When it comes to light novels it’s safe to say that overpowered characters are everywhere you look. But what happens if you take this character trait and give it to someone who’s incredibly shy? Well, that’s what happens in Yen Press’s new fantasy series Secrets of the Silent Witch.
The story follows Monica Everett a member of the Seven Sages, who are said to be the most powerful mages in the world. She’s known by her title of the Silent Witch, thanks to being able to cast spells without speaking incantations and she’s powerful enough to take down a legendary dragon all by herself, but while you’d think this would fill her with confidence, it does the opposite.
Monica is proud of her abilities to a degree, but she has social anxiety and finds it difficult to so much as introduce herself to other people, so all she wants to do is hide away in her hut on a mountain with her familiar spirit Nero and do research. In fact, she learnt how to cast magic without chanting so that she didn’t have to speak! Unfortunately for Monica, fate has other ideas in store for her and it’s not long before one of the other sages, Louis Miller, is asking her for a big favour.
Louis wants Monica to attend Serendia Academy where she’ll be undercover as a bodyguard for the second prince, Felix Arc Ridill. Assassins are currently targeting Felix but he doesn’t want to be protected by anyone and has already broken a magical tool Louis gifted him. So it becomes clear that the only way to guard him is to send in someone he’d never suspect, which brings us to Monica.
Naturally, our protagonist is not too happy about the assignment, but Louis is scary so she quickly gives in to his demands. Upon joining the school, it’s not long before she gets herself into all kinds of trouble, not least when the student council (which Felix is president of) suspects that she might be one of the assassins after Felix’s life! Given she’s attending the school as a commoner and can’t even speak to another human being without best-case stuttering or worst-case fainting makes her seem highly suspicious.
Secrets of the Silent Witch could be seen as meanspirited, particularly with a character as fragile as Monica is, but to author Matsuri Isora’s credit it never comes off that way. Monica might be a nervous wreck, but the characters we meet throughout this book don’t condemn her for it – they simply want her to have more self-confidence. It’s helped by the fact Monica quickly makes a friend in class and that Felix immediately warms to her, despite everyone around him warning him that she’s a potential threat.
Monica may not be able to see it, but as the book goes on, we readers can see she’s starting to feel a little more comfortable in her environment which is rewarding, given where she starts. Most of all we can watch her struggles with a smile on our faces, safe in the knowledge that she’s powerful enough to protect herself and has friends by her side for support.
Having said that, I’m not sure everyone will be able to get along with how meek Monica is and will bounce off the tropes associated with a character like her. Felix may also rub readers the wrong way since he treats Monica like a pet (often referring to her as a squirrel) and it’s hard to tell what he really thinks about her. He’s curious about her, maybe even beginning to have some feelings for her, but parts of the narrative also make it sound like he just sees her as a plaything and if you do find yourself invested in Monica’s character, you won’t like that side of Felix’s personality. Still, it’s early days and I can’t imagine Felix will still see Monica as nothing but a toy in the books to come.
The other potential issue for keeping readers on the hook is that Secrets of the Silent Witch is based on a finished web novel which was made up of 16 chapters. In the afterword of this book, Isora talks about how they envisioned those chapters to be one book and this release only includes Chapters 1-3, so it’s only a slice of the big picture as opposed to being a standalone story of its own.
Isora assures readers that they thought about how to edit and add to the content to make it work better in light novel form, but I still don’t think this is a series you could read one volume of and be satisfied with. There might be a better jumping-off point later, but at least right now I think you need to be in for the long haul or not bother at all and that’s not the easiest thing to commit to.
As previously mentioned Secrets of the Silent Witch Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Alice Prowse. The translations read well with no issues to note. This release opens with colour pages from illustrator Nanna Fujimi which capture Monica in her daily life in her hut on the mountainside and is every bit as eye-catching as the gorgeous cover art. There’s also a helpful ‘Character’s so far’ section at the back of the book, which will no doubt come in handy going forward.
The series is ongoing in Japan with six volumes, although with the web novel being done I can’t imagine it will be running for too much longer. Volume 2 is already available in English with #3 set for a release at the end of March. The series also has an ongoing manga adaptation that Yen Press has licensed for release beginning in July.
Overall, Secrets of the Silent Witch Volume 1 is off to a solid start. Not every reader will get on with Monica or other members of the cast, but those who do will find themselves invested in a work that’s sure to reward their commitment in the books to come. One to keep an eye on, going forward, to see if it can keep up the promising narrative!