Review: Ascendance of a Bookworm – Pt 2: Apprentice Shrine Maiden (Vol 4)

With the arrival of not one, but two, babies into Myne’s life, the wheels seem to be turning ever faster for the young girl and her associates. This arc comes to an exciting but heartbreaking climax with this final book, especially once the scheming of the High Bishop is revealed.

The Apprentice Shrine Maiden arc of Ascendance of a Bookworm concludes with the fourth volume; number seven within the series. Author Miya Kazuki and illustrator You Shiina bring us a wonderful final book to this chapter, with J-Novel’s English translation provided as always by Quof. The digital ebook release was published in June 2020, with a print edition planned for later.

The biggest lesson I have learnt when it comes to Ascendance of a Bookworm is to never get too comfortable or attached to the status quo. This is not just in reference to Myne’s tireless efforts to improve the society and circumstances around her (and in extension the book printing process), but also with how drastically and completely Kazuki will upturn her story by the end of each story arc. With the Apprentice Shrine Maiden plot coming to a close, it’s not just the cloistered life of blue and grey robes we’re leaving behind—but the entirety of the life she’s lived til now.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

Following the last book, Myne is doing her utmost to be the best big sister ever to Kamil. As always, the girl never does or feels things in half-measures, and her recent baby mania is no exception. Delia is less impressed though; her upbringing as an orphan making it hard to fathom the idea of siblings. This frames the main theme of this book: family.

After the abandonment of a baby, Dirk, outside of the orphanage, Myne uses the opportunity to appoint Delia his big sister—giving the retainer a chance to build family bonds of her own. For a character like Delia, whose loyalties are split for her own security, the gesture indicates the great trust and kindness Myne has developed for all of her grey robes. The diligence that Delia shows this job also shows the first time the calculating girl has worked purely for someone else’s benefit. This makes it even sadder once things go wrong.

On the book-making side of things, ink experimentation has begun thanks to the help of two new Gutenburgs—a young husband and wife team with the curiosity and facilities to indulge Myne’s requests. With the ink now underway, her dreams are getting closer to reality even if the moving type has been put on hold for now.

With our protagonist happy with her friends and family, excelling with her work, and the book-printing advancing steadily the tense sensation that things are going far too well is immediately justified. Under the duress of the High Bishop, a noble from an neighboring duchy attempts to take Myne for himself, or destroy her trying. She calls for help using a mysterious black charm Sylvester had gifted her, unknowingly hastening her own heartbreak. The High Bishop’s plans are a cruel punishment for overstepping the class boundary—uncaring as he threatens Dirk, Tulli and Fran’s lives without pause.

Thankfully Sylvester does come to the rescue, and with his arrival comes the revelation that he’s not just a quirky, annoying blue robed priest; he’s the current Lord of Ehrenfest.

Along with his protection comes the end of Myne’s life, even if she hadn’t realised that at the time. His involvement in her life now means that the two year reprieve the young girl had before she was forced to be adopted is now gone—she’s now to become Sylvester’s adopted daughter that very same day. Understandably our protagonist is heartbroken; Myne the daughter of Effie and Gunther, sister to Tulli and Kamil, is dead. Given one last farewell to her old life before she’s rechristened Rozemyne, the separation just emphasizes how much more real the dynamic Myne has had with her reincarnation’s family has been, compared to her Urano days.

Literally laying her past self to rest with the death of Myne, it’s almost as if this truly is the real reincarnation. Although Rozemyne will still be able to see her family and friends in certain circumstances, there’s now a impenetrable layer of distance from her ‘old life’. Things have irreparably changed, and with it, the future’s uncertain.

I never stop being impressed by the sheer scope and depth that Ascendance of a Bookworm has. Kazuki never fully rests on the normality she’s written for her protagonist for long, and it’s exceedingly impressive with how easily she jumps into challenging our expectations. For those who may find the earlier books in each arc too slow or methodical to really ‘entertain’, this finale for Apprentice Shrine Maiden should satisfy. As always, I look forward to the next installment—just how is Rozemyne’s life (and plans) going to change from here?

Gee's Rating: Highly Recommended

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