Originally Posted: July 12, 2020
Written by Toru Toba with illustrations by Falmaro. Released in English by Yen On with a translation by Jessica Lange.
“The moon rose high in the night. Among the guests at the banquet, Geralt was living the high life sandwiched between Wein, the crown prince of Natra, and Lowellmina, the Imperial Princess of the Empire.” – Toru Toba
Caught in the verbal cross-fire of two scheming nobles… what fate awaits this unfortunate soul?
(Warning: contains minor Vol. 1 spoilers)
The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt (Hey, How About Treason?), Vol. 2 is the continuation of the fantasy light novel series in which a certain prince regent worms his way through the turmoil of ruling a kingdom with the end goal of selling it off to the highest bidder. Of course, it’s never that easy… and as his plots continue to succeed (in all the wrong ways), we see him fall further and further from the finish line! As before, Toru Toba weaves a great story with comedy, political intrigue, and action-packed battles.
As my review of Vol. 1 hopefully communicated, I dove headfirst into this book with excitement and high hopes. While I was not impressed by the third colour insert (again), the inclusion of a map was a great idea (see below). It let me appreciate how well described the setting was in Vol. 1 as their illustration was perfectly as I had imagined. Additionally, we are subtly told the physical scope, current state of the world, and important players of this volume. It just goes to show how much depth a simple one page drawing can add to the reading experience.
On that note, given the strong world-building in Vol. 1, this volume had a solid foundation to better explore and deepen or to jump from and increase its scope. Vol. 2 does a good job at both; examples include the political turmoil within the Empire and the inner workings of the state that shares Natra’s eastern border. References to the consequences of the previous volume’s events help add a sense of continuity between entries. As a consequence of all the above, the world feels expansive and persistent; a great way to immerse the reader.
Unlike Vol. 1’s focus on wartime efforts, much of Vol. 2’s plot is spent uncovering and defeating schemes developed by other nations’ nobilities. A battle fought with sharp tongues instead of blades. This type of conflict lends itself well to Toru Toba’s strength of weaving plot, humour, and dialogue. The interesting choice of giving us the viewpoints of the other schemers allows for a better exploration of their motivations and thought-processes. At times, the rapid switching of perspective is disorienting but normally done to overlap the reveal of the current step in a plan with introducing the next. This technique aids in condensing the novel and preserving momentum through dialogue- and exposition-heavy sections.
For those worried it’s all talk and looking for more of the first volume’s content, there are a few fight scenes sprinkled in. However, compared to Vol. 1’s war, they are much smaller in scale. This shrinking of size works well as each combatant’s impact is more readily understood and believable. No single character does anything more than is expected of/possible for them. This also allows for more time to detail any particular character’s actions. By contrast, one instance from Vol. 1 has a particular Commander surviving a swarm of Marden’s fodder soldiers. While this is a common trope to showcase a character’s strength, it detracts from the fact the battles were won through strategy and meticulous preparedness (as per the prince’s genius). Without any spoiling of Vol. 2, let me assure you that the awesome-factor has not depreciated because of these changes.
As battles have taken a backseat, this volume uses the time to better develop the entire cast, old and new alike. Further exploration into Wein’s time in the Empire solidifies important relationships and motivations for a handful of characters. Unfortunately still, no explanation is given regarding his genius (whether by experience or talent) or his progressive worldviews which takes away from an otherwise strong foundation for his character. The princess introduced in this volume is also well-developed. Between her dialogues and glimpses into her past, both her base motivations and current character are established. Interestingly, her experience in the Empire feels a little unbelievable given its status as a meritocracy but is a great analog to some experiences found in the real world. Perhaps, it’s unreasonableness is the point (and further hammers in the analogy). For the most of the rest, we do see minor development but we’re still left in the dark for their pasts and motivations. This fortunately doesn’t affect any important parts of this volume and can be left for future entries. Overall, characterization is at a high point here and I hope we see more like this in the future.
Now for the general experience. Like it’s preceding volume, Vol. 2 is well-written in terms of flow and content. My complaints of some weak set-ups due to withheld information are still present but they are less frequent and less jarring. The illustrations’ quality is as before and mostly suffer from the same issue of being inserted at inconsequential times. (I just love the expressions! <3) However, there is an example (pg. 148, not shown below) which is decent visually and has a strong impact by showing the resolve of the characters at a critical moment. This is evidence of improving technique in this department.
To summarize, this book is a nice step above its predecessor. I finished this volume in one sitting, once again. (Don’t blame me! It’s exciting and interesting in all the right ways!) Toru Toba continues to demonstrate strong potential for world-building, plot progression, and dialogue. While a few issues addressed in Vol. 1 are still present (setups, character development, and illustrations), they show clear improvement which gives me hope in continuing with future installments. I’m excitedly waiting for the next volume!
4.6 / 5 – Highly Recommended
To readers looking for a good fantasy light novel involving a bit of political intrigue.
To readers captivated by beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed princesses.
Hello again! 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.
If you’re looking for more incentive to read: Ninym is the perfect mix of serious, playful, smart, and strong.
The more entries, the more Ninym!
I’m 春華 or Haruka, aspiring novelist, light novel reviewer, and the recently titled “Effortlessly Effervescent Embodiment of Eloquence.” 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. And if you want to talk about light novels with me and many others, consider joining our Discord here! Let’s all get along!