Private Tutor to the Duke’s Daughter: The Savior’s Day of Rest

By Riku Nanano and cura. Released in Japan as “Koujo Denka no Kateikyoushi” by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by William Varteresian.

I’ve talked before about how at times I am unhappy with the story the author is telling, preferring that he tell the story of Allen and Lydia’s awesome life in the past, which we have been getting dribbled onto us in bits and babs, making us confused but also making us long to have been there. There’s more of that here, including Lily talking about her own past with Allen (and the implications of why she is super duper uber powerful and talented and yet is so determined to be a maid). But of course, the protagonist of this series is not merely Allen, though he’s certainly the primary one. The secondary protagonist is Tina Howard. And we’re seeing events as Tina would see them. She’s just as frustrated and annoyed that she isn’t able to know Allen as well as Lydia does, simply because she didn’t meet him till the first book, which Lydia has known him for years. Sadly, more bad news for Tina: Lydia starts her comeback here.

Well, OK, she doesn’t get the cover – she’ll have to wait till next time. The majority of this book is the epilogue to the arc we’ve been having for some time now, which means there’s less fighting (though we do get some awesome fights) and a lot more political finagling and wrangling. Allen is clearly the hero of the hour, and this time everyone is finally determined to give him the recognition – and title – and wife – he so richly deserves. This can be rather difficult, given that Allen seriously regards himself as powerless compared to everyone around him and deeply unworthy of most of his love interests. He even blows off a major meeting to go and stop Gil from trying to commit suicide by “it’s all my fault, please execute me but spare the others”. That said, the royal family also has its reasons they do not want Allen to get honored – and once they fail at preventing it, they try for the next best thing.

Lydia, theoretically, should be at a low ebb here. She hasn’t killed anyone, but she’s committed massive amounts of property damage, went mad when she thought for a moment that Allen might have been dead, and ended up becoming so overpowered that she has less mana than even Allen, at least temporarily. But none of that actually matters, because it’s clear that when Lydia and Allen are in the same room, she has such self-confidence and swagger that no one else matters at all. Don’t get me wrong, everyone else gets their chance to show off in front of Allen and also try to get him to pet them/snuggle them/other safe kinds of affection. But all Lydia really does is grumble mildly at these, she doesn’t regard any of them as real threats. Because she’s Allen’s partner. Even if that means helping him in the duel to prove he deserves the glory he’s being given. And even if it means fleeing the country with him. In fact, she packed in advance.

So yes, we now get what is jokingly referred to as the “honeymoon” arc, though there’s still no “he chose this girl” romance yet, and honestly the ongoing war would likely get in the way anyway. This remains one of my favorite light novel series.

The Asterisk War: The Grand Finale

By Yuu Miyazaki and okiura. Released in Japan as “Gakusen Toshi Asterisk” by MF Bunko J. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Haydn Trowell.

The Asterisk War has always been a series that not only speaks in cliches, but revels in them. There is not a single original bone in its body, and I think the author knows that and is unapologetic. That applies very much to this final volume, which is half a volume of fighting and half a volume of epilogue, complete with a “where are they now?” flashforward. We get Ayato saying that he won’t kill Madiath Mesa as that would mean becoming like him. We also get Madiath Mesa committing suicide, because the author is not Ayato. We get to see Saya casually disarm six bombs set along the entire arena… offscreen. Of course. We get to see the final fight between Julis and Orphelia literally end with an Ashita no Joe reference, right down to the art. And we get to see the author trying to pick between two harem endings despised by fans, and somehow managing to pick BOTH of them. It’s near genius, I loved it.

Never let it be said the cover doesn’t give things away. In any case, good news, the artist is well again, so there’s actual art to go with this book. We’re down to two main fights: Ayato and Saya vs. Madiath Mesa, which quickly just becomes Ayato when it is revealed that there is are bombs due to destroy everyone watching the final arena battle unless Saya gets off the pages of the book immediately, which she does. Meanwhile, Julis shows off the results of her ludicrous training with a ludicrous fight against Orphelia, one which features being able to briefly see into other dimensions, gravity vs. fire, and in the end just beating the shit out of each other like sensible people. After that we get “everyone’s in the hospital”, and then the aforementioned flashforward, as Julis has finally had to give in and become royalty.

So yeah, let’s get to that ending, the only reason anyone would still be reading this series. I had heard spoilers that everyone confessed to Ayato but he rejected them all and ran away. That turns out to be true, though we only hear about it in passing during the three-year flashforward. Most of the flashforward involves every main cast member making their way to Lieseltania, where Julis is the new Queen, after her older brother decided to pull a Samson act and take out most of the corruption in the country. Also invited is Ayato, who has a moment with Julis where he’s clearly about to confess before being interrupted by the other girls. But even the author admits in the afterword “Yes, Julis wins”. Also, please look at that cover again. So, for those fans of angry tsunderes who are first girl winning, congrats. Though honestly Julis hasn’t been that angry for a while now.

The Asterisk War was a series that knew how to do one thing well: fight scenes. It made it to 17 volumes by focusing almost entirely on those scenes, and the rest of the plot and characterization were like pastry puffs. Still, I’m happy I read it, even if best girl didn’t win. Possibly as she was sent away to disarm more bombs offscreen. Not that I’m bitter.

Lucia and the Loom: Weaving Her Way to Happiness, Vol. 1

By Hisaya Amagishi and Esora Amaichi. Released in Japan as “Fukushokushi Lucia wa Akiramenai: Kyō kara Hajimeru Kōfuku Keikaku” by MF Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Osman Wong.

When you have a hit series, there’s always the temptation to do the exact same thing. Most publishers do this by having a different writer do something with a very similar plotline, or the same vibe. But there’s also the spinoff route. If you have a character who’s flitted in and out of the series so far, supporting our hardworking heroine, why not write the same sort of book only focusing on her? It would mostly deal with her career but there would also be the potential for romance! That said, Dahlia in Bloom, the parent series, is very much a one-man book. Dahlia may be surrounded by handsome men, but there’s only one man she’s prepared to be in denial over. That may be an issue with Lucia as well, as she’s clearly set up to be the love interest of Forto, her employer and clear frontrunner in the handsome man sweepstakes… and also married. Fortunately, the books always put career first.

Lucia is a young couturier with dreams of owning her own boutique, but at the moment still helps out at her parents’ gloves and socks business. All that changes when Hurricane Dahlia hits the city and the family is approached by Fortunato to go to the Merchant’s Guild with him to see if they can help with Dahlia’s new “toe socks” invention. Since the men of the family are all massive cowards, Lucia is the one who goes, and this ends up leading to her becoming head manager of Forto’s magical garment factory. As the book goes on, we see her overcoming adversity and handling the fashion dilemmas of an old man who wants to look less scary to his granddaughter, twins who have always been treated the same wanting to look different, and a man feeling awkward about wanting his clothes to be a bit more flamboyant. Lucia handles this all with aplomb.

Most of this book takes place at the same time as the second Dahlia in Bloom novel, and we see one scene from that book from Lucia’s perspective. That said, this was clearly meant to be read between the 6th and 7th Dahlia books, which means that sadly licensing difficulties have struck once more, and the book has lost a lot of its impact, because we know what Lucia’s reaction to “will you become my second wife?” will be from that book. The other odd thing in this book is a running theme of the city Dahlia and Lucia live in being LGBT-friendly. Lucia discusses wedding dresses for two brides, says to one of the twins that her partner might be a man or a woman, etc. That said, in terms of the main characters and the romances, the series sticks to what its audience wants and remains very heterosexual. I was sort of expecting the guy who wanted flamboyant clothes to be secretly gay, but no.

That said, this is a very solid spinoff, obsessed with clothes as much as the main series is obsessed with alcohol. It’s a must read for Dahlia fans.