Genre: Seinen Fantasy
Year Release in English: 2019
Content warnings: Fantasy violence, war
One of the greatest pieces of Jo bait are stories in which a technology faction is at war with a magic faction and neither seems to be winning. Throw in, specifically, ice witches and an enemies-to-lovers romance, and I’m hooked.
A mechanical utopia, The Empire, is at war with a paradise for witches, The Sovereignty. Iska is the youngest to rise to the rank of Saint Disciple in the military, on a mission to capture the Ice Calamity Witch, Alice. Epic fights ensue while intrigue and plotting unfold in the quieter moments, culminating in a literally earth-shattering fight against a originator witch possessing multiple elemental powers.
There are some beautiful turns of phrase throughout this novel that makes the prose as exciting to read as seeing the illustrations. The world feels lived in, with one of my favorite details being the culture present within the neutral cities. It’s where main characters Iska and Alice get to know each other, specifically attending an opera and seeing an art exhibition together. They can’t attack, and that forced proximity and peace makes for some charming awkwardness that brings the characters together almost as efficiently as their weapons and magic clashing in battle.
There are more powers that be than just the Empire and the Sovereignty, and I’m eager to keep reading.
Genre: Supernatural Secondary World Fantasy
Year Release in English: 2022
Content warnings: Beheading, gore, murder, poisoning, kidnapping
It took me a minute, but I did enjoy reading this light novel, the first in a new series. It’s got a noble woman haunted by the ghost of another whose execution she witnessed, court intrigue, and conspiracy galore.
The book takes place in a secondary world with about as much technology as present in the late 1700’s on earth. There are viscounts and kings, emperors, delegates from other realms, and a smattering of international politics here and there.
The main character, Constance Grail, needs to do one thing to live up to her family name and that’s to be sincere. She’s also engaged to a lecherous duke and is haunted by Scarlett Castiel, who’s quite infamous among noble circles. She’s out for revenge and enlists Connie’s help . The dichotomy between these two is so fun so far. Where one is timid and polite almost to her own detriment, the other is ruthless. It’s this contrast that really keeps the story going. There are so many threads introduced, and, by herself, I’m not sure Connie can manage them all, but with having a new fiancé and Scarlett at her side, I’m sure she’ll get to the true reason why Scarlett was executed in the first place.
Nobles play badly and there’s conspiracy and artifacts afoot.
Year Release in English: 2006
Content warnings: Gaslighting, violence, blood, gore, murder, dismemberment, kidnapping
I had watched the Boogiepop Phantom anime several years ago and due to my recent foray into manga and light novels, decided to give the source material a try. It is a treat.
Told non-linearly, we follow a collection of high schoolers as some of their own disappear and others turn into either Boogiepop or their enemy the Manticore. Souls get devoured in a technological attempt to subjugate humanity, and Boogiepop needs their own set of allies to set things straight.
The craft here cleverly plays with reader’s sense of reality as the grounding of real vs. surreal becomes upended from the point of view of the character narrating that chapter. The kids are certainly not all right, and the adults are strangely absent. I’m interested in seeing if we get any of them involved. There seem to be strict rules about attendance, phone use, dating, etc. but when one of them goes missing, no one talks about it. It’s eerie in the same way groupthink is, and it just adds to the unsettling nature of this story and its telling.
I’m lucky to have already purchased the second novel, and I’m excited to dive in.