Agenda of the Villainess
As the daughter of a duke, Lady Alicia Senius expected to awaken her latent magical ability during her Blooming ceremony. She was not expecting her connection to the flowers of Fate to awaken memories of a past life, however, and certainly not memories that were somehow inextricably tied with her future. Now, Alicia must find a way to escape the fatal punishment that is the destiny of a villainous noble girl. In doing so, she might even alter the fate of the whole world.
This novel is a steampunk take on the otome villainess genre, heavily inspired by the late Victorian era of England and with a system of magic based around floweral circuitry. If that sounds like your cup of tea, why not give it a shot? It updates sporadically, but hopefully will follow a proper release schedule soon.
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I have started and dropped quite a few Otome stories in the last few years simply because of a general lack of quality. This is different. Villainess has a steampunk/ magical society, engaging characters and it's all backed by rigorous research into Victorian society. I can only recommend it for anyone, not just fans of the genre.
If you are at all interested in the premise of this story, I advise you to read it.
The first chapters efficiently and compellingly introduce readers to the most important parts of a novel: the setting, the characters, and the conflict.
Alicia lives in a Victorian era-esque steampunk magical world, and the resemblance is more than surface-deep. The author has done research about fashion, medicine, technological development, etiquette, and how all of this affects culture and societal outlook - most importantly in regards to the powerful class of gentry that Alicia belongs to. As such, classism and sexism are heavily ingrained in this world's culture. The clarity and strength with which ThaviaVax communicates the enviornment is both commendable and crucial to the story, as it intensifies the clash between Alicia's goals and the stifling surroundings she finds herself trapped in.
The characters explored so far have been treated with nuance, realism, and humanity. Each of them has their own goals and mindset: each has their own strengths and flaws. People are complex and contradictory creatures: this book is primed to explore that dichotomy. All characters have a clear and solid identity, and they are primed to both mesh and clash with each other in pursuit of their own agendas. At this point in time, it seems that character ineraction will be a driving force in the action of this world. The set-up reminds me strongly of a good palace intrigue novel, where everyone is at odds, everyone has their own agenda, and no one is sure who to trust.
This all brings us back to Alicia, whose new memories of another life make her abruptly and frighteningly aware of just how precarious her position is. She is reliant on the favor of people (mainly men) who thus far have little understanding of her desires, and little investment in her personal wellbeing. She is vulnerable. This story is about her search for agency in a world where culture(misogeny) and human actors will actively seek to dominate and diminish her.
By chapter nine, ThaviaVex has set the protagonist in the midst of a great conflict. Alicia, and her struggle to beat the odds is a story that I want to read, and one that I think others will want to read too.
I am have great hopes for this novel, but for the sake of fairness, I will say that the author sometimes states the character's characteristics and emotions when they might be better communicated through their actions. 'Show, don't tell' if you please. Regardless, I find it a relatively minor flaw in something I'm this excited for.
P.S. I advise anyone curious about this story to read till the end of chapter 9 in order to determine their level of interest. Any feelings you have about it will likely hold true to the rest of the book.
First, I want to preface the review by stating that this is intended for critically orientated readers as opposed to the writer. It is a rough description, maybe some analysis with the ultimate aim to endorse the work. For people wanting a short review, I am enjoying the story. It is fun. It follows in the now well-established mould of evil villainess get memories learns she will die and now must change her future (villainess isekai?) but treads in its own direction. It works for both beginners and for fans looking for a new well-written spin.
Below I am going to clumsily cut up the text and state my opinion where it hasn’t been asked for by the writer. It is also worthy of note given the gendered form of the fiction that I identify as a man with all the benefits, problems and biases associated—also obviously, spoilers below.
I don’t particularly pay attention to grammar so I think it is consistently fine, and the text is readable. Some commas could be included, some sentences are split but these are preferences as opposed to serious errors. Follows (North) American standards of grammar speech included.
The text is in usually formed in multiple sentence paragraphs following a single point of view in the third person in a chapter. The paragraphs balance extended description without descending into flowery prose thus is readable on phones: a key requirement for web fiction. It is not heavy with dialogue but speech interactions are, of course, fundamental to the text. As far as I am aware, there are no huge differences in the English language from 1800’s to present day. A few style choices like ‘my lady’ indicate obvious differences in time period.
The description and dialogue are intertwined conveying the victorian fantasy setting. The descriptions tell of social hierarchies between men and women, a richer cultural legitimised ruling class and a poorer working class. While the dialogue demonstrates the hierarchies in each interaction and shows how the social relationships are acted out in everyday life as well as the psychological shocks they induce. The world-building is solid, the extended expositions where present feels warranted in most cases.
For those interested ‘race’ and trans issues are not present so far (they are present in Victorian society the former with colonialism and the latter I know less about other than the fact that most trans people I think live hidden outside of social norms). The chapter eight past memories Christine is married to Akari who is likely from Japan but confirmed has close family who live there. Christine resistance to patriarchal marriage which Alicia has been arranged offers a way for Alicia to have greater agency. Alicia can draw upon the education (I assume Northern American) as well as the distinctly different (if continuous) historical and social relationships from the achievements of feminist movements where Christine lived.
The text has a dramatic style with a tendency to end on cliffhangers. This is all standard stuff but can be jarring when a point of view change occurs. An example is a shift from chapter seven to eight. Where we end with Alica in a disturbed mood, then she dreams of her past life through which she has further validation of the importance of her other memories. Narratively the story flows but the cut away to a different perspective to resolve the tension is fine but jarring. Chapter nine offers the glimpse of her erratic actions from Alicia view, while chapter ten shift would have been the most impactful. Yes, it is a shift in perspective but the shock value of Alicia disregard for social norms as well the governess suspicions would continue to build suspense.
The proposed change is not a better approach, per se. Rather an alternative which focuses on emphasising the dramatic style. Chapter eight and nine are good but are not necessary here, as far as I can tell at the end of chapter ten. There is potential for their occurrence later towards the conclusion of the arc.
Different points of views are explored across various chapters as stated above. So far, the story has kept the point of view changes to characters directly related to the protagonist Alicia Senius. From the prologue onwards the setting with one notable exception has been kept to the Senius Estate. Unlike Game of Thrones where the reader is thrust around Westeros, the reader is guided through the many dimensions of a Victorian period fantasy life for the ruling class; with a specific focus on the perspectives of women.
Alicia is a likeable character. The writer says she is disliked my most of the servants due to her personality and actions which is shown by their implied stealing of her broach. However, for better or worse, her maid and her governess both feel sympathy for Alicia and so rather than hate her, she is shown in a favourable light. Christine her alter ego almost is present for me, mostly in her impact upon Alicia. The force of Christine’s memories is the motivation movement of Alicia’s actions so far as she has a radically different view on her relationships.
The maid and the governess are in positions of clear social inferiority. However I am glad Alicia with her newfound perspective remains Alicia. It moves past awkward patronising impositions of different equality-based values onto a period where those values in the UK at least had yet to achieve mass support. I say values because the continuity and validity of hierarchical relationships is a point of great contention and are real enough to be disputed about passionately. It also keeps Alicia firmly under the control of royal authority and of her family not just because of emotional ties but her social status and thus her survival are also at stake. She simply doesn’t have the connections nor the knowledge to survive, let alone live a life of comfort.
While the supporting characters themselves, for now, remain in their moulds, they are given fresh life but their interactions with the changed Alicia. Alicia, who through Christine’s influence becomes a force of her own and the main appeal with the setting of the story.
I do also enjoy the author’s notes which are an informative and intimate supplemental to the text.
This is a good story for what it is, which from what I can tell is a victorian Fantasy romance along the line of "The Paper Magician" or the watchmaker's daughter with an additional twist from the Otome Villiness genre. What I stress s that it leans more heavily into the historical setting while Otome settings are typically a massive joke if you know anything about the supposed era and local that it is set in which may not be that case for the typical Japanise reader but if fairly common among western audiences who had a class in European history.
So if you happen to be of the latter camp and suffer continual frustration at the mess of inaccuracy/lunacy that makes up the setting of most Otome Villinious stories, but still what to read them, you'll probably love this as I do.
This is slower-paced and the chapters are on the shorter side so I would suggest waiting for chapters to build if that's a problem for you. And if the passing is anything like a typical victorian romance, expect it to be slow and frustrating though typically there's some secondary plot with decent pacing so we shall see.
Characters are well written from what I have seen, grammar is great, I love the style (it fits so well) and the story shows promise for what's there though could maybe be further along by now (if this was a published book, web serials tend to stretch on longer on slower by there nature).
TLDR: if you a fan of books like those I have mentioned above or want a more grounded Otome villainous story you'll probably like this one.
So far I'm at chapter 13. I enjoy this genre of novels (SI villainesses meant to die) and was looking forward to seeing one on trending, however...
This novel won't be worth reading until at least 40 chapters have come out.
The Fundamental Issue I have is that this novel's story hasn't started yet. It has all been +100 Pages of setup.
First off this concept is NOT original by a long shot.
- SI's as the villainesses have been all the rage in Japan for the last 2 years or so.
- The usage of flowers to power Magic is just a common trope for this genre.
- IF the author meant this story as a parody they haven't gotten far enough into the story to actually break down any of the tropes yet.
- The ONLY original aspect so far is the historically accurate Victorian setting. (IT IS NOT STEAMPUNK), but that hasn't truly caused the story to branch out from the standard formula.
- chapter 0-1: Establishing Alicia is a young villainous noble girl and that she lives in a strict household.
- chapter 2: "During her Blooming ceremony she awakens memories of her past life"
- chapter 3-5: Emotionally dealing with being a self-insert
- chapter 6: The Prince who she's betrothed too isn't in to her and is an a-hole
- chapter 7-11: Emotionally dealing with being a self-insert (again)
- chapter 13: A small theoretical explanation about where magic might come from.
Unfortunately everything told so far was more-or-less summed up in the description. USUALLY these things are established in the first chapter(or in a single flashback) not drawn out over 13 chapters like this...
Characters MIGHT be complex but...
- They have had no opertunity to be complex as each character has only made one decision each
- There are only 3 established supporting characters: the Maid who is nice to everyone, the Teacher who is nice to the Main Character, and the Prince who is an a-hole.
- They COULD be complex but it's way to early to tell.
Here is everything we have been told about the Magic:
- There are 9 types
- Flowers are used to power Magic.
- Magic simply replaced technology, nothing else has indicated it's had any other effect in this world.
What has been explained to the readers:
- the clothing Alicia is expected to where,
- the Geography,
- the backwards Coinage System.
What has not been explained (But realy WANT to know):
- What does she plan on doing about her situation?
- Who was/is the original Heroin?
- What the original "fate of the whole world" actually was?
- What are the 9 types of Magic? What do they do?
- What type(s) of Magic does Alicia have???
All the world building is ligitamatly interesting but largely irrelevant to the overarching Story of How does Alicia Survive/Thrive within the Game's Plot?
A grand total of 2 weeks have passed in story time, over 100 pages have been written, and I still have a lot of questions and frustratingly few answers.
What I came here for:
- Unique problem solving from a well informed Main Character.
- To see an interesting Magic system.
- And an original SteamPunk setting.
What is currently in there:
- A young girl describing (what might as well be) a Non-Magical Victorian-Era England,
- A Magic system feels tacked-on,
- A setting that doesn't appear to actually even be SteamPunk.
I REALLY want to like this novel for it’s detailed setting but there is just NO STORY YET, and I'm worried the author is intentionally dragging their feet.
This Novel has already had over a Month to get to the point. I'll probably be 2021 before the 'dating game' even starts...
I would recommend this to any history buffs, but if you are a fantasy lover (like me) wait until more comes out.
Reading this made me feel like I just watched an hour long demo of a game with Amazing Graphics but no Game Play...
I really like this genre, but find it hard to find well written material. This here exceeds every hope I held and makes me care about the characters from the first line.
The way the fusion of Christina and Alicia was handled was very good. In the typical otome Isekai, the MC cuts of any way of conflict by being way to friendly with other people. This can be a good thing, Catharina Claes, but more often than not leaves the story devoid of any driving force. Here she can´t access the other memories as they only resurface by trigger events, having her start from a very different position.
I like the (hard) magic system. The characters see it as something belonging into the world, subject to the same rules as the mundane. This makes it easy to use as a problem-solving tool, as events can be understood by the reader.
I just love the worldbuilding. The use of the flowers is unique, the religion interesting and the Victorian setting something new to these kinds of story´s.
The descriptions flow in an easy to read rhythm, making what would otherwise be a boring exposition into a display of the characters fears and motivations. The characters are incredible. Each has their own distinct personality. The amount of effort put here is just, wow.
The same can be said about the deep research into the Victorian Era. With each chapter comes a few notes from the Author, detailing a few peculiarities.
All in all, a really enjoyable read!
I think I'll enjoy reading this one. The basic storyline is ... rather familiar, in certain places, but the setting, I think, will make this go far. The characters are quite well detailed, and the author has done a somewhat alarming amount of research into the Victorian era, so given enough time I think this story will "grow" into something quite excellent. It shows that the author is willing to do the work to take a well-known genre and make a true story out of it.
The grammar is also quite good.
Brief Review: This is a villainess-type story (‘dark fairytale’?, ‘flower-punk’?), with a compelling plot & characters. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll learn what a sphygmomanometer is. The narrative itself is definitely intriguing, as is the system of magnolic magic, but this story will also give you more to think about in terms of its nuanced ideas about gender and class status.
The main plot of Agenda of the Villainess is in the villainess genre -which, honestly, I am not that familiar with (not gonna lie, this story had me at ‘Victorian setting’ and ‘flower magic’). But, I think Agenda of the Villainess would appeal to a pretty broad audience. For one, it’s just excellent writing. The prose is lovely, the characters are interesting and complicated, and the setting and the magic are beautifully described. It also asks some complex questions about the limited choices available to women, and ways that women can claim power in a restrictive social environment. The insights on gender and class don’t hit you over the head or anything, but I mention them to say that this story has real substance and some deeper themes to think about.
There are nods to Victorian classics like Jane Eyre, Pride & Prejudice, etc., but Agenda of the Villainess expands on the themes of these novels and adds some modern perspectives/reflections. The writing style captures the Victorian time period without distracting or detracting from the story (a trap that I’ve seen many modern authors writing in ‘period language’ fall into…). There is the occasional typo or instance of clumsy phrasing, but nothing that interrupts the overall flow of the story (and I think the author deserves come credit for a two-chapter-a-week release schedule, maybe soon to be three!).
I love that every character has their own feelings and motives. Even ones who are only mentioned briefly, and who might be treated more as ‘NPCs’ or ‘throwaway side characters’ in a different novel still feel very real. There’s a lot of empathy in how the author takes the perspective of the different characters and makes the reader care about them—the shifting omniscience/POV really facilitates this, but in a way that still feels grounded in the central story and not confusing.
The story itself is well thought-out, by which I mean that hardly anything is extraneous. A little detail or a theme from chapter 1 might pop up again in chapter 12 – it feels intricate, like different threads that will be woven back in later on. To me, this indicates that ThaviaVex has carefully thought out the overall arc of the story and the character development, which makes me optimistic about the quality of future chapters.
I also personally have found the story to be quite suspenseful, though I can see how other readers may not have experienced it that way. The main conflict unfolds piece-by-piece. The author takes considerable care to build the world, creating a sense of investment in what’s going to happen next. And to me, some of the suspense also came from key details that weren’t revealed right away—for instance, the fact that the magical system wasn’t completely spelled out (lol) at the beginning. Alicia is learning about what her powers really mean and how she can use them, which builds the intrigue. I guess I would say the pacing is somewhat ‘leisurely’ – good to read on a Sunday afternoon.
Alicia’s character development is on point. Personally, I think her character arc in some of the later chapters has resolved some of the likeability problems I had with her at the beginning.
Alicia’s powers allow her to experience the memories of Christine, a middle-aged video game designer living in the present day. This lets Alicia see herself through a new lens. Christine has clearly been around the block (and has maybe been in therapy!). I love that the new skills that Alicia develops as a result of sharing Christine’s memories aren’t limited art and math, but also include things like how to know if other people are lying, or how to apologize to and empathize with her maid and governess. I guess it’s yet to be determined if Alicia will use these new skills for good or for evil… But a coming-of-age plot that involves a self-centered 12-year-old literally getting to experience herself from the perspective of an older character’s maturity and life-experience is fascinating. This is something I haven’t seen done before in a story and is probably my favorite dynamic so far in Agenda of the Villainess.
Finally, ThaviaVex’s notes at the end of some of the chapters are so much fun. Clearly the author is a bit of a nerd. You really get a sense of the love and care that the ThaviaVex put into crafting this story, down to the details (the outfits! The old-timey medicine!). And you might even learn a cool historical fact or two.
I’ve read 11 chapters of “Agenda of the Villainess,” and am totally drawn in. I’m a sucker for good writing, and the prose and the dialogue are really delightful. The story is set in a fictional world similar to Victorian England. (I appreciate the short chapter end notes from the author—these indicate that the setting is ~1870, and the historic research is apparent in the detailed descriptions of clothing and technology.) The dialogue between characters really pulled me into the formal setting, and it shifts easily from the casual banter among the teen siblings to the strict 19th century rules for servants conversing with the Duke and Dutches.
There’s a system of magic in the story, but it’s accessible only to a limited number of the subjects. The magic originates from the flowers (cleverly called “magnolic power,” thereby avoiding the boomer term flower power). I happen to like flowers, so this this is good with me; and it avoids overwhelming the human plot in the way you could with, say, magic whirling out of a menacing volcano. In handling the system of magic with a light touch, the mystical components don’t overwhelm this world of primitive technology, and readers can settle into appreciating the wonderfully crafted tensions that arise from the social power struggles and personality conflicts among the characters. And setting up a gentle framework of magical energy that is accessible only to select individuals is a great source of tension, so that the scenes were magic does come into play are super thrilling.
On to chapter 12!
For me, there are 2 reasons to enjoy this story. Equally or even more than it's manga/manhwa counterparts.
1. Ego -This is the one story where they are managing the past life aspect differently. Why should it always be the person of modern times that keeps their sense of self intact? Here, we have a lead that still feels like she is from this world rather than another Isekai mc taking advantage of their youth to look capable.
2. Rules of M. - Most readers of fiction like myself can appreciate that there are strict rules to magic and the mc doesn't immediately have an intuitive roadmap t to becoming powerful. Naturally, she will learn the rules and likely later break them put it's still something that few stories bother with. Especially with the rise of Game-like mechanics.