2016’s Apprentice Shrine Maiden, Volume 3 is the third instalment in the second arc of Miya Kazuki’s Ascendance of a Bookworm secondary-world fantasy series. Illustrations are by You Shiina. The 2020 English language translation is by Quof.
Myne kept the secret of her past — that she contains the memories of a Japanese bookworm who died when her books collapsed on her — a closely held secret. True, she possesses great knowledge of many topics utterly unfamiliar to her new homeland. She thought that she could conceal this advantage. She couldn’t. Circumstances forced her to confess all to High Priest Lord Ferdinand. Magic has confirmed her story.
Myne believes that she is now free to return to her avocation of upending society through the introduction of innovations. These innovations may cause side-effects, but she’s not worried about those. All she wants is realize her dream of mass-produced books.
She’s wrong. Pursuing her dream has become more difficult.
Even had she not possessed clues to millennia of technological knowledge, Myne’s new host body is itself a challenge for the social order. That body is overflowing with mana. This would be fine were she a noble and were these normal times. Too bad that there is a current shortage of aristocrats, thanks to a recent purge. The powers-that-be cannot afford to ignore her socially inconvenient magical potential.
Thanks to a public demonstration of her power in the previous book, Myne’s mana production is no longer a secret. The High Priest understands the implications, even if Myne does not. She is valuable without being socially or politically powerful. This is a recipe for tragedy. All it would take is for some well born family to decide they need to forcibly adopt Myne and she would be kidnapped. If her future kidnappers wanted to pass Myne off as their own, her host body’s family would be slaughtered to keep them quiet.
Understanding that consequences are bearing down on Myne is one thing. Convincing the monomaniacal bookworm that the consequences are worthy of her attention is another. Myne does her best to disregard inconvenient warnings and has rejected the High Priest’s suggestion that she let Lord Karstedt adopt her. Myne prefers to focus on building the foundation for mass market books. Mere words are unlikely to sway her.
The ambush, on the other hand….
Most of the book is told from Myne’s oblivious perspective. Her impression of the High Priest is somewhat negative. After all, he’s always correcting her, assigning her duties that are in no way related to publishing, and insisting that she bow to convention. (If she doesn’t, she could end up dead — but she has so far rejected such helpful suggestions.)
In this volume, Myne is starting to wake up. She is realizing that she’s been missing a lot. She’s also starting to miss her Japanese mother, lost to her forever, and understand how much her mother cared for her.
Brief passages told from other perspectives make it clear to the reader, if not to Myne, that Myne is extraordinarily lucky to have someone like the High Priest looking out for her. She’s even more lucky that, once he begins to comprehend the possible consequences of Myne’s novelties, the High Priest does not have her executed for the public good.
Perhaps their discussion of literacy would be a useful illustration:
“What changed in your society as a result of the proliferation of books and the increased literacy rate?”
“Everything changed. But the specifics varied by country, and by culture. I don’t think the details will mean much to an entirely different world.”
“What changed, for example?” asked the High Priest […]
“There are many examples of working-class commoners overthrowing the ruling class and starting a government ruled by the people through sharing information and teaching each other. On the other hand, there were also manipulators printing and distributing hand-selected information to influence the populace one way or another. I know that commoners learning to read significantly changes the means through which information is communicated, but I don’t know who might exploit that and how.”
“So the impact will be so enormous that it is impossible to say what might happen, partially due to outside influences. Very troubling indeed…” murmured the High Priest […]
From the High Priest’s perspective, what’s good for the aristocracy is good for the public at large. The fact that this conversation does not end with Myne’s quiet strangulation tells us that the High Priest is quite kind-hearted for a person of his class.
Watching Myne’s heroic efforts to avoid learning from experience lest it distract her from her hobbies is entertaining … when it isn’t frustrating.