-boyfriend are both quite powerful, but in his case, this has mostly completely ruined his life, and in her case, she’s hiding most of her true strength to avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention. Honestly, in the first half of this book, everyone is sort of prickly, including the heroine. You’d expect this to be a warm, fuzzy series where the townspeople take in this plucky orphan and make sure she has everything she needs, but no, she’s still living in tents or watchtowers – albeit because she wants to, she can afford better – and they’re still content to use her skills on a regular basis. It’s slow life, but until the end of this volume it lacks the sweetness.

Sara is still selling meals at the adventurer’s guild and collecting healing herbs, all while trying to avoid the attention of Ted from the Apothecary Guild, who continues to dislike Allen and Sara intensely (though, as the book goes on, the reader sees he’s more a tsundere than anything else). Unfortunately, Nelly is *still* not back yet. What’s worse, she’ attracted the attention of a knight from the capital, who sees these two extremely powerful orphans sleeping outside the city and gets several ideas in his head. First he says they should come with him to the capital and be his maid and butler – rejected. Then he leans on the town to make things much harder for adventurers sleeping outside the city, in order to clear them off – and, it’s hinted, drive Sara and Allen to him. Fortunately, Nelly is finally able to return, and a whole lot of misunderstandings are cleared up.

I will admit the big flaw with this volume is that a lot of it depends on everyone being somewhat thick. Nelly and Sara’s descriptions of each other do not match the reality of who they really are, so no one recognizes they’re connected. Hell, they don’t even realize Sara is a girl till the other women of the town (who do know right away, of course) tell them outright. No one connects a missing 12-year-old kid desperately being searched for to the powerful 12-year-old kid who showed up in town at exactly the same time. You start to understand why Sara’s general reaction to most of the adults around her is disappointment and irritation. That said, the friendship between her and Allen is a definite highlight of the book, and I do wonder how things will go for them in the third book, especially now that Sara has revealed to all she’s from another world. I suspect she won’t be allowed to live a quiet life in the woods with her wolves for long.

This isn’t terrific, but definitely falls under “better than I expected”, and I’d like to read more. I miss the first book’s running gag, though, and hope it returns.