Review: Ascendance of a Bookworm – Pt 1: Daughter of a Soldier (Vol 3)

After collapsing at Benno’s store, Myne comes face-to-face with her impending death from the Devouring. Now with the knowledge of what is happening to her, and her prospective survival, she has to make the decision about how she wants to spend the rest of her life. But all hope may not be lost after she makes a surprising discovery at her baptism!

We’ve reached the conclusion of the Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll Do Anything to Become a Librarian! Daughter of a Solider arc in this third volume. Written by Miya Kazuki and illustrated by You Shiina, the English release was translated by Quof, and originally published via J-Novel Club’s digital subscription platform. The ebook was released in September 2019 with a print edition to follow in January 2020.

Once again, this book continues directly after the previous, and therefore
is recommended only to readers already following the series. At the end of the last book, our heroine Myne collapsed in Benno’s office—the Devouring finally overwhelming her small body and eating her from the inside. In a rush to save her life, the merchant is forced to find help from where he least wishes it: The Merchant Guildmaster. Using one of the old, near-broken magic tools the old man had procured for his granddaughter’s treatment, the Devouring has been pushed back and reduced once again, enough to save Myne’s life. It’s not a permanent solution though, and her life expectancy is only around another six months.

Waking up in the Guildmaster’s home, Myne is left under their care until she fully recovers. It’s here that she has to weigh her options; Frieda, her
friend who also suffers from the Devouring, has made a deal with a noble to ensure her survival—signing away her freedom once she comes of age to become their ‘kept woman’. For children outside of the noble class, it’s the only option they have to stay alive; magic tools are so obscenely expensive, there’s no hope for the lower classes ever affording one. Being faced with this possibility, Myne decides to keep her freedom and die at home with her family and friends. For Myne, who has already experienced death through Urano, she’s not afraid of that eventuality.

Her collapse also forces her to assess her future prospects—however short they may be—as an apprentice merchant. With her sickly body and low strength, she isn’t well suited to the physical labor the job would entail, and she wouldn’t be able to rely on Lutz all the time either. She’s well aware that any preferential treatment she may get would only inspire jealousy within the workers and other apprentices of the store, so she instead decides to me a work-at-home scribe. The new plan allows her to stay firmly within her physical limits, and allows her free time on the days Lutz has off from his apprenticeship for the two to keep making their paper and other potential products.

Of course, the revelation of Myne’s impending death, and her calm acceptance of it, does not go over so smoothly with the people who love her. Her family is understandably heartbroken, defeated in the face of the class divide and their own inability to get her the things she needs to survive. There is an incredibly powerful moment concerning her father Gunther’s grief at the news, and it’s wonderful to see how Kazuki has allowed these characters to grow into their own people, and not just props for the plot.

But, regardless of her death, there are other things to be done before that. After avoiding being pulled into Frieda’s family store, Myne accidentally shares another unknown product with the shrewd young girl and her chef: pound cake! Sugar is a new import to the town, and no one knows how to cook with it, so the girl’s simple cake recipe (chosen for its simplicity thanks to our protagonist not knowing weight measurement or conversion) is an exciting, unknown treat. There’s nothing like cake on the market at all, and so Frieda jumps at the opportunity to monopolize the idea. It’s a testament to how much Myne has grown in her bargaining skills that she doesn’t just give all of her information for free, and soon the two girls have various contracts in place for year-long exclusivity rights for the recipe.

This is the first time we’ve seen Myne dealing with merchants who aren’t Benno, and so its also the first time she’s considered diversifying where her ideas could be monetized. Benno has been a supportive benefactor, but his store (actually headed by his sister) specializes in clothing and accessories—which the hairpins and rinsham (all-in-one shampoo) fit under, but not her other product ideas. Unbeknownst to the younger girl, he’s preparing to open another store fully under his control where other products could be sold, and he has been working hard trying to establish a plant paper guild in preparation for manufacturing. The new product has already caused ire for the vested interests in the paper market (ie, the parchment guild), pushing more deals and compromise to allow Myne and Lutz’s plant paper to eventually be sold.

The paper manufacturing process itself is perfected in this book, and finally the two kids have the chance to share and sell a high-quality product before joining Benno’s store. With baptism looming for the two kids as well, the winter is filled with Myne, her mother and sister making the young girl her outfit for the ceremony. As is usual for families like her own, the dress is a hand-me-down from her sister—the biggest problem is just how much smaller she is than her sister. Thus starts Myne’s invention of ruffles and pleats, making her dress totally unique and eye-catching, in an attempt to make it fit better. She also makes a new design for a hairpin; one that will work better for her long, straight hair. The resulting outfit causes even more ruckus than her sister’s did, and all eyes are on the strange young girl with the big ideas on her special day.

The baptismal rites are the first time Myne has been exposed to religion in this new world—and the first time she’s seen (or realized the existence of) the Bible-esque religious text. For those with knowledge on the history of publishing (including Myne, of course), it’s well known that religious texts were the very first books to be made, thanks to the high cost and labor-intensive production of even just one page. It would often take a plethora of monks and priests-in-training to hand write each page of parchment, and later bound with lavish materials and embellishments. The book Myne discovers at the ceremony is no different. (For another light novel series about this topic, check out Wolf and Parchment: New Theory Spice and Wolf.)

Because of this, and the discovery of a chained library further within the temple, Myne immediately decides she wants to join the church (silly Glico pose prayer and all). It’s a rash decision that she doesn’t fully understand the implications of, but surprisingly there’s far more benefit to her than just the availability of books. The church has magical tools that need regular mana infusions, but far fewer nobles are sending their children to live in service to the gods. It’s a situation with mutual benefits (for the foreseeable future at least), and Myne is dead-set on becoming a shrine maiden. Thus ends the first arc of Bookworm, which ended up much, much longer and more involved than I think anyone expected. The end to this novel leads perfectly into setting up the next arc, and the new perspective and situation lends itself to so much potential. I look forward to starting the next!

Ascendance of a Bookworm is a slow-but-steady world-building marvel. It may take readers a little while to warm to Myne at first, but the payoff for patient readers is one of the best isekai light novels being released right now. If you are a fan of quieter slice-of-life isekai or fantasy stories like The Alchemist Who Survived Now Dreams of a Quiet City Life or Spice and Wolf, I would greatly encourage you to try this one out!

Gee’s Rating: Highly Recommended

You can purchase the ebook online via sites like Amazon. This is an affiliate link, so a small percentage of sales goes toward this site.

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