Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 11

y Nozomu Mochitsuki and Gilse. Released in Japan as “Tearmoon Teikoku Monogatari” by TO Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Madeleine Willette.

(This review gets a bit spoilery about the fate of one of the main characters, be warned. Though I try to glide over it.)

We’ve seen Tearmoon Empire be a fun comedy, and we’ve seen it be an action thriller, and we’ve seen it be a romance as well. But we really have not seen it as a dark tragedy. Or rather, it’s only been seen in flashbacks to the bad future, where we see the consequences of Mia being unable to save everyone and getting executed. And that’s tended to be more along the lines of “my God, what have I done?” The latter half of this book, though, goes as closely as this series is likely to get into the tragedy mode, and I’m kicking myself that I did not pick up on the ominous foreshadowing in the last volume, which I cheerfully thought was “oh boy, secrets are going to be told once this arc gets finished!”. Unfortunately, this leads to the question of “why won’t secrets actually be told?”, and the answer is possibly “because the person with the secrets is now dead.”

We pick up where the last book left off, with the race between Mia, on her “slow but steady wins the race” horse, and Xiaolei, on her “fastest in the land” horse. If you’re suspecting we’re seeing a retelling of the Tortoise and the Hare fable, you’re pretty much dead on. Mia is, of course, trying her best NOT to win, for various reasons, but we already know how that’s going to go. She does, however, manage to unite the tribes. Which is good, as unfortunately while this was going on Citrina was kidnapped by the Chaos Serpents, led by Abel’s older sister Valentina. Mia goes to rescue her, and oddly she is allowed to take other people with her, such as Abel and Dion. Why, it’s almost like the Serpents’ goal is not merely to kill off Mia but something far more sinister…

This is the second book I’ve read recently that felt like a final volume of the series, enough so that the author needs to assure us it’s not the end. The cliffhanger ending helps, as we’re introduced to what appears to be yet another Tearmoon from the future (?). As for the book itself, Mia is pretty great in it (I always enjoy a good “I won’t let the villains die, that would be too easy on them, they will have to live on” plot), but honestly the emotional lifting is done by Citrina and Bel. I joked on Twitter that since Mia had changed the future so that she doesn’t suffer, Citrina had become Tearmoon Empire’s designated woobie, and it’s not wrong. The other reason that this feels like a final volume is that we get a ton of flashforwards to “the good future”, the one Mia will eventually get to, with everyone alive and married off. It’s nice to actually *see* Grandma Mia rather than just hear about her. As for Citrina… well, I suspect the start of Book 12 will help. At least, I hope so.

I haven’t even mentioned the other high point of the volume, where Valentina tells us what the Chaos Serpents actually are. This was one of the best in the series. And again, the arc ended at the end of the book! Keep it up!

Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 10

By Nozomu Mochitsuki and Gilse. Released in Japan as “Tearmoon Teikoku Monogatari” by TO Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Madeleine Willette.

This volume starts off with something we have rarely seen in this series: the actual beginning of a new story arc. For some reason or another, the author and publisher of this title are very bad at making climaxes in this series happen at the end of the volume itself, so we have the next book start with the climax instead or an epilogue chapter rather than the next arc. But here, at last, we start off with something new: Mia, Rafina, and company headed off to Equestria, there to meet up with the chiefs who make up that nomadic people. Or at least, they are until Mia and Rafina, our for a ride, are beset by bandits. The head of the bandits turns out to be the daughter of one of the tribe leader, and there’s a good reason that her people are reduced to this: a poor harvest means they’re hard up for food. Something that Mia understands all too well…

I’ve been complaining about the narrator for a while now, so it’s time I turned around and mentioned the points where I do appreciate it. The manga doesn’t really use a narrator, making Mia far more sympathetic, but the new anime adaptation (which so far is excellent) is definitely playing it up. It was a highlight of the early books, but grew a bit wearying as we began to see Mia genuinely growing as a person. Where it works best in this book is when it’s looking at everyone else’s thoughts – seeing Ludwig or Rafina staring at Mia talking about what is inevitably food, and thinking that this is the point when they realize that she’s not a great sage but a massive faker… and then they leap to a different conclusion to support their own love for Mia, and the narrator is disappointed once more. This is funny as hell.

Bel, as always, gets little to to in this volume, but for a change what she does get is fantastic. We haven’t paid quite as much attention to her past… which is to say, the Bad Future #3… in a while, but that does not mean that she isn’t constantly dwelling on it, especially given that her entire existence is something of a secret. But now she’s best friends with Citrina, and may finally be able to reach out and make promises without getting her hopes dashed by everyone promising to come back and then dying on her. (There is some mild subtext between her and Citrina, which I’m content to ignore, partly as they’re both 10 and partly as I’m sure it’s unintentional, but…) She also says she’s going to tell Citrina about her secrets when they get back to the Empire, which should be very interesting if it happens, and might be the start of a new arc.

But first we have to end this arc, which of course does not neatly wrap up here. Is Abel’s sister irredeemably evil? Can Mia possibly win a horse race riding a horse the narrator repeatedly compares to Mia herself? And did we just see the start of a Rafina x Malong ship? The next book is… for once, not that far away! Also, go watch the anime.

Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 9

By Nozomu Mochitsuki and Gilse. Released in Japan as “Tearmoon Teikoku Monogatari” by TO Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by David Teng.

I’m not sure how long Tearmoon Empire is supposed to be, or even if the author has an ending in mind. Certainly Vol. 12 is due out in Japan soon, so we’re not anywhere close to the end at the moment. And yet it feels that we have at least started to hit the back half of the series, if only because we’re getting flash forwards that aren’t always depressing nightmares. The last couple of volumes of Tearmoon Empire have shown us glimpses of the main cast in the original world after Mia is executed, and this volume has one as well. It’s meant to show us all the good that Mia has done her second time around, even when she doesn’t always realize it. But here we also start to see flashforwards that seem to be the ACTUAL happy future, showing us an older Mia still happily running rings around everyone even if the narrator insists that she’s being a selfish coward. I really enjoyed reading them.

We pick up right where we left off at the end of the previous book, with Mia and company trying to stop Prince Sion from being poisoned by his younger brother. They succeed at this… accidentally, but the actual poisoning that happens is much worse, and requires everyone (but particularly Tiona and Citrina) being incredibly quick-witted. After the fallout from this, there’s still a massive party with nobles to attend to, so Sion and Abel decide to fight for Mia’s hand once and for all in a sword duel. Which comes as a big surprise to Mia, who as usual in matters of the heart seems to act like a girl her age. That said, when Sion actually confesses to her, she knows that this isn’t something she can actually brush off or deflect, and gives him an honest, sincere answer. Even the narrator is (mostly) silent here.

Tiona spent most of the start of this series either absent or barely appearing, which was a surprise given the role that she had in Mia’s original timeline. But gradually she’s grown in importance as a character, and here we see what Mia’s actions have wrought, which is that she and Sion have now had enough character development that they can genuinely confide in each other. While Tearmoon Empire isn’t quite a “villainess” book per se, and is not derived from an otome game, Tiona absolutely fulfills the “heroine of an otome game” archetype, including being able to see past noble bullshit and get to the heart of the matter. As for Mia, she’s getting smarter by the book. I especially loved when Citrina praised her for her foresight in finding the antidote mushroom, and Mia briefly debated taking credit for it, but decided to tell Citrina that it really was just pure coincidence. I’m hoping that in future books we can see her be even more honest with others about her real motives, though the basic premise of the book tells me I won’t see it too often.

This was an absolute banger of a book, wrapping up this arc in fine fashion, and with several real dramatic moments. Next time we’ll be going to The Valley of Horses, but hopefully not in a Jean M. Auel way, and presumably we will slowly set up the next arc but not pay it off. These books are long, as are the arcs.