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?
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.
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.
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!
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!