This review is rather overdue; I finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago. As of today I’m moving on to the next volume, again with the WaniKani bookclub, with the goal of finishing it just before the end of the year.
本好き is my first foray into the genre of 異世界 fiction; specifically the “reincarnation” subgenre. The hallmark of this kind of story is that our hero (typically a sad loner with no apparent future) meets an untimely death at the very beginning, and is then reborn into a new world (medieval fantasy settings seem to be the norm) with all his memories intact, and usually with some unbalanced magical power to boot. It’s a very popular concept, but one which has never much appealed to me due to the power fantasy trappings that seem to be endemic.
本好き is a bit different. For one, the main character (literally named “Main”, though the official English translation renders her name as “Mayne”; rhymes with “mine”), a book lover who had recently graduated from college with a degree in library science, actually seemed to have a pretty good life ahead of her before she was tragically crushed to death by a falling bookshelf. Things only get worse and worse from the moment she opens her eyes in her new home; she finds herself as a sickly little girl in a poor family, with not a single book in the house to help her while away the hours in bed. It’s not long before we find out that it’s not just her family; this is a world where being able to write your own name is remarkable, and where a single sheet of parchment is worth a month’s salary. Books will be hard to come by.
Though ostensibly the goal of the series is for Mayne to become a librarian against all odds, it’s a long climb to the top. Her goal throughout the whole first book is to come up with some way of writing, whether that be a pseudo-papyrus made of grass or clay tablets, but each new attempt comes with unforeseen challenges. Interleaved with the bookmaking are smaller, more achievable goals like figuring out how to make shampoo in a dirty, hard-fantasy world, or trying to adapt local ingredients to suit her Japanese tastes. Throughout it all, the narration is delightful and full of character.
At the time of writing there are 25 books in the series, with a new one coming out about every three months, so who knows when I’ll ever actually catch up (especially at bookclub pace). I do intend to continue for a while though. The recent anime adaptation apparently covers the first three volumes, so if any of this sounds interesting, be sure to check it out!