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.

Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 8

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.

Tearmoon Empire is a very funny series. There are tons of scenes of Mia being silly or smug, other people misunderstanding her to comic effect, etc. But the series also knows when it’s time to be 100% serious, and that time is whenever get get a glimpse of what life was like in the original timelines. We’ve already seen how things progressed in Bel’s world (and see why Dion is her absolute hero, something that baffles both the Dion of this world as well as Citrina), but we’ve also seen the main cast occasionally have dreams of their prior lives. They’re never good dreams. It’s Tiona’s turn here, and it hits especially hard given that Mia was thinking that she hopes the Tiona and Sion of her past life, the “perfect couple”, lived happily ever after. Instead, in both Tiona and Sion’s case, we see that the need for vengeance, justice and revolution ended up driving them away from each other, and nobody ends up happy. Everyone should be relieved Mia went back in time.

Because no Tearmoon Empire volume can ever QUITE get the arcs to line up properly, we start with the end of the previous arc, as Mia fosters better relations between the Empire and its domain by doing the one thing that even the narrator admits she’s fantastic at: dancing. Feeling good about things, but reminded of her previous complacency, she decides to read her Bloody Diary. It’s a good thing she checked – now it says that Sion is assassinated in a month’s time. Coincidentally (or is it?), Esmeralda comes to Mia in a panic, as her father has said she'[s to be married off to a Sunkland noble. Realizing that she can go to Sunkland and stop Sion getting killed if she tags along with Esmeralda’s engagement party, Mia and her entourage visit Sion’s country for the first time. And, as it turns out, getting assassinated by bandits may be the least of Sion’s worries…

We do sometimes get the device of seeing Mia’s POV of a scene and then seeing the same scene again with another character, though not nearly to the extent of, say, My Next Life As a Villainess. And sometimes we don’t even need to get the other half of the scene because we can infer the heartwarming in our heads. Now that Citrina is no longer an enemy, she’s ready to do anything she can to help Mia – including, she assumes, what she’s be best at – killing people. But Mia assures her that she will never ask her to kill someone else for her, something that poleaxes Citrina. Yes, it’s framed around Mia wanting delicious mushrooms (as is most of the book, really) but the sentiment is also genuine. Mia wants as few people killed as possible, even if that might affect her end goal. It inspires Citrina, who is really crafty for such a young girl, to try to help Mia in slightly less permanent ways. Her growth was my favorite part of this book.

This volume spent most of its time setting up a stack of dominoes, but unfortunately we have to wait for the 9th volume to knock them over. Till then, this remains one of my absolute favorite light novel series.

Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 7

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 narrative voice is one of the most well-known parts of this series, but we do occasionally see inside Mia’s own thoughts as well, and when we do we can sort of get what the narrator is talking about. There are several points in this book where Mia is essentially being a petty, selfish and gluttonous princess – we see how she thinks. In those cases, yes, the fact that everyone misinterprets her can be ridiculous. That said, we also see many times in this volume Mia’s sharp instincts to avoid the guillotine, and those are top-tier. When Mia doesn’t think but simply reacts, be it to a death flag or when she sees one of her friends is unhappy, she shines. And heck, even her selfish pettiness doesn’t last long – her desire to see a money-grubbing merchant suffer is thrown out the window when she sees him legitimately suffering the aftereffects of a heart attack. In this book we really do see that if she does become Empress, she might just do OK.

The first fifth of the book wraps up the third “arc” we’ve been reading, with Mia returning home for the weeklong festival to celebrate her birthday, as we are reminded that her father is, not to put too fine a point on it, a freak. That said, it’s the colors Mia wears to her party that make the impression. After this we move into a new arc which features Mia, having set up an excellent program to combat famine, trying hard to keep it from collapsing. Chaos Serpents are still trying to sow discord, but we also have to deal with those who realize that a famine can be a great way to make a pile of cash if you’re the one delivering the food. Now Mia and Ludwig have to face off against an antagonist who Mia remembers from her past life… when things ended in disaster. Can she turn things around with the help of a commoner studying medicine and the power of wheat?

This is usually the point of every review where I get annoyed at the narrator for harping on Mia being chubby, and yeah, it’s here as well. That said, we also see Mia chiding herself for a different kind of flab. A couple of times in this book she makes the mistake of being complacent, and that’s when disaster pricks at her intuition. Given that there is a secret society whose goal is to destroy her and her kingdom, Mia simply can’t stop and just relax. I think, in time, this will become second nature to her – she just needs to have her thoughts map to her instincts more. She also has help. Ludwig is hilarious here, taking on the brunt of “misunderstand Mia in a positive way” and realizing that if you truly want to change everything about the Empire, might as well also let people like him be Chancellor. As for Shalloak, the “evil” merchant, his story actually ends up being heartwarming and tragic at the same time – the benefits of people dreaming of their past lives in another world.

Add to this one of the best side stories in the entire series, where a search for cake will make you cry, and you have a fantastic volume. Each one of these is a treasure.