Sunday, February 11, 2024

REVIEW: Sugar Apple Fairy Tale, Vol. 1: The Silver Sugar Master and the Obsidian Fairy (book) by Miri Mikawa, illustrations by Aki, translated by Nicole Wilder

Sugar Apple Fairy Tale is a fantasy (fantasy romance?) Japanese light novel series. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


Anne Halford is the fifteen-year-old daughter of a Silver Sugar Master - her mother, who died less than a month ago. Silver Sugar Masters are people who can craft beautiful, intricate candies out of silver sugar refined from sugar apples. It's believed that, once upon a time, fairies ate silver sugar candy to extend their lifespans. It doesn't work that way for humans, but a human who consumes expertly crafted silver sugar candy often finds that they become luckier.

The only way to become a Silver Sugar Master is to compete at the annual Royal Candy Fair. Anne is determined to participate and win, but in order to get there on time she'll have to take a dangerous route. She'll need help, so despite a lifetime of her mother's teachings that fairies should be treated as equals, Anne is going to buy herself the services of a warrior fairy as a bodyguard.

The fairy she finds is Challe Fenn Challe. As is the case with all enslaved fairies, when he was captured, one of his wings was removed. Anne can technically control him with this wing, although she'd much prefer that he help her willingly. Joining Anne and Challe are Jonas, his fairy Cathy, and Mithril Lid Pod, a fairy who feels indebted to Anne.

This series didn't make it onto my radar until after I'd seen some folks talking about how much they enjoyed the anime. World-building based on candy making didn't really interest me, but the screenshots and snippets of story info intrigued me. I decided to at least give the light novels a try.

I was a bit iffy about Anne, at first. I understood her desire to become a Silver Sugar Master like her mother, but I couldn't help but think that her mother would have something to say about her being so determined to become one at this annual Royal Candy Fair that she'd buy an enslaved warrior fairy to help guard her. Later on in the book, she explained herself a bit more, and I grudgingly accepted it - although it helped that I also believed her when she told Challe that she planned to give him his freedom once he'd gotten her safely to the Royal Candy Fair.

(Just a quick note on another thing that bugged me, though. Enslaved fairies are generally called by whatever name their master chooses. While Anne does call the fairies by the real names they give her, considering how insistent Mithril Lide Pod is about using his full name, wouldn't it be more polite to do that rather than shorten it to "Mithril" and Challe Fenn Challe's name to "Challe"? Give them that much, at least!)

This was more tightly written than light novels usually are (in the afterword, the author writes that this was originally a contest submission and actually had to be expanded a bit for publication). Overall, once I got past my initial issues with Anne and general annoyance with Jonas, I enjoyed it. It's one of the few light novels I think might actually work for audiences not used to light novels and their usual issues - it reads like a regular Middle Grade fantasy novel. I'm looking forward to seeing where things go in the next volume. I have to admit, I'm concerned about Challe being an obsidian fairy - sure, he'd have a longer lifespan than fairy born from berries, but obsidian is pretty darn brittle


Various black-and-white illustrations throughout, as well as a short afterword by the author.

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