Mia is one of the newest Pharmacology students at Royal Academy, a school with four different areas of study: Law, Magic, Medicine, and Pharmacology. Law tends to attract the children of the nobility, Magic requires students to be born with magical abilities, Medicine is difficult to get into, and Pharmacology tends to be looked down upon because it's easier to get into than Medicine.
Mia has one goal: to find a cure for Demon Claw, the disease that resulted in her mother being quarantined when Mia was only six. Demon Claw is spread by touch, can be caught by anyone, and is highly contagious. It upsets Mia that, as far as she knows, hardly any attempts have been made to find a cure for it, while Angel Tears, a disease that appeared at about the same time and that affects only mages, gets all kinds of attention and funding. Angel Tears victims are treated with sympathy and understanding, while Demon Claw victims are shunned.
The best chance Mia can see for accomplishing her goal is the Grand Plan. Each student is required to submit a research proposal in their first year. If it's accepted, they can go forward with that research. If it isn't, they're assigned a research topic and that's that. The only thing students are ever assigned to research is Angel Tears, so Mia has extra incentive to come up with a good Grand Plan. Can she manage to find good teammates, come up with a topic her professor will accept, and somehow overcome the stigma that has prevented Demon Claw from being researched on even the most basic level?
I came across this while looking for more English translations of Japanese light novels by female authors. The cover artwork was attractive (not that that has anything to do with the quality of the writing), and the few reviews I read said it was decent.
I went into this expecting a 3-star read but hoping for something better. What I got was a painfully boring read that reminded me a little of being at work. Specifically, it reminded me of staffing the reference desk and gently trying to encourage students to modify their research topics. Mia spent a larger-than-necessary portion of this book writing and rewriting her research topic. Each time, her professor told her it needed to be narrower and/or something that she, a mere student without the credentials necessary to get into a Demon Claw quarantine zone, could work on. "A cure for Demon Claw" wasn't so much a research topic as it was a lifelong goal, but Mia had trouble seeing that. Instead, she thought her professor was being mean and possibly suspiciously obstructive. (By the way, Mia and most of her group members were only 16 or 17 years old. I spent most of the book assuming they were maybe in their early 20s since their teachers were referred to as professors.)
When Mia was attacked by a mage, I mistakenly thought I'd finally get to read about something other than Mia's research proposal, but sadly that was not the case. She was so focused on finding a cure that she brushed aside the attack, which could have killed her, as not worth thinking about or investigating. It was maddening.
Mia's final research question didn't strike me as being very good, considering the limitations on researching Demon Claw (hardly any published research upon which she could base further research, the quarantine zones are inaccessible to those without the proper credentials, etc.), and it seemed odd that Mia's professor didn't ask her to explain how she planned to go about answering it. But hey, at least the story was finally moving forward, so I couldn't complain too much.
The direction the story finally took was fairly interesting, although I predicted some of it when the history of Angel Tears and Demon Claw was first mentioned. It's too bad that the overall execution was so awful. Yamamoto chose the most boring possible way to tell what should have been an exciting fantasy conspiracy story. And it definitely didn't help that the writing/translation/editing wasn't very good. My notes are filled with examples of awkward phrasings and misused words:
"An outbreak of not one, but two strange diseases have plagued the Kingdom of Isea." (9)
The very first sentence. It did not fill me with confidence that the rest of the book would be very well-written.
"But the bases for Felix's guesses were almost always a hunch, and he didn't understand how he had reached his conclusion." (19)
This sentence has several problems, one of which is that the word is "basis," not "bases."
"Although the mass majority claimed that quarantining the infected in Sanatoriums in the middle of nowhere, like this, was more than humane, Mia honestly wasn't convinced." (118)
It's "vast majority," not "mass majority."
The world-building had problems as well. At one point, Mia learned that, in the past 70 years, the Royal Academy has only produced one drug, the treatment for Angel Tears. This implied many things, none of which really made any sense, but it only got worse when I found out the Angel Tears and Demon Claw timeline. The very first outbreak of Angel Tears happened when Mia's mother was very young, maybe in her late teens or early 20s. If the only drug the Royal Academy produced in the past 70 years was the one for Angel Tears, and Angel Tears only existed for 10-20 of those years, what were Royal Academy researchers doing during the other 50-60 years? Twiddling their thumbs?
I did like a couple things about the book. The illustrations were attractive, if not always accurate (Mathias was frequently described as bear-like and so muscular that he threatened to tear the seams of his uniform, but in the illustrations he's just a slightly taller pretty boy). Also, the way the romance was resolved wasn't too bad - I was glad that Mia didn't lose her head and abandon her priorities just because Felix was handsome and interested in her. Oh, and I liked that Felix struggled with anxiety and panic attacks, even though I didn't always like the way they were framed (at one point, Felix dismissed his own panic attacks as something he subconsciously did for attention).
I really wish this had been better. At least it was short.
Several black-and-white illustrations, and a one-page afterword written by the author.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)