A Tale of the Secret Saint, Vol. 1

By Touya and chibi. Released in Japan as “Tensei Sita Daiseijyo ha, Seijyo Dearuko Towohitakakusu” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by Airship. Translated by Kevin Ishizaka. Adapted by Matthew Birkenhauer.

It has to be said, I have a type. They don’t necessarily have to be the heroine (though they certainly are here), but if you get a really strong woman, usually holding a sword, who’s also kind and brave and cheerful… and a bit dumb? Let me tell you, that is my meat and potatoes. So as you can imagine, I was delighted to find that Secret saint offered me a full-course mean of ditzy strong girl. Now, this doesn’t mean the book is excellent. Like a lot of light novels of this sort, if you try to examine the actual plot it ends up having a lot of holes to poke through. But if you don’t, you get the story of a young girl who, near death, ends up getting memories of her past life as a powerful Saint, and her attempts to secretly use that power to help herself while also keeping it a secret from everyone else. Except… she’s terrible at this.

Fia, the youngest daughter in a family of knights, has not had a very good life so far. She’s trying to follow in her siblings’ footsteps, but despite training constantly, she’s not a great knight. Her father ignores her, her brothers disparage her. Then when she goes on her coming-of-age ceremony, she ends up accidentally healing a monster… who then tears a big hole in her. She then remembers her past as a Saint… and now knows how far Saints have fallen in the last three hundred years. Fortunately, with the knowledge from her past, she not only passes her ceremony with flying colors, but also ends up as a knight guarding the royal family! With her ability to make extra strength healing potions, keen instinct for both monsters and humans, and complete lack of common sense, can she keep everyone from knowing who she is now?

As noted above, the fun part of the book is Fia’s increasingly hilarious attempt to pretend that everything she’s doing is perfectly normal and not suspicious at all. No one really buys it… but she never QUITE lies, and they aren’t really able to read her enough to get a bead on her. Her personality made me happy. That said… first of all, her backstory, both as Fia and in her past life, seems far too brutal for a light, fluffy story like this one. “I can put up with an abusive knight captain because it’s nowhere near the abuse I got from my brothers” is not a good punchline, and it occasionally jars. There’s also the fact that the narrative is not good at telling us how much of this is Fia herself and how much is Fia’s past memories. The implication is that her observational talents and sudden tactical genius is all because of her past, but you could also argue that it merely unlocked something in her all along. It’s confusing and I wish it was delineated better.

But honestly, if you don’t think too hard about it, this is a winner. Fans of My Next Life As a Villainess who wonder what Katarina in an RPG would be like can read this and see: she’s be much the same.

Villainess: Reloaded! Blowing Away Bad Ends with Modern Weapons, Vol. 2

By 616th Special Information Battalion and Wuhuo. Released in Japan as “Doushitemo Hametsushitakunai Akuyaku Reijou ga Gendai Heiki wo Te ni Shita Kekka ga Kore desu” by K Lanove Books. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by Shaun Cook.

Fans of genres that have twenty billion books in said genre tend to fall into two distinct types: those who don’t just want to read the same old plotline and characters, and those who do, because it’s their comfort food. In most ways, Villainess Reloaded falls into Category Two. This is a magical academy series with villainess overtones, and so we get a lot of the usual staples: heroine tries to avoid her fate but doesn’t realize everyone loves her; lots of magic discussion and magic experimentation; a beach episode; and yes, for a brief moment, we meet the game’s heroine, who Astrid proceeds to try to avoid. There’s even a maid who seems cool and frosty but secretly cares about her charge! That said, there is one teeny, weeny problem with this being a comfort novel that’s more of the same: Astrid has no morals or ethics, and is turning more evil by the day as we read about her antics.

The book covers Astrid’s final year in elementary school and first year in middle school. She’s experimenting with new ways to fire guns, including howitzers, but is running into an issue: a lack of electricity won’t let her make the truly big guns. That said, she also has other things to worry about. Her father is against her doing much of anything. She meets Adolf’s younger brother, who immediately becomes infatuated with her. (He’s 6, she’s 10.) The Magic Research Club that already exists on campus is an excuse to hang out and eat cookies. And worst of all, she needs money to fund her magic experiments. This means sneaking out on weekends to become an adventurer, going on dragon-slaying quests, and meeting with a cabal of Witches who are holders of the lost magic… which was lost because it’s pretty much “magic you can use to torture or kill people”. Will Astrid join them?

She absolutely will. This should not surprise me, given that I dropped Her Majesty’s Swarm, by the same author, for having similar issues, but the heroine of this tale is morally bankrupt. That said, I will give it major points for thinking of “what if a villainess tried to avoid her fate by becoming MORE EVIL”, which is certainly *not* more of the same old stuff. Seeing Astrid experimenting with blood magic, first on animals and then on herself, to try to remove her conscience is creepy as hell, and the fact that it’s clearly the author’s intention to creep us out doesn’t really help. We do occasionally see her backing away from the darkness – she thinks about killing someone as part of an experiment but doesn’t because she’s not “quite that heartless”. Oh yes, and there’s also the fact that, like Katarina, she thinks of her fate as something that is inevitable unless she puts up a constant struggle… which also makes her a warmonger in terms of her politics.

I’m not sure I could describe this series as enjoyable. Fascinating, perhaps. I’ll be reading the next volume in the series. That said, if you enjoy villainess books in general, there are others that can scratch your itch far more than Little Miss Sociopath and Her Armory.

My Daughter Left the Nest and Returned an S-Rank Adventurer, Vol. 1

By MOJIKAKIYA and toi8. Released in Japan as “Boukensha ni Naritai to Miyako ni Deteitta Musume ga S-Rank ni Natteta” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Roy Nukia.

There is a certain disconnect in this novel which threw me off for a time till I realized what it was doing. The daughter leaving the nest happens right at the start of the book, and returning an S-Ranked adventurer right at the end, and so there’s a lot of middle to fill. Some of it can be frustrating at first glance, such as the running gag of Angeline starting off on a vacation to see her dad again at long last only to have it cut short because other issues take priority or because she’s the only really strong adventurer in the area. As it turns out, though, it’s more than a running gag, it’s a part of a greater problem that needs fixing. That said, we do get a reunion at the end, and there’s plenty of what I would call the meat of this book: Angeline praising her father to a ridiculous degree, and Belgrieve proving that it’s not just rose-tinted glasses, he really is that good.

Belgrieve left his village to be a top adventurer… but a bit later lost a leg. While still an E-rank. So he went back to the village, put up with the ridicule, and set out to do whatever else he could. In fact, despite his prosthetic leg, he’s managed to become quite strong simply by constant monster hunting and gathering supplies. Then one day he finds an abandoned child in the forest, and raises her as his own. Twelve years later, inspired by the stories her father told her, Angeline goes out to the big city to become an adventurer herself. She has a lot more success than her father did, and five years later is the top adventurer in the city, and possibly even in the top adventurers in the country. Unfortunately, there’s also a larger amount of fiends lately, meaning she has no time at all to return home and see her dad. What can she do to fix this?

As noted when this title was licensed, this is NOT going to be a Bunny Drop or If It’s for My Daughter, I’d Even Defeat the Demon Lord series. All 10 volumes of S-Ranked Daughter are out in Japan, and from what I hear the relationship remains a normal dad and daughter relationship. This doesn’t mean that she’s not obsessed with her dad – a lot of the comedy comes from hearing just HOW obsessed with her dad she is. But knowing it won’t go “there” means we’re able to enjoy it as a typical spoiled daughter behavior. Plus, honestly, he deserves most of it. Turns out, prosthetic or no, Belgrieve is able to take on C-class monsters with ease, and makes friends with the local gods to boot. Which might come in handy in future books, as we get hints that someone is trying to raise a lot of demons for some sinister purpose.

The cast is more than the two of them, of course. I particularly like the family of nobles we meet, three daughters who can be summed up as “sensible”, “airhead”, and “named after a font”. Still, it’s dad and daughter you’re hear to read about, and I will be looking forward to Book 2.