Like I said in my previous post, I’m doing GL reviews now whenever I finish stuff and want to write about it. Please check out every story I feature here if they catch your interest! The first book is, of course, The Saintess and the Villainess by Teddy Asplund.
[GL Reviews #1]
The Saintess and the Villainess Review
We get a familiar setup: A lonely young adult, Anne, meets Truck-kun and enters a brand-new world… Or, rather, the world of the book she was in the middle of reading. Only this time, our lead is a butch lesbian who’s just entered the body of one of the most powerful people in the land. Shenanigans ensue, and of course a slow-burn romance plot that is the real reason most of us came to the story anyway.
Gosh, it’s a slow burn though. Nearly eighty chapters in as of this writing, and the romance still hasn’t fully built out. GL in web fiction has a tendency to get the female leads together quite early in, or even have them be dating from Chapter 1. Here, though, it’s exactly like all our favorite animes, where the characters slowly grow closer and closer, but misunderstandings and poor communication keep them apart. Sometimes it’s so obvious the author is teasing us that I can’t help but laugh. Obviously, they’re gonna kiss eventually, but I really hope it comes soon…..!!
The romance itself is, of course, really cute. Anne and her love interest Corvina have great chemistry, and the story works best when they’re together. Luckily, once they have that fateful encounter, they’re hardly ever apart for more than a couple chapters. They may not be making out for a long time, but it’s still great to watch two girls fall in love…
As expected for a story with “Villainess” in the title, this book is very far in the scheming and politics side of fantasy. The cast is huge, and practically everyone is doing their part in some faction to advance some goal. The overall light tone of the book keeps it from becoming a cynical bloodbath, but there’s still so many machinations that even if you go in looking for kissing, you might still get hooked by the page-turner plot twists.
For a while, the tension is honestly pretty low in the story; without the romance plot budding, not much would be happening, because Anne is still exploring the ins and outs of the new world as every character is introduced. Anne’s plans generally work, she’s good at befriending characters, and the villains get easy comeuppances. It gets a lot more tense later on, but not in a significant way; Anne’s still clearly on top and no friends have started to hate each other just yet.
Some may deride the ease of how things progress, but I can’t disagree more; in a story like this, an isekai romantic adventure, sometimes you just NEED a story where the main character is a jolly soul who makes the world a better place just by living her life, and who makes friends with basically everyone she encounters but the bad guys. It’s a power fantasy but in the non-fighting sense.
The characters aside from Anne and Corvina are also quite awesome; there’s Eva, who did nothing wrong, along with Agis, Anne’s overeager elven brother, and Sebastian, Corvina’s sad sack royal brother. Even lesser characters like Ulrich, Helen, and the Grand Duke get their time to shine, and the fact I can remember everyone’s names is kind of a shock, to be honest; I rarely remember character names this well.
Also, an important note I probably buried too deep into this review: This is an ensemble, multi-POV story. There’s a lot of POVs here, some recurring, and some one-off. Most chapters give Anne and Corvina and Eva scenes to themselves, but there’s probably twenty or more characters by now who have gotten at least a little glimpse. Some of the POVs are less fleshed out than others, but the best of them do a good job at giving us an inside look at the characters.
However, one thing that confused me a few times was the story’s tendency to hop around in POVs mid-scene. Usually, POV switches happen in scene breaks, but occasionally they’ll come out of nowhere between two paragraphs and catch you off-guard. More natural transitions would definitely help in that regard.
I was also disappointed sometimes by the lack of imagery and scene description; I think that’s my biggest qualm with the story so far. For a big medieval fantasy world, the story is quite unconcerned with showing us how the world actually looks or feels or smells. Clothes get descriptions, but not much else. However, in a story that moves around from scene to scene as speedily as this one, it’s not such a big deal, though it prevents me from falling in love with the world as much as the characters.
The GL Grade
(This is my first GL Review, so let me introduce “The GL Grade,” a segment where I quickly rate the story based on Couple Dynamics, Spiciness, LGBTQ+ Representation, and Shipper Potential. These don’t necessarily reflect my overall feelings.)
Couple Dynamics: Anne and Corvina are great together! You have the positive, forceful Anne who always speaks her mind and always sees the best in everyone, AKA a shounen protagonist. And you have Corvina, the emotionally tormented chessmaster who has trouble opening up, AKA the lovable woobie. Anytime they get a moment to themselves, it’s like sparks fly. But calm sparks. Sparks that shoot up and kind of float there, where these two are just ecstatic to be around each other. When the story allows it, I really hope they go on lots of dates so they can just have long conversations for thousands of words.
Spiciness: Very low. Almost no mention of steamy content whatsoever. I think Anne calls Corvina sexy a couple times? This isn’t a story for kids, but it’s certainly pretty chaste with its GL content… so far.
LGBTQ+ Representation: There’s characters all over the gender and sexuality sphere, and it’s good. The world takes place in one where homosexuality is barely even recognized, let alone accepted, though, so it’s definitely not a place where everyone’s necessarily going to have a cleanly happy ending.
Shipper Potential: Very high. The main couple is set in stone, but basically the entire rest of the cast is up for grabs, and it’s fun trying to figure out who’s gonna kiss who by the end of it.
It’s a real good series. Great characters, plus romance and intrigue and isekai goodness. If you’re at all interested, you ought to check it out.