Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Fiancee of the Wizard
She had been a twenty-nine-year-old woman walking home when she was hit by a car – that was the last thing she remembered. When she opened her eyes, she was a three-year-old girl named Filimena, recovering from a terrible illness. She quickly realized that she had been reincarnated into a different world, one like the 19th century but with magic. At first Filimena assumed that her reincarnation meant that she was a chosen one, but she wasn't all that upset to find out that she's actually just an ordinary girl. No, if there was going to be a “chosen one,” it would be Edy, the sad little boy she befriends when her uncle adopts him, leading to their betrothal. But Edy's a magic prodigy and has to go away to be trained, and when he comes back, he's no longer the boy she knew. Is there any hope for a relationship between the most powerful mage in the land and an ordinary girl?
Fiancée of the Wizard is one of those series with a first volume that is largely unremarkable but has the potential to become something more. Primarily this is because so much of the manga's introductory book, which covers presumably half-to-a-third of the original light novel's material, is trying to get the characters to the point where they can actually begin the main story, which in this case means that they need to be old enough to have a believable romance. But the experiences which shape them up to that point are also necessary, so they can't be skipped over, even if those are the most boilerplate pieces of the plot.
That's true in any number of genres we might be tempted to slot the series into. Certainly from the perspective of an isekai story it's very similar to plenty of reincarnation-based tales, although at this point the easiest comparison for many will be My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! or Ascendance of a Bookworm; Filimena is suddenly awakened to her past life memories when she nearly dies from an illness. While we don't know if this is a Katarina situation (the trauma awakened her) or a Myne one (Filimena did die and the unnamed Japanese woman's spirit was given her body), it's still familiar enough that it risks driving off readers in search of something new. That the following pages also feel very much like both of those series is either going to cement reader interest or be the final nail in the coffin – Filimena sets out to learn to read and acquire as much knowledge as she can and soon meets her “uncle's” (he's a close friend of her father, not a blood uncle) adopted son, whose birth family spurned him because of his frighteningly-strong magical talent. Naturally Filimena befriends the boy, who has the staggeringly unfortunate name of Egeideyrus, who can't believe that someone would care for him. It's like a darker start to the Keith storyline in My Next Life as a Villainess.
Things take a turn for the more classic shoujo plotline of childhood sweethearts betrothed when the boy (who thankfully goes by Edy) summons a too-strong fire spirit and scars Filimena's back, which is a deal-breaker as far as marriage goes for her, as she's been rendered “flawed.” He's then whisked away to wizard school where he's relentlessly bullied, with the result being that when he returns home as a teenager, his coping mechanisms have turned him into a shoujo romance jerk hero, unable to tell Filimena that he's still madly in love with her. And of course, now that he's an incredibly powerful trained wizard, political figures are constantly scheming to break his engagement to the flawed Filimena and marry one of their daughters – including the princess.
This is essentially where the volume ends. What saves it from remaining just another similar story brought over on the heels of others' successes is that the book is incredibly readable, not spending too much or too little time on any one of its aspects and keeping up an enjoyable pace. It's also told in chapters that alternate between Filimena's narration and Edy's, allowing us to see both sides of their stories and how they're handling (or not, in Edy's case) the changes in their circumstances and their emotions. This is especially important as pertains to Edy, who would otherwise be fairly inscrutable or come off as a total twit due to the constant need to protect himself during his years at school. He's never fallen out of love with Filimena: he's just lost any hint of the knack of expressing it over time, something his adoptive father gives him justified grief over. Edy's been awkward from day one, and rather than helping him to mature out of that, school just ingrained it even more deeply.
Filimena, for her part, is more mature than Edy because this is her second time around and she's always been a bona fide adult on the inside. Although she's hurt and baffled by his behavior, she also understands that there's probably something behind it, so she doesn't act out or yell at him like we might expect from other similar romances. She's not thrilled that they haven't wed yet, because it's definitely past time from the age expectations of her new world and she does love him, but she's also willing to wait until he's worked through whatever's going on in his head. This maturity may not make her the most exciting character, but it does give the book a stability that helps to balance out the more cliché elements of its plot, which looks like it's about to pick up in volume two.
The art is very pretty in a classic shoujo way, and attention is paid not just to people but backgrounds as well, giving the volume a nice balance artistically. It's a little odd to see Edy's Medieval-style wizard robes contrasted against the more Victorian sensibility of everyone else's clothes, but everything is elaborate enough (while still being easily to read) that it's not too much of an issue. Readers are more likely to have issues with Edy's full name, which is nigh unpronounceable, or the decision to spell Filimena's name with an f rather than the more common Philomena.
Fiancée of the Wizard, despite its weirdly passive-voice title, has the potential to be a fantasy romance greater than the sum of this first volume. And even if it remains firmly entrenched in genre clichés, it still is an enjoyable read that should appeal equally to fans of shoujo isekai and plain old fantasy romance.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Dual narration helps, attractive art, easy to read.
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