Originally Posted: July 19, 2020
Written by Toru Toba with illustrations by Falmaro. Released in English by Yen On with a translation by Jessica Lange.
People change. But there is one constant: They will always have desires greater than serving the nation. – Wein Salema Arbalest
Strong words coming from our titular treasonous prince. What happens when those desires contradict what’s good for the nation, I wonder…
(Warning: contains minor Vol. 1 and 2 spoilers)
The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt (Hey, How About Treason?), Vol. 3 is the next entry of the fantasy light novel series where plots and schemes rule. Whether Wein is setting one into motion or being caught up in one, there is no escaping their prevalence. Perhaps one day our prince can get that ending he’s been dreaming of…! As is standard for the series, Toru Toba continues to integrate comedic elements, plot-laden dialogue, and skirmishes of all scales.
To start, we should notice the cover (above) now includes some background art. While not really important for deciding to continue the series, it’s a nice bonus for those who stayed and adds playful energy to my bookshelf (<3). On the topic of art, I was impressed by all the colour inserts at the beginning of the book this time around. The three illustrated scenes focus attention onto new characters and significant changes to the old. Falmaro also continues to stun with their art quality. However, I would like to see more male characters illustrated in the future; Raklum and Hagal especially.
The added map (see below), a technique introduced in Vol. 2, has shifted towards the West and depicts the geographic positions of Natra, Marden, and Cavarin. This solidifies the setting and important locations in which this particular volume’s story occurs. Given the developments in the West and relative mystery of their culture, I was happy to see them getting the spotlight for this entry.
In contrast to Vol. 2’s focus on the East (the Empire), Vol. 3 deals with the consequences of the war with Marden (Vol. 1) and further explores the West’s culture and religion. As before, the strong world-building by Toru Toba continues to deepen our understanding of Natra and broaden our horizons. However, by constantly adding world elements, the reader may feel overwhelmed; either through volume or boredom. Through weaving details into dialogue and hinting at deeper reasons, Toru Toba invites one to pull at the threads and keeps the reader engaged. Additionally, the logical consistency of the world and consequences of previous events improve the realistic feel and give the impression that it persists beyond our given narrative.
Furthermore, the strong sense of agency given to our characters helps us feel invested in their actions, whether they are good or bad. For example, when Natra defeated Marden, we see both the immediate effects, the consequences two volumes later, and how this new situation changes our protagonists’ strategies. Having the characters meaningfully affect the world and vice-versa is another great aspect for this series.
Like its predecessors, political intrigue and large-scale conflict consume significant portions of Vol. 3. I have previously discussed both aspects in my Vol. 2 review, but I will re-iterate some points and comparisons for this entry. Firstly, huge battles are exciting but risk becoming confusing and harder to detail. Vol. 3 sees improvements in clarity and plausibility over the war in Vol. 1 in this regard. Skirmishes of all sizes are present and I’m sure their awesome-factor won’t disappoint. Secondly, political maneuvering requires interesting dialogue and strong setup-reveal coupling to be both interesting and believable. Compared to Vol. 2, Vol. 3’s intrigue is significantly weaker. This is a result of poorly-developed characters as antagonists and application of many overused tropes. This leaves their motivations and dialogue predictable and uninteresting. As I found the politics to be the better aspect of this series, this volume left me quite disappointed overall.
Given the amount of time allocated towards the exciting parts of the plot, character development has been left a little thin. The growing cast then spreads this already sparse resource even further. This volume mostly puts the development of the established cast on hold and instead focuses on those hailing from the West. As previously stated, many of these characters are one-sided and trope-y. Put simply, the effort and time is essentially wasted. Hopefully, this volume only serves as an introduction for key players and we will see more sides of them in future installments.
As for the old cast, one character’s past and motivations are vividly detailed. Since they were a mystery for the past two volumes, it was a pleasant surprise to get a deeper look into how they came to be. Furthermore, Wein’s characterization is better represented in this volume. It was nice to see some strongly held ideals hold him back (if even a little). Though properly exploring Wein still seems to be distant, I hope we get more character moments like that in the future.
Like the volumes before it, Vol. 3 is fairly short but manages to cram loads of excitement, dialogue, and world-building between its covers. Toru Toba continues to show their strength in weaving all three aspects together to form a well-written and solid narrative. The quality of the illustrations continue to impress me and their placement at critical events has significantly improved. As it is, the Toru Toba and Falmaro duo has proven to be quite skilled and I’m sure this series will continue to be in good hands.
Overall, I would rate this book’s experience between Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. There were small improvements in the fighting and illustrations but they came with critical shortcomings. Specifically, weak development of introduced characters and overused tropes undermined the political sections and took away from the total enjoyment. World-building and writing technique continue to be strong parts of the series and I would like to see more Wein character moments in the next entry. So excited, I can’t wait!
4.5 / 5 – Highly Recommended
To readers looking for a wild ride filled with factions, skirmishes, and schemes.
To readers who prefer dark over light (hair colour, dummy!)
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: Please see the colour insert with Zeno. Aren’t they so cool?! I wish I could look that imposing in uniform again.
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!