A Cunning Plan
Daughter of a Soldier, Volume 2
By Miya Kazuki
Miya Kazuki’s Daughter of a Soldier, Volume 2 is the second of three Daughter of a Soldier instalments, which in turn form the first arc of Miya Kazuki’s Ascendance of a Bookworm series. The manga was illustrated by You Shiina; the 2019 edition was translated into English by Quof.
Fanatical bookworm Urano Motosu eluded the homicidal embrace of Truck-Kun, only to be crushed by her own books during a minor earthquake. To her surprise, Urano woke in the body of five-year-old Myne, a sickly child born to an honest but very poor peasant family. Her new society is sufficiently pre-literate that the language in which Urano is now fluent (as Myne) does not have a word for book.
Urano has been working as hard as her frail body will allow to drag society into literacy. This has born fruit, although not quite the fruit she intended.
Urano/Myne’s unusual math skills and her knack for creating useful novelties (from her perspective, recreating commonplace items like shampoo and conditioner) brought her to the notice of local merchants. One, Benno, is keen on taking her as an apprentice. It’s only reasonable for Benno to test Urano/Myne’s abilities. The test is straightforward: produce some of this “paper” with which Urano/Myne seems obsessed.
The good news is that the changeling knows a lot about paper and paper-making. The bad news is: her knowledge is theoretical rather than practical, she lacks the tools to make the tools she needs, the local materials are different from Japanese materials, and she lacks the up-front funds she needs to buy what she needs (that whole five-year-old peasant girl thing).
Providentially for Urano/Myne, Benno did not intend to set an impossible task. He eases the challenge by mentoring Urano/Myne on the realities of dealing with merchants – everything has a price, which is both good and bad. His assistance leaves our protagonist with only one task: trial and error until she produces useable paper.
This is just the first step towards a return to a book-focused life. Urano/Myne will have to translate many commonplace Japanese items into local analogs to fund her ultimate goal. This will no doubt take a lot of time. Too bad Urano/Myne is terminally ill with a disease whose cure is far beyond her current limited means to purchase.
Too bad her closest friend Lutz and her mentor Benno have both independently deduced that whoever or whatever is wearing Myne like a meatsuit, it cannot possibly be Myne.
Sure, it’s a pain for the protagonist that those around her to see through her paper-thin façade, but the alternative is surrounding her with a bunch of oblivious knuckleheads.
This is How Things Work: The Secondary Universe Fantasy Adventure. While Urano sees process as the means to an end, the author revels in the details of the processes. Sure, it would be convenient for Urano if making paper from scratch took the time between two adjacent paragraphs. It’s convenient for the author if it does not.
Some lessons involve unintended consequences. For example, a once sickly peasant girl suddenly inventing a sequence of useful innovations – shampoo, paper, hair sticks, decorative hair pins, chopsticks – is unusual enough to make people wonder why and how. This useful knack makes her very valuable. Lucky for Urano that, while her mentor may be a sharp dealer with a keen grasp of the bottom line, he’s essentially good-hearted.
In case anyone was wondering, it is unambiguously established in this volume that this is a secondary universe fantasy series, not a secondary universe does-it count-as fantasy-if-there-is-no-magic series. Contract law is backed up by magic. Some but presumably not all of the ramifications of contract law enforced by objective, literal-minded, inexorable forces are explored.
This is not a slice of life, zero drama series, if only because there is the ever-present question of whether or when terminally ill Urano/Myne will succumb to her disease in this, the second volume of a twenty-plus volume series. It is a good-natured ramble exploring the vast gulf between vision and execution. Enough to keep me reading for at least a few more volumes.
Daughter of a Soldier, Volume 2 is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Book Depository), and here (Chapters-Indigo). I did not find it at Amazon UK.