Too bad she doesn’t want to be one.
Lyse Winslette is the orphaned daughter of a baron who works in the palace of the king of Olwen, a vassal state of the Razanate Empire. But Lyse has a secret – she’s actually the reincarnation of a knight of said empire, Qatora, a woman who died while protecting members of the imperial family. Although she misses Razanate badly, Lyse feels compelled to remain in Olwen because when she died she learned the secret of the Light of Origin, the power source that has enabled the empire to reign supreme in her world – and she fears for what the emperor would be willing to do to ensure that knowledge didn’t become widespread. Unfortunately, though, Lyse finds herself temporarily assigned to work directly for the emperor during an official visit to Olwen… and in short order engaged to one of the emperor’s knights when she stumbles upon the emperor’s own secret – someone is working some sort of curse against him that is slowly turning him into a dog! The empire is determined to bring her back, and Lyse begins her own investigation in the hopes she can avoid such a fate…
Well, here’s one I wearied of pretty quickly! Its not terrible… but it’s not good, either. The biggest issue is that the driving conceit, that Lyse wants to stay away from Razanate since she knows what’s actually up with the Light of the Origin, just does not make a whole lot of sense. Lyse is worried that she’ll somehow blab the truth out, which means prior to the start of the book that she’s decided against even immigrating to the empire as a total nobody, which… nothing about her characterization makes it believable that she’s the sort who can’t keep her mouth shut. It’s also not obvious why a nobody foreigner would be getting any working over by anyone about the Light of the Origin at all, so fear of interrogation is difficult to believe.
If the book had been stronger overall, maybe I could’ve gotten past that. As it is, the rest of the book was not stronger. Lyse is shunned in her own society because she’s good with a sword and that’s viewed as deeply unladylike within Olwen; Razanate values women who can fight, something of which much hay is made, only for the love interest to repeatedly clamor that Lyse shouldn’t be fighting to defend herself. Speaking of that love interest, he is the jealous type, so much so that he gets upset when he comes across Lyse talking to her own cousin. No, book, this really isn’t romantic. Love interest also tells Lyse, roughly, that he thinks it great she’s smaller and weaker in her reincarnation (he knew her when she was Qatora) since it makes her cuter. Blech. This is also one of those titles in which there is not a single other sympathetic female character in the mix; Lyse’s aunt filches Lyse’s family income for expensive clothes and insults her to her face, while the other court women do things like leave frogs in front of her bedroom door and dump water on her. Love books which are ostensibly for a female readership in which 99% of the female characters are unredeemable bitches.
I did not touch on it in my summary of the plot, but – because of the Light of the Origin, members of the Razanate royal family age very slowly. Qatora was 60 years old when she died but looked like she was 20. The emperor is 150 but looks 30. Love interest (okay, his name is Sidis) is around 150 himself but looks 20ish. When Qatora was 60, the emperor and Sidis were both 10-12 years old. In a sense, Lyse is mentally in her 80s, then, although she is physically in her early 20s. I will admit morbid curiosity about the feelings of the more reactionary portions of fandom purity squads regarding working out in which precise ways this makes the dynamic between Lyse and Sidis problematic along age lines!
I did not like this book, but J-Novel Club’s release of it is fine.
Needless to say, I will not be picking up subsequent volumes from this series, although I’ll note that the second volume is out later this month. J-Novel Club is also releasing the manga adaptation, with the first volume due in December. The first volume covers are extremely similar (both of Sidis carrying Lyse, sporting the same outfit each – but Lyse looks much more confident on the manga cover), so if you are planning to give one particular version a try, be careful that you’re looking at the right one.