Going to stick to the manga instead for this one.
As there isn’t any significant difference between this opening volume of the original light novel series and it’s manga adaptation, forgive me, but I’m going to engage in some self-plagiarism from a review of the manga:
“Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter starts us out in a setting which is, by now, fairly familiar – our lead has been reborn into an otome game she’s been playing! But she’s the villainess! But whereas tales like My Next Life as a Villainness or Deathbound Duke’s Daughter drop our heroine into the game world early enough that there’s time to avoid a bitter fate, the woman at the heart of this story gets no such luck. She awakens as Iris Lana Armelia at the very moment where she’s being publicly condemned by her erstwhile fiancee for harassing Yuri Neuer, the heroine of the game. But while there’s no avoiding that experience, quick-thinking is in order if she wants to prevent herself from being consigned to a convent for shaming her family. Thus begins Iris’s journey from being tossed from polite society to becoming an enviably competent acting lord of her family’s fiefdom; for Iris, being spurned romantically absolutely will not be the end.” Iris goes about being an enviably competent acting lord of her family’s fiefdom by, among other things, reforming the tax code, establishing an education system, and introducing the concept of banking as well as more advanced book-keeping, most of which she does because she used to work in a tax office in her previous life.
There are seven volumes of the manga adaptation out in English, which I’ve been avidly following since Seven Seas Entertainment, who are also publishing the LNs, started releasing them. Iris makes for a thrillingly sharp and ambitious lead, and the political intrigue angle that develops over the course of the story is totally up my alley. Given that, I was very happy when the LNs were licensed; that, as much as I enjoyed the manga, there seemed some obvious points at which things were compressed and/or glossed in the process of adaptation made me all the more eager to read the LNs…
Unfortunately, this opening volume was a hell of a disappointment. It’s not bad by any stretch, but if I was expecting it to add much versus what the manga had, it absolutely does not. It turns out that the moments in the manga where it seemed clear that events were condensed were just very simply adapting time-skips and “oh, and this plan worked perfectly!” explanations in the original story. The biggest plus-ups on detail either add nothing to the text, or actively drag the story down – Iris spends a LOT more time fretting that she might be getting fat (it was bad enough the manga had two moments of this, I did not need it to turn out to be such a consistent plot thread), and we’re dropped into the heads of each of Iris’s servants to have it really pounded into our skulls that they think Iris walks on water when it’d be far less obnoxious to just let the reader draw their own conclusions based on Iris’s consistently decent behavior to those around her. And if its subtlely clear in the manga that the writer is pretty sure capitalism is the best way to improve the lots of the least in society, here Iris makes direct statements that boil down to, “Isn’t capitalism THE BEST?”. Completely setting aside my own sentiments regarding capitalism or economic ideologies more broadly, I can’t say I’m all that jazzed at having LN characters directly advocate for particular economic systems for similar reasons to why I don’t dig reading fiction in which characters are directly advocating to the reader for a given religion – its deeply boring!
I still like the core story, and I mostly like the cast, even if some could stand to be less of a mouthpiece for making sure we really, really know Iris rocks. But the manga is simply the better take on this story.
None of my dislike for the LN should be taken as at all reflecting negatively on the folks at Seven Seas who worked on this. It’s a polished release and my only real gripe from a release perspective is that the version at least as released through Kobo doesn’t allow for one to use any magnification of text on the copyright page. I’m delighted that Seven Seas keeps crediting more and more of the folks who work on their releases, but the font size has gotten punishingly small to fit them all on there.
So, this is one where I’ll be sticking with the manga over the LNs! But if you’re in search of a fantasy LN with a capable female lead, it may be worth giving a try… but, lordy, don’t say I didn’t warn you about the fatphobia.