Maid War Chronicles. The name gives you a surprisingly good idea of what to expect – a classically styled fantasy adventure… except with maids in the starring roles. “War Chronicles” comes from the same Japanese naming convention that gave us Record of Lodoss War, amongst other things, but the only thing that maids are usually on the front line fighting for is the right to themed cafes and more moe than you can handle. You’d be forgiven for assuming that the combination wouldn’t work at all, but there’s a little more to it than that.
The story of a Prince ousted from his throne via a military coup, involving corrupt generals, traitorous Lords and legendary weapons sounds like fantasy story template 8a, but this time the Prince in question is a lecherous child, and his esteemed guards and wielders of those legendary weapons turn out to be a group of somewhat reluctant maids.
As a group, they’re not exactly cut out for swashbuckling heroics, and are worryingly happy to blithely serve their Prince tea even whilst on the run from the overthrowing military power. In fact, if there is a major problem with the first volume of Maid War Chronicles, then it is definitely the bland and unimaginative characters of the maids. As the most obvious selling point for the series, this is quite a stumbling block.
The main character, Cacao Sardonyx – a play on the word “Cocoa”, rather than the Chinese historical figure “Cao Cao”, since all the girls are named after food and drink – simply suffers from not being especially likable. She’s the token go-getter of the bunch, capable of rebuking the Prince and his perverted habits, and is easily the most agile and adept fighter due to her experience in the circus (hey, it can’t have been easy to come up with anything remotely plausible to allow at least one of the maids to be able to handle herself).
Other than these attempts to make something of a generic heroine out of her, the only personality trait we’re shown is a potential willingness to abandon her post part way through – an urge which she eventually overcomes, but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth when weighing up her actions from these opening chapters. She simply has no “wow” factor.
None of the other maid characters make any real impact on the reader, and the Prince himself is also quite hard to take to. He has moments of something approaching maturity, but his main role at this stage is to molest his protectors, and facilitate the sort of childish humor that you come to expect in a title of this nature.
Possibly the last thing you would expect would be for the series to really deliver an atmosphere of high fantasy, but the first volume achieves some degree of success here. It would be stretching a little to compare it to genuine fantasy epics, but the sense of adventure and central premise are both strong, and it’s easy to imagine future volumes opening up the world and driving the narrative forwards to good effect.
You might not think that Maid War Chronicles has much going for it after reading that, but it’s probably more the case that the bad points stand out individually, whereas the appeal of the series lies in its clean and attractive artwork, and the overall feel of the beginning of the group’s journey. It’s impossible to recommend the series highly, but you could certainly do worse if you’re just looking for some light entertainment.