I just realized that the heroine is wearing a Saber dress on the cover and am unsure if I can get over this.
Although, I did get over the fact that her beloved has a pretty serious case of yaoi hands, something I noticed months ago.
Elianna Bernstein is a young woman in a European-esque fantasy land who is engaged to the heir to her realm’s throne who is mildly perturbed to have discovered that her betrothed, Prince Christopher, may already be straying. While there is little in life which is of interest to her, she is concerned that a rupture of the engagement will cut off her access to the royal library, as well as necessitate her return of the books she’s been gifted by her fiancee. Thus begins an intrigue which ultimately helps clarify for Elianna what it is that she does care about.
Bibliophile Princess is a fairly short work; even re-reading most of the first third of the book, which I’d read in pre-publication, I was able to finish it entirely a couple of hours. That first third is made up of the story which I’ve described above, and which at least by J-Novel Club is presented as being the primary story on offer. It’s easily the strongest of the sections of the book (which is broken into three), as while it isn’t particularly suspenseful, the author handles it well; the explanation of the prince’s apparent wayward heart is decently novel, which I appreciated. The next two sections are fine, albeit about as substantial as a souffle – they’re at their best whenever they focus on Elianna being oblivious to most social cues… which, speaking of…
Elianna might be of a type which is not uncommon in these sorts of books, but she’s taken to such an extent that I paused a few times to wonder if she’s on the autism spectrum.* I want to take pains to emphasize that I do not mean this at all negatively but instead as a genuine assessment of her characterization. I feel comfortable saying that its very unlikely this was the intended takeaway, and instead its supposed to be that she’s supremely airheaded outside of her areas of interest (in fact, she’s described by others as airheaded several times). However! Elianna’s voracious interest in reading above all else paired with her being nearly completely unable to interpret social cues, to me at least, reads as her being autistic. A scene involving her explaining in great detail the habits and life cycles of caterpillars to an increasingly desperate tea party – and then being truly surprised when another character takes this as her being a savvy social operator outwitting would-be bullies – was the clincher as far as I’m concerned.
J-Novel Club, as I’ve come to expect, has turned out a good release here. Translator and editor team Alyssa Niioka and Suzanne Seals provide a translation which reads naturally, something which cannot at all be taken for granted when it comes to anglophone releases of LNs. (There was also one moment in particular where I reflected they’d opted for an excellent way of rendering something, although I sadly can’t recall what it was; credit to them regardless.)
All in all Bibliophile Princess in its first volume is largely perfectly pleasant but not earth-shattering. I have already pre-ordered volume 2, though, so that surely speaks in its favor. Elianna makes for a lead I enjoy spending time with, and I’m happy to have more options in English for LNs with female leads which are aimed at a female audience. Here’s hoping that second volume has more of a connecting thread throughout, though.
* More specifically, I wondered if she had Asperger’s, which lead me down a bit of an internal rabbit hole because that diagnosis is named after Hans Asperger… a fascist doctor who tormented dozens of children in the name of science as well as sending several to their executioners. (I originally read about this history in a book review of “Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna.) I am glad to be able to say that the primary psychiatric diagnostic text, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, jettisoned the name in its fifth iteration published in 2013. Now people with the constellation of behaviors previously under it fall within the autism diagnoses instead.