Originally Posted: August 9, 2020
Approximate Reading Time: ~7 mins
“All men are wolves.” – Phoebe
A very on-the-nose idiom for the hook of this light novel. Will the Count prove her wrong with his approach to romance the Tailor? (Press ‘X’ to doubt here.)
The Werewolf Count and the Trickster Tailor, Vol. 1 is the first volume of the paranormal-romance series in which double-lives is the norm, love is in the air, and werewolf bites are the least of their worries. This story is sewn with layers of drama, action, and romance by a thread of supernatural origin (werewolf fur, perhaps). Yuruka Morisaki’s words and Tsukito’s art brings to life a world filled with colourful characters, beautiful clothing, and suspiciously detailed interior decor!
Before we start, I would like to say that this is my first light novel in the romance genre. Thus, I am unacquainted with the tropes and clichés and will not be analyzing their use and potential subversion. On the bright side, if you are new too, we will be picking at the elements with fresh eyes. I hope you enjoy my spoiler-free review! :)
For any good romance, the situation and the world our characters find themselves in must be well-made. The story begins with our titular pairing meeting one fateful night in the slums of a nameless city of which the werewolf is a count. Rock grew up in a rural farm village and moved to the city to start a tailoring business. While names aren’t important it would help solidify the world for future entries. Unfortunately, this missing detail adds to the initially generic feeling of the setting (typical fantasy city with class separation). Furthermore, the meeting of our two main characters feels forced and abrupt, as if the hook needed to be checked off a list as soon as possible. The combination of these two factors makes starting The Werewolf Count…, Vol. 1 difficult at best. However, despite the rough beginnings, Yuruka Morisaki excels at adding details throughout the novel that colour the world and thicken the atmosphere. Their descriptive passages are well-written but a bit long at times. Since much of the set-up (i.e. less exciting parts) occurs in the first third of the book, this adds to the already slow start one may feel. Though once the plot gets moving (~pg. 100) these sections are better weaved in with the action and drama and become a treat rather than a chore. This sentiment will extend for other parts of the volume. Be prepared to slog through quite a bit to get to the best points of the story. This is a common issue for light novels (and their web novel counterparts) so this is nothing new for veteran readers.
After the setting, it is the quality of the characters that set the next building block on which the romance sits. Unlike the setting, there are many named characters; all of whom have widely varying levels of importance. The main three being Rock the Tailor, Ebel the Count, and Phoebe the Employee. Their interactions amongst themselves drive the drama and romantic elements of the story. Each has their reasons to live with a dual identity: a woman posing as a man for safety, a deceitful count wants to avoid persecution, and a man posing as a woman because they desire so. As layers are peeled back, we deepen our understanding of their feelings and solidify their characterizations. Yuruka Morisaki ties this progression to plot and romantic developments which helps maintain the flow of the story. Given the majority of time is spent with Rock and Ebel, their characters end up developing enough such that their background, motivations, and behaviours are well defined. However, in spite of her long screen time, Phoebe is left fairly underdeveloped and this is particularly noticeable when she takes a significant role. She isn’t really a main character, so this was expected and her character is likely to be explored in future entries. As for the many side characters that populate the world, all play a different but useful part; this includes plot progression, an outside perspective, and solidifying another’s motivations. And as varied as their roles are their personalities, each unique and interesting in their own right. So far, I like each of them (even the bad ones) and Yuruka Morisaki does a great job of making them feel real. Hopefully, this trend continues through to the next entry.
As an aside, while mixed gender identities and unconventional relationships may seem to take starring roles in this story, this is not the case. Instead, their dual identity is used more symbolically to hide one’s true self under a protective shell. If one is looking for a tale that deeply explores LGBTQ+ characters and their experiences, I would look elsewhere. Unfortunately, this aspect is mostly left untouched by this volume except for some demeaning comments and actions from side characters. Sorry to disappoint if anyone was expecting this from the premise.
At the crux, it is the romance; the draw of this light novel. The interplay takes center stage and their romantic development becomes the main signifier of plot development. To summarize it in one word, use ‘predictable’. From their first encounter to the final scenes, I had a good idea of what was the next step of Rock and Ebel’s relationship. This is not all bad, as this can mean they follow a natural progression and thus don’t feel forced together by fate (read: the author). The interesting stuff then must be in the execution. Their dialogue is both fun and charming, and changes as their feelings do. As their time together increases, their shared activities also serve to deepen their bond and unravel the layers of their character. Soon enough, they’re intertwined in each other’s lives and struggles. All of this makes the developments presented feel more organic, a big plus of course. However, as I had alluded to before, this novel has a hard time getting things started. In order to crack through to Rock’s solid heart, Ebel is quite the aggressive type (see quote above). While Rock is depicted as accepting of some of his advances, there are a few points where I was very unsettled by his actions and words; many of which were against Rock’s protests. I would advise one not to follow the count’s approach if you don’t want to get smacked. This all plays into more later on but in the moment it can be hard to read. Overall, like much of the book, the romance is well done past its initial stages. If I end up reading Vol. 2, I hope there are more interactions between our two main characters.
On the side, other plots support the characters and romance alike. We will not go into the specifics but much of it has to do with some characters’ double lives. There are some twists and turns but few are hugely impactful or innovative. One such instance I had guessed immediately while the story seemed to want to build it up over many chapters. This can feel like a forced reveal but since it’s part of a side plot, it doesn’t detract from the story as a whole. By contrast, another particular reveal had me blown away and got me excited for the following scenes. With this, The Werewolf Count… shows the consequences of both obvious and great twists but plays its cards right to give you the highs when it matters. Overall, these side-plots help flesh out characters, are usually interesting to some degree, and support the main romance as they should.
Lastly, let us talk about the other details. Presentation-wise, the book has one typo on pg. 62 but otherwise easy to read. The story is decently written and flows well from section to section and chapter to chapter. Foreshadowing is adeptly implemented to aid the latter. Despite some instances of potentially subtler tells, I appreciate the connectivity of the narrative. Next, complementing the writing is the art (see above and below). The paperback copy doesn’t contain any coloured illustrations but has a nice collection of black-and-white inserts throughout. Each of which is nicely detailed (thanks to Tsukito) and placed at key moments. All of these factors lead me to believe that the future of the series is in good hands.
Overall, the book was a great read for me. While it took me quite some time to complete the first 100 pages, I flew through the rest in a single evening. The start may feel rushed and tedious (at the same time?!) but the excitement that follows definitely makes up for it. Despite the generic setting and predictable romance, it is the descriptions, characterization, dialogue, and side-plots that create a decent story. I would recommend this to others also looking to peek into the romance genre. However, I feel the story is completed by the end of Vol. 1 and am hesitant to continue onto the next volume. Only time will tell what the future holds. Awoo~!
4.2 / 5 – Moderately Recommended
To readers looking for a decent stand-alone romance light novel to dip their toes in.
To lovers of drama, action, and romance gift-wrapped with a supernatural ribbon.
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.
If you’re looking for more incentive to give it a read: Phoebe and Johanna (depicted in the center of the banner) are great! And maid uniforms are the best, aren’t they? <3
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!