For general information on this novel: The Saga of Tanya the Evil entry
This review is for the first volume of The Saga of Tanya the Evil. This series is written by Carlo Zen and features illustrations by Shinobu Shinotsuki. The second volume is set to release March 27, 2018. There are 9 volumes in Japan at the moment.
The first volume of this series is subtitled Deus Io Vult, which is apparently Latin for “God Wills It.” Some cosmic force indeed must have willed me to pick up this book, because in retrospect I’m not sure why I chose to buy and read it. It’s a hefty book, especially for light novels. But more daunting than the page count is just how dense every page is. Tanya the Evil is light on dialogue and action, and heavy on in-depth explanations of everything military… and in-depth explanations of everything tangentially related to everything military.
Tanya the Evil is technically a reincarnation isekai (reborn in a fantasy world), but it holds little to no similarity with the dozens of LN series focused on characters hunting monsters in magical medieval European video game-esque dungeons. The setup for this one is… well, something like this:
A sociopathic atheist Japanese salaryman gets pushed in front of a speeding train by the man he just fired, meets God, and gets reincarnated as an orphan girl who becomes a magic-wielding 9-year-old child soldier in alternate universe WWI Germany.
Now I remember why I picked this book up; the premise sounded absolutely insane. Also, everyone on my Twitter feed was posting crazy Tanya faces back when the anime adaptation aired, and I needed to see if the original story lived up to that promise of wild times.
As it turns out, the madness is contained solely in the premise. In execution, the novel is extraordinarily methodical, its focus almost entirely on military maneuvers from beginning to end (and likely throughout all subsequent volumes). Enemy troops are doing this, the correct response would be for our troops to do that, we should anticipate enemy troops to do another thing, we are training our troops in such and such ways, here are some of the weapons used by these troops, there are some of the tactics employed by those troops, and now for some thoughts on what a general thought about some certain strategy to rely on. Tanya always acts in her own self-interest, and always thinks things through in a remarkably logical manner, even in the middle of battle. (And, to my surprise, never does anything I’d really call evil. At least not in this volume…)
If you have a deep interest in world war era battles, then this is the series for you! The author clearly thought things through with the world-building, and regularly incorporates footnotes that tie things back to our world. In the prologue alone, you can learn about the Chicago school of economics, Rawl’s theory of justice, and An Essay on the Principle of Population. At first I welcomed this level of detail as an interesting change of pace, but over the course of an entire novel… Well, it wore me out.
In contrast with Legend of the Galactic Heroes, which reads like a historian’s theatrical account of a series of universe-changing events driven by larger-than-life leaders — Tanya the Evil is a heavily plot-driven novel that reads a lot like a long series of blog posts written by a military aficionado, but edited into a series of episodes about a zealous child rising up the ranks in an army. It’s not your typical light novel, or even your typical novel in general, so I’d say it’s worth checking out if you’re up for some alternate history military fiction.
Cho’s Rating: Maybe Recommended
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