Friday, January 21, 2022

REVIEW: My Happy Marriage, Vol. 1 (book) by Akumi Agitogi, translated by Kiki Piatkowska

My Happy Marriage is fantasy romance with a historical-ish setting. I bought my copy brand new.


In this fantasy reimagining of the Meiji/Taisho era, there are beings known as Grotesqueries that can only be seen and fought by those with Spirit-Sight, known as the Gifted. Miyo Saimori was born to a Gifted mother and father, which should have guaranteed her a comfortable noblewoman's life. However, she never demonstrated any ability to use Spirit-Sight, nor any other Gift. After her mother died, Miyo's father neglected her and married the woman he'd preferred over Miyo's mother. Her daughter turned out to be Gifted, so it wasn't long before Miyo became less than a servant in her own home.

Miyo's only ray of hope was that she might one day marry Kouji, her childhood friend, but even that wasn't to be. When her father tells her that Kouji will marry her stepsister, Kaya, while she will be betrothed to Kiyoka Kudou and sent to his household immediately, it's all Miyo can do not to cry. The Kudou family is powerful, but Kiyoka is known for being so cold and terrible that he has thus far scared all his potential brides away within days of their arriving at his household. Unlike them, Miyo will have no home to return to if she leaves.

My first impression of this book was that it was very, very short, only 156 pages if you count the afterword. Granted, it doesn't have illustrations, but it was still a much slimmer volume than I was expecting. I hoped this meant it lacked the usual light novel bloat.

I really wish I could say I loved this book. In many ways, it was a breath of fresh air. It wasn't yet another isekai story set in a vaguely medieval European world. The heroine wasn't a Japanese woman reborn as the villainess in the last otome game she played. It was written in the third person.

This had so much potential, but sadly the execution was lacking. This was a quick read that didn't dwell much on unimportant details...but that unfortunately also didn't spend much time on anything else, and never allowed even the slightest potential conflicts or complications to brew for long. Even the romance went much more smoothly and easily than I expected.

Kiyoka's past potential brides were depicted as being overly spoiled, but considering the way Kiyoka first acted towards Miyo when he met her, I thought his past potential brides probably had a point. However, Miyo was used to being treated worse, and it took barely any effort on her part for Kiyoka to become curious, investigate her background (it was his father who arranged the marriage, so he didn't know much about her), and realize he'd been acting horribly towards someone who'd already suffered years of neglect and abuse. He felt bad about this, and it wasn't long before his efforts to make up for his behavior resulted in both characters falling in love.

The book's various villains were idiots who reacted to everything in the way most likely to lead to their ruin. It was honestly kind of amazing how quickly and thoroughly they managed to screw everything up once they all got going. And once again, the author robbed the story of all its potential tension by having solutions basically fall into characters' laps. At one point, Miyo was in danger and I thought Kiyoka might at least have to spend some time frantically searching for her, but no, after approximately two seconds of worry, someone came and gave him everything he needed in order to wrap things up.

The fantasy aspects have potential. So far there have been no on-page Grotesqueries, but several characters used paper familiars (shikigami?), and some of the Gifted used their abilities on-page. I wouldn't be surprised if members of Miyo's mother's side of the family become prominent characters in later entries in the series, which could potentially lead to some exciting developments. In general, it was nice to read a series that didn't include the usual generic RPG creatures and monsters.

I'm glad to see a light novel series with a female protagonist that doesn't follow the usual "reborn as the villainess in an otome game" template, but this was a depressingly bare-bones start. I'll probably give it another volume to see if it improves, but I suspect that this is one of those cases where I'd be better off reading the manga instead (although that won't be out until later this year).

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