BtT Light Novel Club, Chapter 2: Walking My Second Path in Life! (Volume 1)

The second meeting of the Beneath the Tangles Light Novel Club has officially begun! We’re already doing something a big different with this session. Last time, we stayed with the tried and true by starting with a classic light novel, but today, we’re trying out Walking My Second Path in Life, a series published by the J-Novel Club that has already earned some strong reviews in its tale of Princess Fie disguising herself as a boy and becoming a squire. But what did our members—Frank, Teresa Christina, Samuru, and me (TWWK)—think of it? Read through our discussion below to find out, and then chime in as well by giving your opinions or answering the questions at the bottom of this piece!

TWWK: So that was completely different from our last selection…what did y’all think of the first volume?

Samuru: I haven’t finished the book, but so far I have enjoyed it! It was very different than any fiction I have read. I liked how they setup Fie as a stranded princess. As for the negative of the novel… It’s hard to describe, and I am not sure how to write it in words, but I feel that the book has parts that aren’t written well. For example, there are times where the story is just flung into some situation without any preparation or description. For example, during the fight with Gormus (I think that’s his name), the dialogue announced that the fight was over, then they continued fighting? I thought it was over…and there was no line that got you back into it. It’s just weird, I notice that throughout. Not enough setup to the next scene.

TWWK: You’re right, especially for the first half. It took a while for the writer to find his way.

Teresa Christina: I agree with Samaru, too. There didn’t seem to be a clear direction to the story; it wasn’t terribly written well. It couldn’t decide what it was going to be about. It followed a girl who didn’t act like a girl at all, so the element of her secret gender wasn’t as powerful as it could have been. The plot was more of a collection of stories of things that happened to Fie instead of one feat she had to overcome. That made the story drag on terribly.

Samuru: I wish there was more details, background, setting, even character development of Fie. I know she’s a princess, but I feel that her character is written like a guy. I sometimes forget that she’s a girl from the way she is described.

TWWK: It definitely was less a “novel” and more, in my mind, an anime on paper. The book read like season one of a series, with each chapter having and ebb and flow that felt like an episode.

Teresa Christina: It did feel more like an anime then a story, and I suppose that in itself is not a bad thing—I just didn’t expect it. I don’t tend to like stories that have no destination. Some anime are like that and can get away with it. I thought Sweetness and Lightning was a very cute anime that didn’t need a real story; it was just character development. If the light novel focused on the characters a little more like Sweetness and Lightning did, then I think I could appreciate it more. I really want to be fond of it since I loved the setting and catalyst, but as a writer myself, I couldn’t let go of being irked by the lack of plot.

stardf29: While I do agree that the plot never really goes anywhere in particular, I actually kind of liked that about the story. It gives more of a “slice-of-life” feel to it, and I think that works well with the story’s overall theme of a “second path in life.” Fie isn’t taking this path because there’s a particular destination she wants to go; she’s taking it because the journey itself is more fulfilling than what her life had been before.

TWWK: I definitely feel the same as you, stardf—I thought it was actually pretty ingenious how the format of the light novel fit Fie’s personality and her goal. I know people like Fie, who are at once serious and fly-by-the-seat, and the book took on that same personality and added to it. I don’t think I would have had any interest if the story was more straight-forward. That meandering, slice of life feel is refreshing. The story takes its time to develop, and I think that’s a strength. Any other thoughts?

stardf29: One thing about the setting that I found interesting is that while it has many of the trappings of a fantasy setting—medieval castles and society and whatnot—as far as we know, there is absolutely no magic. In a way it’s almost more of a historical fiction story, albeit with made-up places.

TWWK: That’s an interesting point—the lack of magic. I think that, along with the setting, adds this layer of realism to a story that doesn’t feel like it’s meant to be realistic. It’s very anime-ish, very fairy tale-ish, very suspend-your-realism-ish, but the grounding in reality keeps it from being too cartoony, and I appreciate that.

It’s also interesting that you bring up magic because I felt a Harry Potter vibe, minus the magic. The dormitory is the squires’ Hogwarts, and Fie is developing a wide range of friendships, has a few teachers, and several mentors in the 18th. But it was definitely hard to get to know the other squires…they started kind of melding into the 18th knights for me (I think the author realized this because at one point, she specifically compares one of the squires to one of the knights to differentiate them), except for Gormus, whose developing relationship with Fie was a high point for me, too. I think he was my favorite character in volume one.

stardf29: I particularly like the friendship she’s built up with Gormus after their tryout battle, with Gormus coming to respect her even though she lost. And then there’s Fie and Queen… I’ll admit, I was kind of uncomfortable with how she basically blackmailed him into being her servant. Unfortunately, since it happened pretty much right at the end of the volume their relationship doesn’t get much chance to develop past that, at least here, but it does mean that there’s plenty of opportunity for improving their relationship in volume 2.

Her relationships with the 18th Platoon are fun, too, with Crow taking her as a “little brother,” and seeing what he thinks of “him” from his journal entries… and there’s Yore, who has taken well to her, not knowing she’s technically one of his wives. If we ever get to a point where that fact gets revealed to him… that’s going to be fun.

TWWK: Also interesting that you brought up Queen—in the final few chapters, we shift from Fie’s point of view towards those of others characters like Queen, Cain, Lynette, and even the chef! I thought that was so smart, and it helped develop Fie’s character all the more. What do you think of Fie as a character?

stardf29: While she’s definitely a lot of fun, she also has some notable flaws, and in particular, she’s not exactly the most “noble” character and has a side to her that is willing to do some questionable things to achieve her goals. I do think, though, that while that might make her less “likable,” it does make her more interesting.

TWWK: That’s a good point—in media, and especially in books, the less admirable some characters are, the more interesting they end up being.

stardf29: Whatever I might like or dislike about Fie as a person, I do think she’s a great protagonist, story-wise. It plays into a certain schematic I have for fictional characters, in that they can be likable, interesting, or relatable, or some combination thereof. Any given character will have some degree of likability, interesting-ness, or relatability, and that makes me see that character in different ways…(…actually, you know what, maybe I’ll talk about this for my next blog post. I need something a bit more fun to talk about next month.)

TWWK: For what’s been thus far a very breezy story, there’s some depth to Fie’s characterization. We didn’t even get to the swap in gender role in the story!

Teresa Christina: I could see the direct correlation to Milan and Joan of Arc. There is something fascinating about challenging gender roles.

Samuru: Ahhh I hadn’t thought of Joan of Arc good point!

TWWK: What of the other characters? If you could switch Fie out and make her a side character in this volume, who would you like to see at the protagonist instead?

stardf29: Hmm… one choice would definitely be Yore, basically putting him in the position of “guy who gets along with another guy, unaware that said guy is actually a girl and someone he knows.”

TWWK: That would be fun! And you wouldn’t even have to change the title to the series, hehe.

As you can see, we barely scratched the surface with our discussion—we want to hear from you, dear readers! What were your impressions of volume one of Walking My Second Path in Life? Did you agree with our assessments? Disagree entirely? Let us know! And if you need more kindling, here are some questions you might answer about the volume—we talked about the first but didn’t get a chance to dive into the others:

  • If you could switch Fie out and make her a side character in this volume, who would you like to see at the protagonist instead?
  • Did this light novel remind you of any other stories? Perhaps another anime or a fairy tale?
  • We spoke of some of Fie’s questionable qualities, but what are some of her redeeming ones? What did you think of her as a character?
  • The first volume had quite a large cast—did you enjoy getting to know the supporting characters or were there too many?
  • Where do you think the story is headed?
  • If you could cast a movie based on this volume, who would want to fill the roles?

That’s it for this edition of the light novel club! Thanks for reading along and be anticipating our next selection—we’ll let you know the title very soon!

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