- Sexual Content
- Traumatising content
(Please heed the warnings above before reading)
Reborn into the beautiful but deadly world of Ethetia, she comes to a sudden awareness that she is now Livia Katrina Valentine, a character of a game of a reverse harem she once played on Earth called Aster Academy: The Feuding Houses.
But this revelation comes a bit too late. You see, Livia wasn't just anyone. She was not given the anonymity of being a background character, or even the blessing of being the heroine. Instead, she has bestowed the role of being the atrocious villainess. And that is exactly what she had been.
As a result, Livia triggers her own death flag event at her debutante. Her memories of her past life have the grace to come only minutes before she is accused of poisoning the heroine, Amelia.
But all is not helpless. Via last-minute intervention, Livia successfully manages to avoid having her head decapitated. Being exiled was a small price to pay for retaining a pulse. Plus, at least this way, Livia can finally start to live her life, to become more than just a cruel folly.
Her exile should have been a new but unusual beginning to her story.
But pitiless reality comes knocking.
Ethetia had once only been a background setting in a game. A pretty and still picture that mostly went disregarded as the even prettier characters on the screen unloaded their dialogue, but now, it was Livia's world. As real and wonderous as planet Earth once had been, filled with small creatures with their own wills, ambitions, and needs.
Such one creature decides that exile was not enough of a penalty. That Livia, the bullish and jealous tormentor of the heroine, deserves a fate more befitting of her past deeds.
One worst than death.
Livia's fate is ripped out of her hands. She is forced into a collar, sold to an empire rotten with greed, and placed inside a harem where she is expected to wither and die from the inside out.
But Livia refuses to be forgotten.
Burning with a deep rage against those who only wish to see her fall into her own grave, Livia makes a twisted promise to herself. A promise that pushes her through the darkest moments of her life and brings to light a newfound power rooted deep inside her.
So keen to discard her as the villain she has once been, the little creatures in their own ignorance brought forth something they could never dream to fathom.
A beacon of darkness.
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A familiar trope with a darker twist to it. Contains some subject that some people may find uncomfotrable.
Also has a pregnant protagonist, which is a plot device I never saw being used at the start of a book before.
I'm intrested to see where the story and characters go from here.
The Exiled Villainess Returns posits the simple question: "If downfall is inevitable for a villainess, why not lean in?" Well, as Livia learns, there are many good reasons why 'destruction flags' are spooky. This story follows her learning how terrible, soul-crushing, and inhumane a bad end can be, while trying to salvage something of her life. Even worse, the otome game has is grasping fingers everywhere.
Not everything is bleak; Livia will have her triumphant return!
The story flows well with reasonably good characterization, though I am not quite drooling on my keyboard. Come read The Exiled Villainess Returns for the plot with its windy twists and turns.
The subgenre of otome reincarnation, much like most reincarnation or isekai stories, has a certain set of tropes that almost always occur. In fact, one could say that these events must occur for a story to be part of this subgenre. Furthermore, reincarnation novels in general have a tendency to start without much preamble. There is little point setting up the character's backstory because any worldbuilding you do will be tossed out the window when they quite literally end up in a different world. More importantly, one of the greatest advantages of a reincarnation/isekai protagonist is they are someone anyone can inherently identify with because what makes them special is that their perspective and knowledge come from our own world. Effectively, this means they aren't any different from the reader and are easy to live through vicariously.
Finally and indeed, most importantly to my criticism, is that these traits in practice cause a kind of whiplash peculiar to this subgenre because the reader is thrown straight into some kind of action without being given much of a baseline. You do not learn about a character and see them go on an adventure but rather learn about the character through the adventure they go on. Usually, this is a difference without much of a distinction because there generally isn't much to learn. Rather, a good writer will use the adventure itself as a method to mold what would otherwise be a quite normal character into a fantastic one; the experience itself causing character growth and resulting in an interesting character by the end of the story.
However, The Exiled Villaness Returns has more or less skipped that part entirely and the absence is worse than if it merely had been poorly written.
Fresh off the whiplash of reincarnation there are multiple time skips and a whole extra life's worth of memories. We are told, as if we had asked for a summary of events and received a dry bullet point list of them, that the main character was dragged off to the dungeon and clubbed over the head, but we don't actually see the scene and only have it noted three days after it happens. After which, time blinks forward again and suddenly the main character is in a prison cart - Skyrim style - and being transported to exile. We meet some characters there, but you don't need to worry about them because suddenly the main character is waking up with a slave collar on, in some empire. Don't worry about the details though, because immediately after that the main character goes into another time skip and is now the Emperor's favorite concubine. Also, the Emperor is dead now and she is teleporting away?
The Exiled Villaness Returns isn't joking around with its title, it is entirely about her return and everything leading up to that point could use some serious expansion. You could make an entire novel out of the details this one skips trying to get to its real starting point and the story would have been much better served by doing so because this story feels like a sequel to a book that doesn't exist.
But even if we ignore how incredibly jarring this novel is, the character's decesions and motivations raise a lot of questions. Presumably, some of them would be answered later in the story - if I was willing to continue reading - but some of them simply do not make sense. An otome reincarnation protagonist has a few ways of being introduced, with one of the more popular for the villaness trope being sudden recollection of a past life either before the otome game would have started or after the villaness has already triggered the events that lead to her comupance.
The later of the two of those has numerous subtropes, although they can generally be divided based on how that recollection effects them. Often, the character is completely supplanted by their reincarnated personality but sometimes the author will try and create a synthesis of a modern personality and one that would fit in with the setting. Regardless, the otome villaness is almost always a rich, spoiled, aristocratic girl from a powerful family and so even a synthesis personality results in a drastic change in behaviors because modern society leans heavily towards egalitarian principles nearly worldwide.
Moreover, the mere knowledge that certain actions will lead to a bad end means that even a character who is amoral or evil will generally avoid those actions. And with foreknowledge of the otome game, even a complete asshole will work to avoid a quite literal "bad end."
It would make no sense for a character to have that knowledge and not change their behavior. Even if this change in behavior is not effective so late in the game as the "bad end," it is baffling not to see the character try. Instead of acting like a spoiled brat, an eloquent plea for mercy might have resulted in an entirely different set of events and any well adjusted modern person should be aware of this.
The main character, however, seems unwilling to do so and honestly it makes me question whether or not I am much interested in seeing their "return" at all. I have very little sympathy for the main character because their personality doesn't seem all that different after they regain their memories than from before it, which kind of implies they were an asshole. I am not even sure that the protagonist has any real grounds for revenge at all...
Yes, she was made into a sex slave, but it is really hard to feel sympathy for someone who tried to commit murder. Especially when "sex slave" in this context means: "favored concubine of an Emperor." I am actually uncertain how this would be different than a political marriage from a practical stand point. Realistically, most politcal and arragned marriages are basically trading sex slaves for profit with a thin veneer of legitimacy, and thus all are equally wrong.
Sure, I would rather the main character not have been subjected to that, but at the same time I can't say I find myself torn up about it either.
This is, without a doubt, a flaw for any novel but is an unforgivably fatal defect in a grimdark work. Grimdark novels rely on the abuse they heap upon their characters to make the moments of their characters success all that more exciting and entertaining. You have to like the character and want them to succeed so that you can have the satisfaction of finally seeing it happen at the end of their struggles. The reader must feel bad when the character suffers or it cheapens the eventual payoff later down the line.
So, in summary, I find this story to be choppy and the main character to be an ass. I wouldn't recommend reading this unless you are absolutely desperate for another otome reincarnation novel.
So, I like the story so far. I think the premise is interesting, although I wasn't immediately drawn into the main character until the 3rd chapter. I think the style really saves the story from the use of passive voices and mismatched tenses that occasionally occur, especially when you get to the 3rd and 4th chapters where you understand the MC and her situation better. This is definitely an interesting story, and I look forward to reading more of it when I have time this weekend
Also, spoiler section
Getting sucked into a dating sim as the antagonist is NEAT! What the heck why didn't I think of that? I really want to know more about who the MC was before she was sucked into the dating sim. Did she do something in her Earth life to be given this as punishment? Was it just dumb luck? Will we ever see her outside of the game? What type of person is she on Earth, compared to the dating sim? I love the implications that she might be a much better person than the character she has become, and hope the story continues to play with the juxtaposition of Earth-life and dating-sim life.
The story progresses at quite a pace. It takes its time to build the character but then flings her around the world without any worldbuilding.
I believe time skips work best when done around the same place without involving new characters. The story does the opposite and I'm taking half a point for that.
My first impression is that there wasn't enough time given to the main character for her to develop.
She is a revenge-driven Nobel in the first chapter, a confused woman in the second, and a modern girl in the third. Then she was pushed into captivity in the fourth and fifth and then the time skip occurred.
Style & Grammer:
The style is the strongest part of the story. I really liked the frantic narration in the seventh chapter. The confusion felt by the protagonist in the third chapter was also done great. The author's style is great. The grammar is also great.
The first thing is that there is a plot. We learn what she'd be doing in the future in the first three chapters. Which is great. I really liked that she wasn't saved, but dropped into a quagmire. My only gripe is that she got all-powerful and sensible in the background with the time skip.
Truthfully, this is the only book I'm following among the last couple of them I've reviewed. And it will probably be the only one I'll read to the end. I'm only waiting for book one to end so I can binge-read it.
Let me start by saying that I've read the entire story (60 chapters so far) in 2 days, so it is definitely very entertaining.
The story is about the "villainess" Livia, with the first volume being about her exile and return, and the second one about her revenge. The intriguing and story-driving part is that while her crime was real and the ordained exile just, it does not stop there, to which Livia takes exception. Both interesting and original.
The world building is okay and pretty standard. The world might be much better than it seems, but we are really not told much. To give an example, there are levels, but they are only mentioned once when a guy is said to be level 70-something. So far we've not learnt what that means nor the level of anyone else. In similar vain there are adventures and while we've been told that a certain character is a S rank adventurer we are again not told what it means.
Grammar is okay, there are one or two typos in most chapters, but the chapters are also quite long, so nothing really bothersome.
The characters are what I feel is the strongest part of the story, with the MC Livia leading front and center. She is also pregnant for most of the story and it is honestly great. I don't think I've seen pregnancy used in such a way before either. The side characters are quite good as well. Some of them feel a bit 1 dimensional at the start, but we quickly learn that there is more depth to them.
Now onto the bad.
Firstly a somewhat minor thing, but I wouldn't call Livia a villainous lead. Before the story really starts, she is a bully, but that disappears basically instantly once she gets her memories back and afterwards the worst thing she does is pursue her revenge, but she does it in a pretty peaceful and even just way (so far) - Perhaps she is just a few chapters from going on a witch hunt and torturing slightly related people to death, but so far she is an antihero at worst. Not really a problem, but perhaps something to think about.
Secondly, the presence of truth spells and potions - Not really a problem alone, but it makes many things seem off, like Livia's exile and trial. Never are these 2 things used in the judiciary system and that just seems preposterous, especially in a trial involving high nobility. There are other things in the story that seem a bit off, like her family not interfering with her exile or her getting teleported to a random spot in the academy forest in the night, only for a guy to be chilling a few trees over.
Lastly, the biggest problem I see here, missing information. I'm talking about stuff that the MC knows with just us readers in the dark. The problem here stems from it being more the result of timeskips than anything else. Not really the first one, but the second one (The forest → court one). The biggest offender here is Amaya. She is someone who we first hear of when the MC recommends her to be her personal maid and then we learn that they not only know each other, but that the paranoid MC trusts her and told her most of her secrets. To date we have yet to learn who she is, how did she meet with the MC or why the MC trusts her. This would not be much of a problem if it was the only such information kept from us, but it isn't.
Hope this helps and feel free to message me if there is something unclear.
Here are my thought after i began reading
The opening was really good, I thought it set the scene well and really highlighted the importance of that moment.
The game aspect/reincarnation is nice, I've not read many such stories. It did remind me of the anime my next life as a villainess which I was good so if it's as good as that then I'm looking forward to the read.
I thought the characters are well written.
Ive never liked present tense as a stories focus but that's a personal preference so it would not be fair to dock you for that.
Overall fantastic start, keep up the good work