Princess Mia Luna Tearmoon of the Tearmoon Empire, aka the Princess of the Guillotine, died young as a popular revolution swept through her country and, as the last royal remaining, she met a violent and unhappy end at age 20.
Or so she dreams — she wakes up in a cold sweat as a 12-year-old and can’t help but wonder if she just dreamed 8 years of her future life in a single night. But upon discovering that her diary has multiplied, with one, blank copy she’s been writing in and another, stained in her own blood and detailing her final days, Mia realizes that this is indeed serious and she has no intention of being killed again!
But preventing a popular uprising is no small deal: Mia now needs to prevent an incoming plague, an incoming famine, improve relations between the various social groups in the empire and, most importantly, make sure that her former classmates aren’t the ones calling “off with her head!”
While this series certainly has a few, fundamental similarities to an isekai story, like how Mia has “the mind of an adult in the body of a child,” this is not one as Mia has been merely sent back in time, not to another world. While the people around here are struck by how Mia suddenly seems less bratty and a bit more worldly, I’m sure all of them would be surprised that she’s “mentally” 20 since in many ways Mia is still incredibly naive (being locked up in a prison for a time in her future-past certainly didn’t help) and well, still a bit of a brat!
Part of this perception of Mia, at least to the readers, however stems from the narrator of Tearmoon Empire, an unseen and incredibly snarky voice (with even some rare uses of profanity) who made the books very hilarious, and translator David Teng made this a very fun read. Jeskaiangel of Beneath the Tangles proposes however that this narrator goes beyond just snarking and is an unreliable one, one who is committed to putting Mia down no matter what she does and always assuming the worst of her. An unreliable, third person omniscient narrator is so unusual, I can’t even think of one, that this idea hadn’t crossed my mind while reading it.
But it’s such an interesting interpretation that I’ve had to reconsider parts of these two volumes and it will certainly be in my mind reading volumes 3 and beyond; in many instances I don’t think the narrator is unreliable since Mia’s own actions and thoughts (that we the readers receive directly) do show that in many cases her actions are a result of gut instinct and not as a part of a larger plan, since Mia’s larger plan is a more general “prevent my future death by preventing the situations that lead up to it from happening” type of plan.
However, this narrator is our sole source of insight into the thoughts of other characters. I don’t believe we hear their own thoughts “unfiltered,” and that’s where I certainly think the narrator could be unreliable. Mia’s approach to “not meeting a bad end” is rather similar to that of Catarina Claes, be friendly and accidentally bring everyone over to your side without realizing it (although with less accidental seduction; she only has two love interests by the end of these two volumes versus Bakarina’s seven). The narrator makes frequent mention of how Mia’s actions have inspired a Mia-mania in her followers who believe that her every move is carefully plotted when in reality Mia simply has extra foresight on her side. Again, there are some actions in the book that back up the narrator’s chatter, as after just a few events of Mia repeating back what her future-past self had been told she’s labeled the “The Great Sage of the Empire” by many, but the narrator takes an awful lot of glee in detailing just how blinded Mia’s followers have become by her perceived actions and how woolly-headed Mia actually is. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out on how the narrator behaves in future volumes and who knows, since this is a story about manipulating the future I wouldn’t be too surprised if the narrator appeared as an actual character in future volumes.
The snarky narrator wasn’t the only bit of fun to these first few volumes, there’s simply a lot of charm to this story and Mia’s Catarina-like methods for handling social situations had me laughing. For instance, she thinks it might be a good idea to become friends with a prince of another kingdom in case she needs help fending off a powerful rival that lies between their countries, only to have him genuinely fall for her, change his ways, and start to bring about change within his own kingdom as a result!
Plus the political dealings in these two volumes were actually rather solid — when Mia is trying to famine-proof her kingdom there’s an explanation of how famine isn’t the result of a lack of supply, it’s a lack of supply chains (which guides Mia’s plans), and there’s a surprising amount of thought put into the history of the nobility and how a lot of the friction is the result of aggression/colonization that happened only a few centuries earlier. While none of these areas of study are Mia’s strong suit, she does remember who was valuable to her in the future-past and begins to build a “cabinet of rivals” as it were to tackle these issues.
Knowing how to manage/delegate/govern are skills after all, so perhaps it’s no surprise and no exaggeration for people to call this mere 12 year old girl “The Great Sage of the Empire” after all.