Friday, March 5, 2021

Review: ASCENDANCE OF A BOOKWORM, PART 1 VOL. 1 (light novel) by Miya Kazuki


Rating: 2/5 stars

DNF at 35%.

Urano loves books so much that they’re probably a detriment to her life at this point, and she literally dies by being crushed by a book avalanche. She is then reincarnated as Myne, a poor, young, sickly girl in a world where books are extremely rare and expensive. Desperately wanting to read books and not being able to get ahold of any, Myne resolves to make books herself. She then stumbles through this world—a historical medieval version of our world where poor commoners work hard to support the rich nobles and literacy rates are very low—trying to find materials she can use to construct a book.

I want to know what happened to the original Myne. Urano took her place, but where did Myne’s soul go now that Urano’s soul is in her body? Are details like that ever explained?

This is my very first light novel. I’ve read some manga in the past (primarily Fruits Basket), but never a light novel until now. I’ve had my eye on this series ever since it first was released though. Every day at work when I’d shelve the manga, I’d want to read Ascendance of a Bookworm because it always looked like the perfect series for me as a book lover. 

This story wasn’t as much about books as it was about Myne navigating this new world and learning about life there. It’s a story that focuses heavily on day-to-day life rather than on a central plot, although there is the central plot of Myne trying to make books and eventually become a librarian that runs throughout the entire series. It’s nice that there is more going on than just the main storyline, but that also made the story feel really slow to me. I just kept waiting for something interesting with books to happen, but Myne takes her time squeezing oil from fruit to make shampoo, melting bone tallow into candles, helping gather firewood for the winter, watching her father slaughter a pig, going to the market with her mom, etc. Most of this story is not actually about books. I suspect it will be more in later volumes as she ascends, but this first book was largely a set-up for the world.

The writing was a little weird to me, like it didn’t flow very well and the dialogue was super stilted. I don’t know if that’s a translation problem or what. It reads as if someone read the manga and turned it into a novel, except I think this story was a light novel before it ever became a manga. Some of the phrases and descriptions sound like they’re straight out of manga panels though. It was kind of awkward to me. One sentence goes, “I was so embarrassed . . . I decided to double facepalm.” That sounds like a panel that was then directly turned into text, but “facepalm” works better as a drawing than as a written description, so it just came out sounding awkward. 

I know the protagonist is five, but this book reads really young, like a five-year-old actually wrote it. The language, dialogue, descriptions, all of it. It feels to me like something a middle-schooler would write, you know during that phase when every middle-schooler is like, “I’m going to write a book!” but they have no training on how to write and don’t know how to foreshadow or properly use any literary devices so it all turns out pretty poorly written. That sounds so mean! But it’s true with this book, unfortunately.

I was really excited to start this series, but I actually really struggled to get through it. It felt like I was reading a full-length novel—it seemed so much longer than it actually was. Eventually, I just decided to quit because I was not enjoying my time. 

I’m guessing that this book is the worst of the series, mostly a set-up for more exciting events to come actually involving books later on (as this is a pretty long series). I intended to read the whole series of light novels because the concept is super cool to me, but I think I might give the manga a chance instead and see if that works better for me. I’m assuming the manga and light novels are essentially the same story just told in different mediums. I might also try out the anime as well. I really wanted to like this story, but I’m worried future installments of the light novels will feel like this one did, and I don’t want to read like 15 books that are just mediocre when I can enjoy the same story much better in a different way.

Ultimately, I liked the concept behind story—a girl who loves books getting reincarnated into a world with no books and then creating books for the people of that world and becoming that world’s first librarian—but it took too long to take off, it was not written well, and it was not quite what I expected. I am really sad that I did not like this book as much as I expected to because I have been hyping up this series for myself for almost two years now. I am really disappointed, so I hope at least the manga or anime will live up to my expectations. 

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