Written by C. C. Cooper on 25 Apr 2020
Distributor J-Novel Club • Author/Artist Ameko Kaeruda/Kazutomo Miya • Price £5.62
A bit of time has passed since Tanya exacted her revenge on her do-nothing ex-party leader, who was also her childhood friend for reasons never elaborated upon, and the party she formed, Lilium, with Laplace and an assassin-turned-healer has achieved B-list celebrity status. The masses adore them, women aspire to be like them, and they've got an A+ accreditation from the Better Business Bureau. Things are on the upswing for the girls, but Tanya can't help but notice her partner-in-crime acting a bit off from time to time. She's paid back unvigintuple on the man who diddled her, but on this merry-go-round of revenge, it's Laplace's turn for a ride.
Things started on an explosive note in the debut volume, but this one likes to work its way up to the exciting bits. We get a nudge of what'll be important later on in the plot, then the ladies head out into the boonies to handle a job posting where a lass has to settle a marital dispute through diplomacy or through duel. Where the first volume criticized misogyny as a societal cancer, this one waggles a chastising finger at some of the things dudes say which irk women. For instance, once the aforementioned lass's dilemma is taken care of, her father tells her she's partially to blame because a forty-year-old virgin wouldn't have hit on her had she not gone out on the town in a hoochie outfit. But I have to waggle a chastising finger at Sexiled because of a double-standard it's not willing to admit. Laplace enjoys giving Tanya a smooch outta nowhere, which makes the Magi-Knight uncomfortable, but she gives in to the sorceress because her kisses are “too sweet.” If this were a dude trying that, Tanya'd uppercut him to the asteroid belt, so I'd like to know where it got the idea that guys forcing themselves on women = bad, but women forcing themselves on women = acceptable. General rule of thumb last I checked was that anyone forcing themselves on non-consenting parties = bad, but maybe this is my previous New Mexico whiptail theory blooming.
Punchlines are as punchy as before, and there's a fourth wall break which particularly stimulated my funny bone with a goose's feather, but while Sexiled can coldcock a whale from the Atlantic to the Pacific with how strong its humor is, its drama arm by comparison is looking a little like a bug which looks like a stick. The headliner plot takes a more serious ring as the ladies take on the wizard who stuck Laplace beneath a mountain and discover the myriads of secrets behind him and the secret experiments he's been up to the last three hundred years. The book abandons its humor to present this act but in doing so abandons its identity.
As I've stated enough times already, Sexiled is funny as subterranean, fiery labyrinths. But it's one of those series archetypal to my credence that presentation is success. The plot of the first novel is pretty bare-bones, but its comedic edge is what makes it not a snore nor a bore to read. Shed that away and what you get is the main conflict of the second volume, which isn't a horrible sit-through, but if you switched up the characters' names, I wouldn't be astonished to hear the printing house confessing to a major litRPG mix-up. It attempts to retain some of its humor, but jokes are awkwardly stitched in, so it's like lying down for the night only to find that your questionable insane aunt sewed a lobster tail onto your favorite teddy bear.
Worldbuilding is something which sees the biggest cracks this trip. They're not as big as this volume losing its series's identity, but they can't be as easily filled in. In the first volume, Laplace remarked how back in her day, three-hundred years ago, men and women used to be equal, which immediately piqued my curiosity for this reversal in societal progress. This time, we get our answer, and, spoilers, it amounts to nothing more than some angry dude taking his anger out on women because he's just that much of a cockalorum. It's passably believable, but I was expecting motives a little more sagacious in explanation than “gurls r stoopid.”
Strangely enough, this feels like a series finale. They beat the big bad, Laplace's character arc gets drawn to a close, and the epilogue settles things to where Lilium can live out their days in peace. I was legitimately worried this was the final installment in a series which received cancellation at much too tender an age, and even if it were, it's not the strongest finish a series can have. It tests out a style it doesn't have a good handle on and picks up the habit of repeating backstory like it needs to recall where in a script it left off. It's not the best follow-up to its strong start, and the first half is faithful to that sass and jazz which turned me into a raging fan, but it should set up a daily bicep curling regimen before attempting drama in future installments.
A part-time reviewer these days of video games.
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