Written by Toru Toba with illustrations by Falmaro. Released in English by Yen On with a translation by Jessica Lange.
“Holy. Her boobs are huge…
He was the worst of the worst.” – Toru Toba
As aptly stated by our narrator, this light novel’s titular protagonist’s motivations doesn’t rank high on the ‘admirable’ scale.
The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt (Hey, How About Treason?), Vol. 1 is the introductory entry for a fantasy light novel series in which the prince regent of a small kingdom plots to sell off his position and nation for money and a lazy life… but fails spectacularly at every step. It’s a tale that combines an OP character, a peculiar motivation, and the underdog story archetype. Despite the seemingly contradictory foundational tropes, Toru Toba successfully spins a solid story with a good mix of comedy, intrigue, and action.
To start, let us discuss the world-building; one of the light novel’s strongest points. Despite my initial reservations (e.g. long title, third colour insert), I was pleasantly surprised by the density and quality of the introductory chapters. In the span of about thirty-three pages, I felt like I had a solid grasp of:
(1) the geopolitical relationship between the titular kingdom and its superior Empire,
(2) current key events occurring in both nations,
(3) the relevant history surrounding them, and
(4) the two protagonists’ roles and their relationship.
That’s a lot to cram in without sounding dry. However, the depth and breadth of the setting are either seamlessly weaved into dialogue or described in an engaging manner. The comedic aspect further maintains the reader’s attention. Unfortunately, there are some occurrences of somewhat unnatural speech but they are few and far between. Overall, Toru Toba does an excellent job setting the scene and adeptly keeps this momentum through the entire volume.
Impressively, the large focus on the world doesn’t go to waste. Given this world lacks fantastical elements, conflicts are determined through resource quantity and effectiveness (i.e. manpower/information and strategy/intrigue). Thus, it is important that we understand a situation to really appreciate its development and resolution. The entertainment in this case comes from trying to figure out the prince’s plans. Coupled this with a sprinkling of comedy and one has multiple layers to enjoy. However, there are some cases where too much information is withheld and this can leave conclusions feeling undeserved. Hopefully this particular issue becomes less frequent in future entries.
Moving on, the short length of this entry (about 160 pages) leaves Toru Toba limited in the plot progress they can make with sufficient detail. However, as is with the world-building, the density is impressive. Without venturing into spoiler-territory, The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt (Hey, How About Treason?), Vol. 1 covers enough to set up the important plot points without dragging on. The flow of the writing and dialogue also gives life to possibly boring sections of exposition and keeps a comfortable pace throughout. Unfortunately, the occasional time-skips and conveniences (read: OP incidents) that occur to help push the story forward leaves me disappointed at times. At its worst, a couple of weak setups result in their associated payoffs failing to satisfy.
Another issue with the volume’s length is the character development. The world-building and plot progression are well done but everyone’s characterization falls a little flat. This is a particular issue for the protagonists and those fiercely loyal to the prince. While certain scenes flesh out special relationships, individual motivations are left in the dark. Most key secondary characters can be summed up with ‘loyal to the kingdom and has their reasons.’ I wish we could delve more into the ‘why’s but I suppose those reveals can wait for future volumes and/or side stories.
As a sort of consolation for the length, there are many beautiful illustrations scattered among the pages. Falmaro does an amazing job at capturing the physical beauty of the depicted characters and gives them a well-varied collection of expressions. However, they don’t make up for the lost setup impact and character development time. In fact, they seem wasted on some of the scenes into which they are inserted. If instead they were better placed at critical moments, they could get more value from the illustrations.
Admittedly, I really enjoyed this book. I ended up finishing it in one sitting and it’s brevity left me wanting so much more. Despite the short comings in setup and character development, the writing flow and excellent world-building more than makes up for them. In fact, rather than the characters driving the plot, one could perceive them as actors playing out the consequences of key triggering events. With this mindset, I’m excitedly waiting to dive into Vol. 2. Sadly, I’m only giving this a 4.4/5 due to the concluding conflict’s resolution leaving a bad taste in my mouth (and souring an otherwise great dish).
4.4 / 5 – Highly Recommended
Readers looking for a fun take on an unwilling hero in a decent fantasy world.
Readers captivated by beautiful, white-haired, red-eyed heroines.
Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read my review (even if you scrolled straight to the bottom). I hope that you take home even a little of what I’ve written down.
I’m 春華 or Haruka, aspiring novelist and light novel reviewer. I’ve only started diving into light novels, so please bear with my naiveté. You can follow my Twitter for updates on my reviews and writing progress. Let’s all get along!