Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 5

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

The structure of this book is slightly off, as the author admits that the story got away from them and the island arc that should have concluded the 2nd “arc” of this story ended up being the first third of this 5th book as well. Still, it works out, as we get to see Mia turn a corner and fend off another of her fates written in a long history book… or at least it was long. Yes, sometimes when you’re trying to stop the bad guys who can mess with the fates, you end up finding that your fate can sometimes get even worse. Now Mia’s not being executed at the guillotine or cut down in her adult years for not being Empress, the history books say she’ll be killed in a few scant months. Can she avoid this fate while continuing to work hard to save her kingdom from famine, win over more allies by being kind and charming, and also eat delicious sweets? The answer should be obvious.

The one thing I took away from this book is that I think Mia handles plots against her, or large conspiracies, much better than sudden random events conspiring against her. When she has to deal with a cave-in, a seemingly deadly fish attacking her, or even just horses sneezing in her face, she seems to always end up on the wrong foot. But the larger, more epic scenarios are where she shines – and yes, by now even the narrator is having trouble saying EVERYTHING she does is due to her selfishness and need to eat sweets, although god knows they try to say so anyway. In her confrontation with Esmeralda, where she sees the traitorous past of their nation as found in a secret underground ruin, stares destiny right in the face, and says “to hell with that”, she really is learning to be a good person – and yes, it’s framed as her having to “deceive” Esmeralda by saying they’re best friends, but I don’t doubt it’s actually going to come to pass. Mia is no longer as passive or luck-driven as she was in past books.

The 2nd half of the book, back at school, is even better. Finding from Bel’s now-changed history book how she’s going to die, she takes steps to avoid it, the first of which is getting even better at riding horses. The way she does this is actually quite clever. You see, she gets up early, practices really hard, learns to read the movements of the horse, and treats them well, even going so far as to help save the life of the pregnant horse that she had been eyeing up as a replacement mount (as opposed to the horse that keeps sneezing on her). See? I told you it was clever. Mia is doing things correctly and doing them well. This culminates in the highlight of the book, where she races Ruby, the daughter of the House of Redmoon, in a Belmont Stakes with one of her retainers at stake. The race is fantastic, with Mia being both very much in character (she’s screaming and whining the entire time) but also incredibly awesome. And we also see her changing history once more, as one reason she was executed her first go-round is that she pissed off Ruby so much she persuaded her father not to support them with military might… something that ended up being fatal to them both. This time around, everyone wins, and Mia’s solution to what to do about Ruby is brilliant. I don’t even care if she wasn’t thinking long-term here. It’s still brilliant.

There are, of course, a few plotholes with the new arc, but they’re acceptable. Miabel did not vanish when Mia’s fate changed, despite the fact that she did not live long enough to have kids, much less grandkids. Even the author acknowledges this is a handwave, but it’s fine, as we also get sweet scenes of Miabel managing to stay her innocent, sweet self even in a bad future where she has to be hidden from the world. That said, Mia is still the star, not her granddaughter, and Mia is the reason that these books keep getting better. I can’t wait for the next one, and I would say that this is essential light novel reading.

Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 4

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

We’ve now had three books filled with Princess Mia doing something for either selfish or silly reasons (or, increasingly, because she is a very nice person) that ends up misinterpreted by everyone around her as pure brilliance, and we get plenty of that here as well. But we’re starting to also see the rest of the cast accomplish things away from Mia and have their own subplots. No, alas, I don’t mean Miabel, who’s still pretty much the mascot character of the series, and gets left behind for the second half of the book while the rest of the cast have a cruise. Instead, it’s Ludwig, thinking of some offhand remarks of Mia’s as well as what he thinks she would be doing in his place, that leads him to uncover a web of political intrigue that could end up crippling the Empire if things do end up happening the way that Mia predicts they will. His investigation and detective work is a refreshingly sedate part of this book. That said, rest assured there’s still a lot of Mia vs. reality here to love.

As with a couple of other Tearmoon books, the main plot is divided into two large chunks. The first picks up where the previous book left off: the school Mia had planned to start up is floundering, as ,most of the teachers and the headmaster have left. The answer is sadly obvious: Mia may be a very atypical noble now, but most nobles are far more like what Mia was in her previous “life”, and they are not having which this school where horrible farmers will be taught. To solve this, Ludwig suggests bringing in his former mentor, an eccentric old man whose grumpy tendencies and dislike of most nobles play right into Mia’s hands. After this, she is invited on a sea cruise to a tropical island by fellow noble Esmeralda, who IS like most nobles are – you will expect her maid to stab her in the face before the book finishes. Accompanied by Sion, Abel and Keithwood, all of whom supposedly go to “guard” Mia, they sadly run into a typhoon, leaving them stranded on an island that no longer looks as fun.

To get a big negative out of the way first, there is a subplot here about Mia getting a swimsuit for the cruise and realizing that she has tummy bulge, which unfortunately leads to a bunch of fat jokes, though Mia does end up losing most of the weight before the cruise itself. It’s not welcome. The rest of the book is filled with Tearmoon shenanigans, as most of the cast are content to listen to what she says and then make the most amazingly wrong conclusion imaginable, usually to the benefit of everyone involved. The semi-exception here is Keithwood, who knows Mia can be a flake, and is irritated with her mushroom obsession (especially as most of them are poisonous), but still regards her as a force for good. Which, honestly, she is. The narrative may frame Mia’s actions much of the time as self-interest or cowardice, but more and more we’re seeing Mia just be really nice to everyone – and get irritated when other nobles are not, as her anger towards Esmeralda’s treatment of her servant shows. Mia may be no Great Sage, but if things continue to go like this, she may make a very good leader.

The books are getting quite popular in Japan – the author talks about a stage play being made, and a 2nd one is due out this year – and it’s not hard to see why. Mia is fun, the books are exciting, there’s some good politics, and each book is long enough that you get a lot of bang for your buck. Hopefully fewer fat jokes next time, but otherwise still essential.

Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 3

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

When we last left Mia, it appeared that she had managed to avoid her dreadful fate – indeed, the author says what we all guessed in the afterword of this book – it was supposed to be two volumes originally. But the series grew to be quite popular (there’s even a live-action stage musical coming out in Japan), and so Mia’s story lives on! Because Mia may have avoided the guillotine as a young bratty princess, but that doesn’t mean she can’t later be killed off as an adult! And so we now get Mia’s granddaughter Bel, who has traveled back in time to avoid her own horrific fate, because 50 years on or so, the whole of Tearmoon Empire has gone to hell again. There’s only one way to fix this and keep Mia from a horrible fate… she has to defeat the Saint, Rafina, and become Student Council President!… wait, what?

Most of the book has what made the first two books so much fun. Mia trying to act selfishly and failing; Mia’s actions being completely misinterpreted by everyone around her. The snarky narrator is there but does not seem quite as mean or nasty to Mia this time around. That said, Mia is not magically a good and noble-hearted person; she’s still growing up and trying to mature, and it’s a slow process because she doesn’t want to. When it’s suggested that she can use negative campaigning to win the election against Rafina, she’s thrilled, as the idea had never occurred to her! Of course, this is then balanced out by her realization that this sort of thing was also done against her in his first life, and she absolutely hated it. As a result, she refuses. She also has an excellent memory for names… we see her groping to recall someone’s name a few times in this book, but unlike other heroines of this type, she always gets it right. Her instincts usually steer her correct.

As for the rest of the cast, I was rather surprised at how little an effect Bel had on the plot. As Mia’s granddaughter, you’d expect her to be taking over having to replace the timeline, but she is there mostly as she ran away rather than to fix things, and she’s also four years younger than Mia. As a result, she’s there to be cute, occasionally tell Mia what life was like in the future, and be cute. (Yes, I said cute twice.) The other major character here is Rafina, and the reader gradually realizes, before Mia, why Mia’s winning the election is so important – Rafina is stretched too thin and has no one she can trust as a friend. In the future, this leads to tragedy and hardens her heart. Here (again via misunderstanding Mia… stay on brand, Tearmoon) she realizes what Mia is trying to do and acquiesces. There’s also a sneering villain sort of character (no, the book really describes him as this) who gets taken down by Mia, almost accidentally, immediately. Both he and Rafina benefit from having “please forgive me for my own mistakes” be thought of as “please forgive OTHERS for their own bad choices”.

Another thing I really enjoy about this series its its forays into the ‘Bad End’ pasts (or rather futures) of the characters. Anne visiting Mia in prison is a short story that is truly sweet and tearjerking. And Dion gets most of the last fifth of the book – first in the second bad future, showing him fighting to the death so Bel can escape to allies, and then in the present, as he delivers a missive to Mia and also has her show him around the city. It’s a good reminder that, while Mia is usually pretty good at covering up her airheadedness, not everyone is 100% under her spell – Dion does misinterpret her actions, but he also thinks that her face is that of someone “not thinking anything at all”. This also leads to the other tearjerking moment in the book, when Bel hugs Dion and thanks him for saving her, something which he is rather nonplussed by (as he hasn’t done it yet). Tearmoon Empire can be hilarious, but I also love the sweet heartfelt bits.

This is not quite as top-tier as the second book in the series, but it’s definitely a solid read, with well written and translated prose. The fourth book suggests Mia’s school she set up in Book 2 is not going as well as hoped. The good news is that we only have to wait three months rather than 5 for the next volume. Highly recommended.