Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
My Favorite Song - The Silver Siren
Kanon is an average high school girl preparing for graduation when she stops by the music room. She picks up some sheet music she hasn't seen before and begins to sing it, only to find herself transported to the land of Reveur, a strange country with a troubled past where magic is possible but feared, especially magic caused by singing. Called “Sirens,” these magic users have been the victims of repeated witch hunts, and the most feared of all is the legendary Silver Siren, who will come from a foreign land and bring destruction to Reveur. Kanon, it turns out, is that Siren, and if she wants to get home again, she must find a mysterious man named Ernest who only appears in ghostly form. Together with Rag, a young Sorcerer who needs to bring Kanon to Ernest to break his own curse, and the mercenary Serene, Kanon journeys across Reveur and begins to learn that her world and this one are perhaps not so different after all.
While the increased interest in publishing light novels has been a boon for many readers, there's also been a definite trend towards picking up series aimed at a male demographic – many, if not most, of the light novels being published in English are about young men who find themselves transported to a fantasy world. While some are better than others, and many are enjoyable even if that's not your favorite genre, the lack of books with more of a female audience in mind is beginning to grate – were Kieli and Book Girl the only two female-oriented light novel series to finish in English (in 2013 and 2014 respectively)? It feels like a market that's ready to be catered to, and fortunately someone appears ready to try. Cross Infinite World has picked up a web novel series, My Favorite Song, and released it as an English-language light novel. While it does bear the mark of a less professional writer, it's also an interesting story that should appeal to fans of shoujo fantasy adventures.
The story uses the common premise of an ordinary high school student being transported to another world, in this case high school third-year Kanon. Kanon enjoys music and singing, so naturally she gets transported to a land where those who can use magic through song, people known as “Sirens,” are so vilified that they've been basically hunted out of existence. Even worse, Kanon turns out to be the infamous Silver Siren of legend, so called because her hair turns silver and a silver glow surrounds her when she sings. This twist, that she's the legendary villain instead of hero, is enough to make this interesting on its own, and unlike in the comparable The Rising of the Shield Hero novels, she's fully aware that she is feared almost from the moment she finds herself in Reveur. This added element of danger helps to drive the story, and if author Kairi Arugushuku isn't yet adept at writing tension, she's good enough to get the feeling across.
Arugushuku's novel would be considered a doujinshi work, which is to say it's self-published in Japan. While the stigma against self-publishing is abating (more or less), this does mean that she wrote without the benefit of an editor, and there are some places where that would have been helpful. The beginning journey in the novel goes by a little too quickly, and there isn't quite enough time spent exploring Kanon's early relationship with Rag, the young man who comes to free her from prison. This issue eases as the story moves forward, but the opening chapters do show that the author is not quite steady on her feet yet. Descriptions and relationships become much more firmly established later on, and one pivotal moment, when Kanon is assaulted by a soldier, is much better handled than I was expecting. Arugushuku's description lets us know precisely what is going on without getting into gory details, and Kanon retains an ongoing reaction to the man who tried to rape her. It is not used as a character development point, thankfully, but the fact that Kanon doesn't just “get over it” shows that the author has some understanding of human emotions. In fact, the idea of past trauma becomes an increasingly important factor in the story as it goes, with Rag's past pertaining to the war five years prior being revealed in bits and pieces, and Kanon relating it to her grandmother's stories about the Second World War. Man's inhumanity to man is a heavy topic for a novel about magical singing, but it is woven in well, and if metaphors are a little heavy handed, that appears to be more authorial inexperience than ineptitude.
Cross Infinite World's translation uses a broader vocabulary than you tend to see in light novel translations, which makes the story flow more smoothly than it otherwise might have. There are a few comma and apostrophe errors, which are always jarring, but far fewer than I might have expected. Occasionally, I would be jarred to realize that the novel is written in the present tense, but that appears to be due more to an awkward scene transition than the translation itself. Kanon doesn't have a particularly strong voice as a narrator, but her observations of Rag are fairly keen, and he comes across as an intriguing character. We do get two small segments in his voice, as well as one from another male character's perspective during an event no one else was present for, and their voices are distinguishable from Kanon's. I fully expect that both adaptation and writing will improve as the story continues. Sadly for print media lovers, this is currently only available as an ebook.
My Favorite Song – The Silver Siren is the sort of book that gets better as you go on, not just in terms of story, but in writing as well. It does adhere to some web/light novel tropes, particularly in its attempts at comedy (and Serene can get really irritating there), but it has enough going for it to be worth checking out. The Silver Siren sets up an interesting story about a world recovering from war and a girl who gets thrown into it, with a little something about the power of music to make people happy thrown in for good measure. It isn't the most original shoujo story out there, but it fills a niche and generally makes for a fun few hours of reading time.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Interesting world, nice change that heroine is the legendary villain rather than hero, and that she wasn't a great singer before landing there, writing improves as story goes on.
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