Kuro no Hiera Glaphicos
Hemsicle last edited by Hemsicle
Publisher: Famitsu Bunko
First release: March 3rd, 2012
Status: Completed, 13th Volume @ August 29th, 2015
Author: Akihiko Ureshino
Illustrator: Ruria Miyuki
Genre/s: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Politics
Premise: Valeria Costacurta, a 16-year old girl from a formerly prestigious noble family, dreams of being able to someday rebuild her house’s noble status with her own strength. One day, she is chosen to become a Dominas, those that possess the tattooed crest that imbue one with the ability to wield magic. The odds of one bearing such a crest being only one in ten, Valeria accepts, the first step to her achieving her dream now paved right before her.
Being maidens, Dominas are traditionally paired with other females (called Hiera Glaphicos) to protect their purity. But for Valeria her Hiera Glaphicos is a young man known as Dimitar Richternach. Dimitar’s aunt, Orvieto Richternach, assures Valeria that he will never lay a hand on her – because Dimitar only has eyes for older women. To Valeria he is foul-mouthed, brash and tactless. Dimitar sees her as haughty, overbearing, and completely naive.
Their adventures begin with their first assignment, a secret mission to investigate a supposed uprising in a nearby city. Not everything goes according to plan, however, and the scouting mission that was supposed to have been simple at the start quickly turns sour.
Commentary: He's a foul-mouthed, crass, competent lad who's more than capable of doing what is asked of him. She's a stubborn, idealistic, brash lass who's intent on bringing her fallen family back to nobility, even if she has to do all the heavy lifting. She's very good at getting the both of them in trouble at the drop of a hat, and he's really good at keeping them both alive despite the odds. If you've ever wanted to know what's it like to see a Japanese light novel author's take on the buddy cop dynamic, this is the closest thing you'll get to it.
First off, this series has a heavy emphasis on worldbuilding and politics. Foreign policies, diplomacy, taxes, annexations and such are not just brought up but discussed. They also affect what missions the main pair get sent out on, what problems they have to fix and how it'll politically affect their country. While Dimitar and Valeria have their respective goals - he wants to give back to the family that took him after an unfortunate accident, and she wants to bring her family back into nobility - ultimately they are still working for the benefit of their country, Ahmed, to maintain the status quo and sabotage any potential power plays that might risk their position at the top. The countries featured are as diverse as the cast of characters involved, and are just as important as the realpolitik sets the stage for everyone involved.
The magic system used in the series has a lot of thought put into it. It performs consistently with realistic/measurable results, has its upsides and downsides, and is involved with the scientific/technological development and resulting militaristic power struggles in later plot developments; a far cry from the usual fantasy magic abundantly common in other fantasy light novels.
This doesn't mean the series carries only a heavy tone - comedy is to be found in Dimitar and Valieria's interactions, as they're too busy butting heads to be able to work together seamlessly, which Volume 2 (and the following author's note in that volume) delightfully points out. There's also Bettina who is the series' resident moodmaker, and whom the author makes full use of to avoid a dreary tone unless the story calls for it. Her pure innocence and naivety, commonly pitted against Dimitar's jaded honesty and world-weary cynicism, is another source of humor. There's also the constant joke of her having to take a leak before or during battle, which gets worn-out after a while and gets understandably shelved.
The action varies from military skirmishes to duels, all of them are handled with a believable approach. The military skirmishes use actual siege weapons and military tactics, the fights involving magic are not drawn out and over-the-top as is consistent with the established rules of magic in the world. More often than not, duels and skirmishes boil down to the use of disablers, ambushes and other "tricks" to incapacitate and kill the opponent, a far cry from hotblooded 50 thousand sword swings-per-second, world-ending magic, "now is the time to unleash my true power" animeesque fights.
Other things to take note of that might catch your interest? Romance that develops slowly but surely over time and several volumes instead of the contemporary harem girls that fall in love at the drop of a hat, leading to a meaningful romance. No overpowered main lead who crushes his enemy with little to no effort, giving the conflicts actual weight, value and gravitas. A story that is less preoccupied with showing you a world where the main characters are the most awesome things ever and more with showing you a world that just is, and how everyone is living their lives trying to get by.
I cannot recommend this series enough.
Damn, there's a lot to like in what you've posted. Great work on the sales pitch there.
Yeah, I'm now completely sold on the book too.