When Katarina is 8 years old, she bumps her head and suddenly recalls her past life as a 17-year-old girl in our world. What's more, she realizes that she is now living the life of the villainess in Fortune Lover, the otome game she was playing before she died. To her horror, she realizes that the Katarina of the game had absolutely no good endings. If the game's protagonist got a good ending, Katarina was usually exiled, and if she got a bad ending, Katarina was usually killed. Katarina would like very much not to die, so she comes up with new strategies to avert her bad endings each time she meets a person she recognizes from the game. What she doesn't realize is that she has managed to change the story enough that all these characters who were originally her enemies or neutral towards her now have begun to care for her.
If all of this sounds familiar, it's probably because I recently read and reviewed the first volume of the manga adaptation of this series. Now that I've read this light novel, I can say that the manga was an even better adaptation than I realized. It managed to cover the events of this entire first novel without feeling rushed or overly confusing.
It also neatly took care of one of this novel's biggest weaknesses: its repetition. This book really, really should have been written in the third person. Instead, the author opted to write parts of the story from Katarina's POV and then switch to the POV of (usually) whichever character from the game she'd just met, rehashing everything that just happened but with a few extra scenes, a more fleshed out backstory for the otome character, and all the subtext that Katarina missed or misinterpreted turned into text.
While I appreciated some of this - the bit where Alan and Jeord talked to each other was great, Jeord and Nicol's reactions in a few parts were suddenly much easier to understand, and a few details came up that were basically my romance catnip - it resulted in a lot of repeated dialogue. It got to the point where I was skimming for actual new and useful content. The manga cut out all of the otome game character POV sections, except for maybe a few lines here and there, and trusted readers to use the clues in characters' body language and dialogue to figure out what had been left out. For the most part, it did an excellent job.
Since I'd already read the manga, parts of this book felt like the "extended and bonus scenes" section of a DVD. Katarina's mother and father reconciled on-page (it was really pretty sweet), as opposed to the hasty and vague mention in the manga. And rather than having to guess that Mary
was in love with Katarina, I got confirmation that, yes, she absolutely was in love with her (and wanted to carry her off somewhere and marry her).
Sophia, on the other hand, was angling for a sister-in-law, which made sense considering her original storyline in the game.
I was surprised at how differently I felt about some of the characters in the manga vs. in the book. In the manga, Katarina was, hands down, my favorite character. In the book, my top favorites were Jeord (so amusingly frustrated with Katarina) and Mary (the scene where she verbally sparred with Jeord was fabulous). I also found that I liked Katarina's mother more in the manga.
I'm really looking forward to reading the next volume, which should feature all-new content for me. I'm just crossing my fingers that it's less repetitive (please, Yamaguchi, don't spend the entire book showing us a scene and then repeating the same scene from a different character's POV) and a lot fewer uses of the word "abode."
Translation-wise, it was smooth enough that I was able to finish the whole thing in less than 24 hours, but there were definitely some awkwardly phrased sentences and more typos than I expected.
Several illustrations, an afterword written by the author, and an interview/Q&A with the translator (in which even the translator admitted "the repetition really does have a tendency to drive me insane" (150) - ouch).
I probably shouldn't give this such a high rating considering how bad the writing was, but since it hooked me enough that I didn't want to stop reading, even though I technically already knew most of what was going to happen, eh, 4 stars it is. Consider it 4 "forgiving of enormous light novel flaws" stars.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)