Saturday, October 30, 2021

REVIEW: Accomplishments of the Duke's Daughter, Vol. 1 (book) by Reia, illustrated by Haduki Futaba, translated by Alexander Keller-Nelson

Accomplishments of the Duke's Daughter is a fantasy Japanese light novel series, although it's a fantasy world with no magic. It's published by Seven Seas Entertainment's Airship imprint. I bought my copy brand new.


Iris remembers her past life as a Japanese office lady at the worst possible moment, when it's too late to change anything. She knows that she has somehow been reborn as the villainess of the game You Are My Princess, and she's currently experiencing the climax of the route in which the heroine, Yuri, ends up with Prince Edward, Iris's former fiance. If things proceed as they do in the game, she'll be banished to a nunnery.

To her shock, however, that's not what happens. Instead, her father makes her the governor of Armelia, the family's domain, a task that would normally be given to the family's eldest son. Iris isn't sure why the story has changed, but she's more than willing to accept this fresh start being offered to her. And so begins Iris's efforts to improve Armelia's government and economy and make it a better place to live.

I've previously read the first volume of the manga adaptation of this series, and maybe a little of the second, although I never reviewed that one. The verdict: the light novel, like the manga, is at best so-so. I recall certain aspects being handled better in the manga than in the novel, but the light novel series seems to be capturing my attention more.

Although this technically starts off as a "reborn as the villainess of the otome game I was playing before I died" story, the otome game aspect is abandoned so quickly that in the end it doesn't matter. At most, it's a way for the author to handwave away all the problems with the world-building and all the things that Iris magically invents or knows about. And even so, the speed and ease with which Iris creates new products and institutes changes is difficult to believe.

The timeline is wonky - this book covers somewhere between 1 to 2.5 years of Iris's life. In that time, she founds a company (Azuta Corporation) that invents, produces, and sells chocolate, beauty products, tea, and children's books. She also improves Armelia's trade routes, reforms its tax system, creates this world's first bank, invents double-entry bookkeeping, founds the kingdom's first school for commoners, and begins working on plans for single payer healthcare (never mind that the school for commoners includes the first decent medical training that some of this world's doctors have ever had). 

All of this is accomplished with ease and hardly any complaints from the merchant's guild, the aristocracy, the general population, etc. There are also only one or two moments in which people who've known Iris most of her life are astonished at what this young woman who'd previously never had much training in governance and economics is able to accomplish. This series may not have any magic in it, but oh yes, it is definitely fantasy.

It was clear that the author hadn't put much thought into the way people in a feudal society would likely react to the daughter of a duke suddenly instituting a bunch of capitalistic ideas. Or how a class system would affect the way characters talk to each other. Or how much time and effort it would take to invent chocolate, picture books, and conditioner in a world that had never heard of these things. Somehow Iris's workaholic office lady self vaguely remembered the steps for making chocolate from cocoa beans, and somehow her staff members were able to fill in any gaps in her knowledge and not be wildly curious about where she was getting all these ideas from. This book was constantly skimming the surface of big, sweeping changes, and everyone's response was just to comment on how wise and wonderful Iris was.

My eyes tended to glaze over whenever Iris asked for reports about how different things in her government and corporation were going - this didn't feel like edutainment so much as being bombarded with economic jargon and buzzwords. That said, I still somehow found this to be compulsively readable and plowed through it pretty quickly. I can't really explain it, since not much happened. I liked Iris's mother and grandfather. From what little I recall of the manga, it paid more attention to the backstories of Iris's servants but maybe less to the overall political situation. Prince Edward and Yuri sounded like a disaster, and the author was surprisingly obvious about the developments with Prince Alfred. There's a subplot that I suppose you could call "romance," except the author didn't bother with anything romantic - it's more "they get along and it would be good for them and everyone around them to end up together."

I am weirdly looking forward to reading the next volume. It's similar to the way I felt compelled to plow through multiple volumes of The Saint's Magic Power is Omnipotent, despite its many glaring issues.


Two full-color illustrations (the cover image and portraits of Dean, Tanya, Moneda, Lyle, Dida, and Iris. Also, black-and-white illustrations throughout, and an afterword by the author.

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