Review: Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1

Tearmoon Empire

Originally Posted: August 30, 2020

Written by Nozomu Mochitsuki with illustrations by Gilse. Released in English by J-Novel Club with a translation by David Teng.

“Hmph. In that case, let me ask you a question, Your Highness. Do you have any idea how much it costs to feed you?” he said, glancing patronizingly down at her.
In return, Mia replied, “Well, I do believe a single meal cost the equivalent of a month’s salary for you, putting its worth at roughly one crescent gold. Am I correct?”

She then crossed her arms and looked at him with the smuggest grin she’d ever worn. – Nozomu Mochitsuki
Don’t let Her Highness fool you, Ludwig! She didn’t actually figure that out on her own! It was all you! With the power of having lived an alternative future, Mia uses her great knowledge to… outsmart the smart-ass that irked her so. This petty revenge is only a glimpse at the antics that Mia pulls on her way to not getting her head separated from her shoulders.

Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 is the first volume to the fantasy-comedy series where a princess gets a second lease on life and tries her darned best to avoid a gruesome fate. This series follows Mia Luna Tearmoon, the princess of the Tearmoon Empire, in a post-guillotine’d life in which she aims to become a better person(?). For petty revenge and homemade lunches, Mia uses her future-sight to rewrite her fate and, in turn, that of her nation. Relationships, new and old, blossom and become more than she could have ever imagined. Nozomu Mochitsuki creates a fantastical world filled with comedy, romance, drama, and action to tell a fun and heart-warming story of a corrupt princess turned good(?). Accompanying them are beautiful illustrations by Gilse whose quantity, detail, and expressiveness pit a light-hearted atmosphere against absurd extravagance.

Tearmoon Empire Volume 1
Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1

How was my intro blurb? Doesn’t this series seem jammed packed? Despite its gruesome beginnings, this series is quite uplifting and heart-warming. And, let me tell you, Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 surely makes good on its promise of fun. Though I have read Konosuba: An Explosion on This Wonderful World, this will be my first review of a fantasy-comedy series. For those unaccustomed to comedic light novels, we will avoid making too many comparisons and instead examine it with fresh eyes. For this spoiler-free review, we will look at the hook, characterizations, world-building, plot, comedic value, romantic elements, and more! I hope you’ll enjoy it!

To start, let us mention the first things one will encounter when they open the (e-)book. There are three things of interest: (1) the beautifully-illustrated colour inserts, (2) an overview map of the nations and important locations, and (3) the massive table of contents. The two colour inserts depict Gilse’s skill at its finest and hint at the two distinct sections of the volume: Mia as a reincarnated princess in the Imperial Capital and as a student at the Saint-Noel Academy. While the first insert is a great addition for its story-value, the second is simply a clean-version of the cover. Instead, I can think of a handful of scenes that could have made for a better insert. After these two is the world map. As it is with another fantasy series, The Genius Prince – one whose reviews I have completed, the addition of a map is very welcome. Before reading, it’s presence hints at the major powers, their geographical relations, a sense of scope and scale, and important landmarks. Post-read, the map helps remind readers of names, settings, and their interconnections. After the map, one will find the table of contents whose entries number up to 59 + A Short Story + Mia’s Diary. Don’t let that scare you though! Each chapter is less than 10 pages on my tablet, averaging at about 5 pages each, and the whole volume can be read in a handful of hours. Now, with those details out of the way, let us dig into the body of the text.

The premise of the story is that Mia Luna Tearmoon is executed by guillotine at the young age of 20 after a revolution topples the Tearmoon Empire and given a second chance at life starting at 12 years old. Like many other reincarnated stories, Mia tries to live a better life and avoid her bad end. This comes with mitigating impulsive hiring decisions, proactive infrastructure plans, and nipping corruption at the buds. Hence, the story first appears to be focused more on politics and the inner workings of her nation, like The Genius Prince series. However, with the academy arc through Mia’s life at 14, it is clear that Vol. 1 is more about introducing important characters and exploring interpersonal dynamics, all in a school setting. Thus, Mia’s antics of solidifying old relationships and creating new ones begin. One may feel betrayed by the bait of political turmoil and receiving a heart-warming slice-of-life instead. Though, with Mia’s capture fated to occur in the next 3 years and the contents of the short story, I’m sure there will be many opportunities for them to uphold this promise. After all, better characterizing our key players will make their interplay so much more satisfying. And, this is not to say the hook is a simple trap. The premise of Mia knowing an alternate future bleeds into every interaction (even the fun ones) and creates a unique experience for everyone involved. Overall, the hook is interesting enough and solidly implemented throughout the narrative. Additionally, the slice-of-life section that follows is well-done but can leave readers feeling betrayed (up until the short story).

Now, let us talk about Mia, a character around whom the absurdities, delusions, and misunderstandings never cease. To start, we will have to separate her into two personas: pre- and post-reincarnation. Pre-Mia is lazy, petty, spoiled, and selfish. An exemplary corrupt princess. After her dungeon days and execution, Post-Mia is… kind of the same. What? Did you expect some sort of metamorphosis? Rather than having a personality transformation, these events add two important experiences to Mia’s life: socially standing lower than the peasants she once looked down upon and having her head severed from her body. The former gives new perspective to Post-Mia’s typical day as an imperial princess. And the latter gives her motivation to act somewhat differently than her previous self. It is with these two memories that Post-Mia changes from Pre-Mia into a character you really come to love. And Nozomu Mochitsuki will make every recollection come with crushing despair, delusional laughs, and a heart-warming bead of hope. Despite Mia’s mostly ill-intentions, she acts as if she is the angel her subjects believe her to be (to avoid the guillotine). Because of this, the people and world around her change and in turn change her. This evolution isn’t very evident from page to page but instead from beginning to end. The smooth transition does wonders for her arc and rewards the reader with the subtle effects on her thoughts and actions throughout the story. Overall, I’m very impressed with Mia’s character. With a solid foundation and a naturally developed character, Mia feels like a person who got a wrong start and wants to do better for herself and her nation. Her arc and interactions with the other characters in the story are well worth the read on their own.

Now with the protagonist out of the way, we will briefly delve into the side-characters. The colourful cast includes Mia’s loyal subjects, classmates, and former executioners. Each has a very defined role narratively, is unique enough to distinguish them at a passing glance, and brings out a different side of Mia. All the seemingly important characters are given a back-story that solidifies their background and motivations. Additionally, in Pre-Mia flashbacks, we see how they end up if nothing is changed; an interesting method of fleshing out a character. It is at these foundations that Nozomu Mochitsuki throws Post-Mia’s unique situation. The resulting mess is full of character interactions, development, and excitement (of the comedic, dramatic, and romantic types). Because of their well-defined starts and subsequent reactions, our perspective of each character evolves beyond their trope-like beginnings into people living in a world burdened with a fortune-telling princess. And as Mia changes, we see her effects on their thoughts and feelings and vice-versa. To summarize, even the side-characters are well-developed and fully utilized for their narrative and comedic capabilities. Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 does a great job of giving life to the world beyond its protagonist. (I even remember all of their names!)

Moving on, the world surrounding the characters is discussed; the aspect that is sadly the weakest part of the story. For a fantasy world, Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 sorely lacks in the fantastical elements one would come to expect from this genre. Instead of magic and monsters, there are plagues and taxes. The one decently magical thing is Mia’s diary. This firmly puts the series in the low/historical fantasy sub-genre. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing. What’s important is that it places a greater emphasis on people, politics, and strategy. This focus on the mundane helps ground our understanding but introduces more opportunities to test the world’s consistency. There are two issues I would like to point out and discuss: (1) the emperor, Mia’s father, is nowhere to be seen, and (2) despite all the corruption and easily solved issues, Tearmoon Empire somehow became a superpower. With (1), it seems that Mia has a lot more power than a princess should have, especially at 12 – 14 years old. Given the emperor’s likely dictatorial power, it’s a surprise that Mia can go out and do anything without prior approval. All that it would take to fix this would be a scene indicating the emperor’s love/trust in Mia but nothing of the sort is present. Relatedly, (2) is an issue with the foundations of the Tearmoon Empire. A few times, it is hinted that corruption is rampant and subordinates are treated extremely poorly. To build a powerful empire, one needs money and loyalty, and lots of it. They can’t get that with their current issues. And given how entrenched these seem to be, it’s no wonder people treat Post-Mia being a decent human like a miracle. However, it poses the question, how did this empire grow and sustain itself without becoming a horrendous dystopia? An unanswered question left for the reader. To conclude, these are two of the biggest issues I’ve seen in the series so far and only really matter once you thoroughly pick at it. Other consistency issues tend to stem from them. Understandably, Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 wants to place more emphasis on the people aspect and maintain Mia’s high agency. But, in doing so, this leaves the world a little more than flawed.

With characters and the world discussed, we will now focus on the series’ plot. Remember, there’s always one goal in Mia’s mind: avoid the guillotine ending. With that, the plot slowly marches forward going through Mia’s days as a pre-teen in the Imperial Capital and onwards past her first year at the academy (14 years old). Rather than focusing on achieving a certain goal like slaying the demon king, ending a centuries-long war, etc., this story focuses on simply changing what the previous Mia did on her way to the execution. With them, she hopes to get further and further from the bad end. These changes include the timing of certain events, her decisions in key scenes, and her dialogue with those she meets. Because of this odd design choice, the pacing and narrative can feel slow and unfocused as we are simply following Mia’s life. However, it is their consequences that make up the meat of the story. With each change, Tearmoon Empire adds comedy and life to the world. This is done through the comparisons of Pre- and Post-Mia and kicking the misunderstandings up to 11. Further developments occur when Mia experiences things she never had in her Pre-Mia life. Additional plots with the side characters also flesh out their characters and the consequences of Mia’s choices. Overall, the plot is simple and straight-forward but contains many branching narratives; side-stories, recollections of Pre-Mia, and delusional perspectives are all included. This unfocused approach slows the pacing but creates many opportunities to flesh out every character and explore the world around them.

Now it is the comedic aspects that fill in the skeleton of a plot. As the plot meanders about there must be some way to engage the reader and keep them reading. There are many ways to do this, and Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 is firmly in the ‘make them laugh’ camp. With this approach, the mundane and ordinary are coloured in fun and excitement; a good match for their life-following plot. We will analyze only one such technique to avoid ruining the punchlines. The most common joke is that from the premise, Mia’s intentions aren’t a good-natured as they seem. Mia isn’t the greatest, but everyone will surely tell you otherwise. Her reasons include: getting back at a smart-ass with their own words, romantic revenge, and, most importantly, not getting a public head-ectomy. However, even knowing that, it is the execution (hah!) and unique results of such pettiness that keeps you coming back for more. The disconnect between what is meant and what is communicated always makes for good humour. And, with the inclusion of a variety of perspectives, these moments are better explored and fall further into delusional absurdity. The narrator even gets in on the fun with their quips. With the plot, character development, and writing style all weaved into the jokes, it is not only fun but well-structured as well. Of course, Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 does even more beyond this one technique and keeps the fun going throughout the entire volume. Overall, the comedy is the strongest aspect and makes this entry worth the read on its own. The only issue I have was the eventual numbing I got to particular jokes. After 5+ hours of the delusions, it does get somewhat tiresome.

Then, supporting the comedy are elements of drama, romance, and action. Of course, with Mia’s unique circumstances, one can expect a lot of drama alongside the laughs. In this case, the drama plays two roles: (1) to give the comedy some narrative backbone, and (2) to juxtapose the comedy with more sombre and serious scenes. Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 uses both of these techniques well to create dense scenes and depict the many sides of everyone’s thoughts and feelings. The risk of tonal jerk is seemingly avoided here by the smooth transitions (read: good writing) and frequent natural stopping points (read: the many chapters). The next topic is the romance, whose inclusion is mostly for Mia’s sake. Despite her mental age, she’s a little… unaccustomed to love. Whether that’s because of her standing as a princess or previously poor personality, it’s another aspect that is used to deepen Mia’s character and further her arc. Without going too spoiler-y, it is well done and has a natural progression. Like I’ve said in my fantasy-romance reviews, it is best when the partners have their motivations and problems intertwined. Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 impressively creates a compelling relationship and one that mirrors Mia’s development as well. Lastly, let us speak of the action. There is very little present but, again, what is implemented at critical moments is well-executed. One scene, in particular, had an incredible build-up and a climactic fight; the spectacle drew on the feelings and motivations in every swing and blow. This just goes to show Nozomu Mochitsuki’s great skill in writing all types of scenes. To summarize, Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 has a variety of supporting elements helping the comedy. Whether it is serious drama, ‘aww’-ing romance, or incredible fights, each is strong in its own right and helps elevate this great book even higher.

Above the world, characters, and the plot is the writing style. Normally, I would place this section alongside the additional details but I believe there is much to note for this series. Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 is written in a third-person omniscient point-of-view (POV). As previously mentioned, this allows the narrator to peek into the minds of other characters and talk about events yet to happen. Given most of the comedy is based on delusions and misunderstandings, Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 makes great use of such a perspective. Furthermore, this decouples the narrator from our protagonist’s thoughts and feelings and allows for commentary on Mia from an outside perspective. Nozomu Mochitsuki uses this to make fun of the delusions, call out Mia’s poor personality, and play the straight-man; all with excellent timing and wit. Additionally, the writing flows well and everything feels connected through proper foreshadowing and build-up. One last thing to note, the diary acting both as the magical tome as well as the narrative progression marker was a great choice! Overall, the writing is amazing and well-structured. Such skill from Nozomu Mochitsuki leaves no doubt that this series will continue being great.

Finally, let us finish with some additional details. The black-and-white art contained within the pages is beautiful, detailed, and expressive. And beyond that, they are plentiful, placed at key moments, and illustrate every important side character (no less than ten unique faces). Very few other light novel series I’ve seen have made such a perfect use of their art inserts. The only issue I have is that I wish there was more. (This is very good!) Moving on, as this was my first e-book, I had trouble growing accustomed to my tablet’s font, lighting, and page turning. The fiddling and struggling took a little away from my enjoyment (and eye health). While these gripes are from a hardened paperback veteran, the e-book is well-formatted and easy to read. Currently, no physical copy is available. But, if there is ever a paperback version, you can bet your head I will buy it!

Overall, this book is an amazing read from cover to cover. This fantasy series has it all: comedy, drama, romance, and action. From the excellent characters arcs and use of the premise, we see Nozomu Mochitsuki’s adept writing takes us on a delusional journey of a corrupt princess turned decent. Choices in plot type, POV, and chapter size show that Nozomu Mochitsuki knows how to adeptly build a narrative. Comedic aspects fill the pages with quips and the reader with laughs. Drama, romance, and action support the comedy and are all well-implemented in their own right. Gilse’s art is beautiful, expressive, and properly placed to increase a scene’s impact. I would highly recommend Tearmoon Empire, Vol. 1 to all light novel readers and beyond. It is a quality experience that many works should set their goals to rival. I will certainly be picking up Vol. 2 in the near future. Please look out for that review too~!

Rating:
4.8 / 5 – A Must-Read

Recommendation:
To readers of light novels of all kinds! Will be particularly great for those looking for fantasy, comedy, romance, and drama.
To lovers of sweets, horses, delusions, and not getting your head lopped off.


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. This time around, I even changed my format a little to cover more topics and make it easier to read.

If Mia’s hilarious antics weren’t enough for you, please draw your attention to Anne – the maid on the right of the cover. She plays a large role in Mia’s life and is great fun to have around. And, as stated in my The Werewolf Count review, maid uniforms are the best! <3

For this review, a review copy was provided by J-Novel Club. Thank you so much for letting me read and pick at this wonderful light novel! Now, I can’t wait to search through the endless world of e-books. :)

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!

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