The Troubles of Miss Nicola the Exorcist, Vol. 2

By Ito Iino and Kinokohime. Released in Japan as “Haraiya Reijō Nicola no Komarigoto” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Joshua Douglass-Molloy.

DRE Novels is a relatively recent imprint, and they don’t have any series longer than three volumes. So it’s no surprise that when they get a series that does really well – such as winning the Gold Medal in their light novel awards, as the first volume of this did – they’re going to tell them “hey, write more” even when the series wrapped up perfectly fine in the first book. It’s not all that hard. Nicola is, after all, a grumpy cuss, and the lack of life experience other than “exorcist” in her previous life and noble politeness in this one have left her ill-equipped for feelings of love. So she spends a bit of this book asking the other members of the cast what they think love is. That said, that’s not enough to sustain a second book. What is enough, though, is doubling down on the ‘exorcist’ part of the series and turning a lot of this into straight-up horror.

We pick up right where we left off at the end of the last book. Olivia is dead, Nicola and Sieghart like each other but she’s too embarrassed to own up to it on her end, and supernatural things still love Sieghart to death – and in some cases are trying to make that literal. Olivia’s death, unfortunately, means that Alois needs a new fiancee, and Nicola is one of only three candidates – and the top one, at that. The group decide to go on a trip to meet the other two fiancee candidates – Charlotte, daughter of a marquess and a maid who grew up starving on the streets till they were taken in and made an heir; and Elfriede, another marquess’ daughter who has been so sickly no one has seen her in years. There are a few surprises, as you might guess. Charlotte’s identity is a major shock. And what’s really happened to Elfriede is beyond the pale.

This isn’t quite as good as the first book, which makes sense given that it’s a sequel the author had to be talked into writing. Emma, Charlotte’s older sister, is far too underdeveloped a character given her role in the book’s plot, and there is a “I don’t want this to be TOO depressing” bit near the end that takes suspension of disbelief and tosses it out the window. The book excels, as you might expect, with Nicola, who remains very grumpy throughout, even as she tries to figure out what these feelings she has for Sieghart are and why everyone else already knows that she has them. There’s also the horror, especially in the back half. This book comes with a big old “child death” warning, and we see the brutality of some of these deaths. But it’s not done to shock but to horrify, and is handled very well. If the series ends here, I would not mind the author writing more horror.

Will the series end here? Well, Nicola has actually put a name to her love, but they’re still not actually married, so who knows? Till then, this doesn’t have as many dead children as Roll Over and Die, but it makes the deaths count more. (Also, why do I keep bringing up Roll Over and Die in my reviews lately?)

The Troubles of Miss Nicola the Exorcist, Vol. 1

By Ito Iino and Kinokohime. Released in Japan as “Haraiya Reijō Nicola no Komarigoto” by DRE Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Joshua Douglass-Molloy.

I am always going to be on board with grumpy young women who are on the verge of going “tch” all the time but end up helping everyone around them anyway. It’s a type I really love, and it meant that I really loves the protagonist all through this book. It helps that she’s surrounded by other stock types. There’s the childhood friend who is so handsome that all the girls fall madly in love with him, who unfortunately only has eyes for Nicola. (She’s asked him not to go near her when anyone can see him, and to his credit he gets why and agrees.) There’s also the prince who’s seemingly casual but in reality quite a hard worker, and who loves the fact that Nicola literally gets a royal decree that she can be rude to him if she wants. In fact, I had such fun with the characters that the actual plot twist took me entirely by surprise, even though it shouldn’t have.

Nicola is, yes, reincarnated from Japan. In her previous life she could see spirits, and was taken in by a mentor to become a top-class exorcist… at least until she was sacrificed by some unknown assailant. Now she’s Nicola von Weber, a low-level noble who’s just starting at the academy. Already there, two years ahead of her, is Sieghart, who she met when they were both kids and who has attached himself to her like a lamprey. Sieghart, you see, is SO pretty that spirits haunt him constantly – and Nicola still has the exorcist powers that she had back in Japan, so she can help to, if not get rid of them, at least minimize them. Unfortunately, it turns out he’s not the only one beset by spirits, and now she has to deal with Prince Alois and his grumpy bodyguard Ernst.

First of all, a minor grump. I realize that authors and artists can’t always communicate well, but if your text constantly has Nicola be the usual “woe is me, I am so flat-chested and envy the large breasts of others”, perhaps convey that better in the art. Other than that, I love Nicola, a young woman who clearly *is* in love with the gorgeous Sieghart, but refuses to admit it to herself due to their status difference and her own stubborn embarrassment. She starts off basically thinking of herself as the only sane person surrounded by unthinking men, but as the book continues it becomes apparent that she’s the one who’s in the most danger of haring into danger at the slightest provocation. Sieghart is also well-handled, being a standard shoujo pretty boy but showing a lot more intelligence than most in that genre, as well as actual trauma from his constantly being haunted that affects a lot of the things he does.

This felt like it was written as a one-shot and then the editor demanded the ending be rewritten to allow for a continuation. Disappointing for romance fans, but I do admit I want to read more of this.