Urano is a girl whose only passion is book. She wished to live surrounded by them, and if she had to die, it would be under them. The later happened and she was reincarnated in the body of Myne, a 6 years old sickly girl. Everything would have been fine, if she could read, but that world was medieval, before the invention of wood paper and printing.
Now, this is one huge LN. It currently has 20 volumes which are rather thicks. Part 1 which span from volume 1 to 3 is translated, and there are 4 parts published. The WN has a 5th part too. I was WN reader until J-Novel Club licensed it, so I have read up to the middle of part 2.
First, let’s address my only complain I had with the WN. Myne is just so weak. It’s a plot point especially in part 1, but I would rather not count how many time the words “fever” and “tired” were written in it. It’s extremely repetitive. She can get tired after just getting out of her home at the beginning, or doing anything actually. The LN doesn’t change her weakness, but somehow I don’t feel as annoyed by that unlike the WN. Granted, it has been a long time since I have read the WN.
After that, what are we left with? All that is good. Let’s start with the depiction of lifestyle. There is a lot of slice of life moment about how people lived in the medieval age. I’m no historian so I can’t say whether it’s accurate or not, but I do think that some element stand to truth. For instance, home architecture resolves around the hearth. Pig preparation for winter can indeed be very gross for a modern Japanese urban girl sensibility. And most importantly, the value of items which prevents Myne to use all of her modern knowledges which needs a society of abundance and consumption. Fantasy elements are gradually introduced, but has little effects on daily life. There is no convenient fire or water magic. Just some strange fruits and magic contracts, and one last thing which is major plot point leading to part 2.
All these little moments are the time for the characters to interact with each other. Myne despite having the mind of older Japanese girl, act rather childishly due to her book obsession. She is not some genius, so she can fail like when she retraces the history of mankind’s writing. Thus, her family time feels real. It’s a mix of affection and education, just like you would see in real life. And this feeling can be extended to the other characters who have their own life. And there is lot of other characters and the number will only grow with the volumes. This makes for a very organic society as each are given time to develop in the story.
The meat of the story is of course Myne’s ascendance, from weak and poor, to strong and rich. She is an interesting character. Aside of her child attitude, she is strong-willed not to say stubborn and will stand against the adults. Her main strengths are her modern knowledge, everything she has read, and the bits of handicraft she did. But she lacks everything to properly use these: physical strength, genius, age, money, status. Her progression consists in how she can gain these, like trial and error and trading. It’s a slow process, but a delectable one as it’s well explained, not always a success story and just blend with the slice of life.
The writing style is mostly first person from Myne point of view with internal monologue just to better encompass her love for book but also her reasoning. There is nothing stylistically new, but it’s effective at telling the story.
Illustration are handled by You Shiina, a long time illustrator that I have liked for years ( I have 3 artbooks ). The covers are interesting as Myne is always featured, with key elements of the volume. A map of the city is also provided. The B&W illustration are great at capturing the various character’s expression, as they are often bewildered by Myne.
Part 1 is a slow introduction to Ascendance of a bookworm. The strongest point in my opinion, is how everything fits together despite the massive scope undertaken by the author. The city, its people, and Myne’s progression result in a well executed blend that I can easily recommend. I’m totally excited for part 2 so that I can resume the progression.
A little section about things I notice in the story. I may not always have it.
The writing system in that world is close to Japanese despite using letter. At some point during part 1, Myne goes from learning letters to learning words and skip phonetics. She also cannot read out loud words she doesn’t know to an adult. This is quite different from a latin or anglo saxon languages in which we have syllables. In such language, a kid can read scientific paper without understanding it, as long as he gets the syllables and the phonetics.
There is a manga which properly adapts most plot points, also localised by J-Novel Club. An anime is also scheduled for autumn 2019. I’m unsure how it will be received since people may judge it already as “yet another isekai adaptation”, but I think it will be a good adaptation as the material is straightforward. I will certainly check it but I’m not sure if I will follow it as this would be the 4th time I see the premise.
Illustrator: You Shiina Website