Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Sugar Apple Fairy Tale
Although she didn't manage to become a Silver Sugar Master, Anne Halford isn't ready to give up on her dreams, and her fairy companions Challe Fenn Challe and Mithril Lid Pod are eager to support her – even if Challe can't always bring himself to say so. When Anne hears about a challenge for any candy crafter at the Duke of Philax's castle, she decides to throw her hat into the ring, not knowing that it will be a far more difficult task than she ever imagined. Later she goes on the road to hone her skills before trying for the Silver Sugar Master title again, but will a poor sugar apple harvest and the jealousy of her male colleagues get in the way of her ambitions?
Sugar Apple Fairy Tale is translated by Nicole Wilder.
Note: You can find our review of the first light novel here.
If you've already watched the first season of Sugar Apple Fairy Tale's anime adaptation, is it worth reading the novels? I'd say yes. Although these two books bring us to the end of the first season (so you won't find out what happens next from them), they're also full of details that the anime left out to make the show much more PG than PG-13. Those bits and pieces enhance the worldbuilding and the characters, rounding them out in ways that help move the story along and give the books a much fuller, more comprehensive feel.
We start to see these differences almost immediately. The second novel covers the Duke of Philax storyline, in which the previously amiable duke has promised a hefty reward to the sugar candy crafter who can make a piece up to his exacting standards. Many young confectioners are interested in using this opportunity to boost their standing before the next chance to win the title of Silver Sugar Master. When Anne decides to join the fray, she immediately clashes with the worst of the bunch. If you thought that statement meant Jonas, you're right on the money—and this time, he's got friends and a grudge. He's also got a bead on what he believes to be Anne's weakness: Challe, her warrior fairy companion. By convincing Challe to leave Anne, Jonas sets in motion a series of events: Challe bumps into Hugh, the Silver Sugar Viscount, on the road away from the duke's manor... and Hugh promptly steals Challe's wing, instantly making the fairy his slave.
This is just one of several instances across these two volumes that portray Hugh in a decidedly untrustworthy light. We know that Hugh has his eye on Anne and would very much like her to join his workshop, but now we can see how ruthless he can be in the pursuit of this goal. At the beginning of volume three, Hugh remarks that he didn't destroy Challe's wing (effectively killing him) to put Anne in a position with no one else to turn to but him because he's afraid of what that might have done to Anne; he specifically says that he's afraid it would have "broken something" in her. This statement, along with stealing Challe's wing—and seriously considering killing him—should make us question Hugh's motivations. Does he want to mentor her? He sees her potential as a candy crafter. Does he want her under his power? Or is he looking at her in a more personal light, seeing Challe as a rival for her affections? We don't get a clear answer in either volume, but Hugh seems to be escalating, at least in his emotions, even as he works very hard to mask them to avoid appearing to be favoring her.
Anne's skill as a confectioner is something we continually see working as a double-edged sword. Volume three delves much more into the socio-religious history of Highland, as well as bringing the misogyny lurking in the background of the first two volumes to the forefront. Anne, it turns out, is the only known female candy crafter in Highland, and there are plenty of men who don't believe she ought to be counted as such. The fact that she's even more skilled than they are is just fuel on the fires of their hatred, and they have no problem letting Anne know that they don't think she belongs in their boys' club. While this is frustrating and infuriating, what's interesting is Bridget, the daughter of a major confectionary workshop. Bridget dislikes Anne from the moment they meet, and while there's some spoiled brat to it, it soon becomes clear that Bridget is simply jealous of Anne. Even though she's part of an illustrious family, Bridget has been told that candy making is a "man's" job, and to see Anne fully participating in it – and blowing the boys out of the water – is something Bridget can't handle. In her mind, Anne unfairly has it all: a career and a handsome fairy by her side, and as the novel goes on, we see her resolve to make sure that Anne ends the book with only one of those.
Although easy to dislike, both Bridget and Jonas are interesting and important characters. For one thing, they stand as foils to Anne, who won't let anything hold her back from doing what she wants to do. Both of them are immature and angry, and they very quickly allow their jealousy to dictate their actions. Jonas knows he's behaved badly, and a piece of him may even think he deserves to take the fall for another confectioner because he's treated Anne so poorly. But Bridget has, as of the close of volume three, zero compunctions about what she has done. In her mind, she's setting things straight, and if Anne was foolish enough to treat Challe as an equal, well, she deserves to lose him. Jonas may be having a hard time getting over his entitlement, but he is getting over it. Bridget is far more selfish, and that's not a good combination with "angry".
Also interesting are Challe's reactions to the events of the two novels. In volume two, when Anne is worried about money, he makes the offhand offer to engage in sex work to bring in some cash, horrifying Anne and Mithril. But that's a bit of foreshadowing for the end of volume three, as well as letting us know that whatever Anne thought he went through while he was enslaved, the truth is probably worse than she imagined. Challe loves Anne and wants to be with her because she allows him to believe in something better than the life he's lived since Liz's death. But his willingness to sacrifice that for her dreams shows that a piece of him is still suffering, believing that maybe he doesn't deserve the happiness she offers him. It makes perfect sense – you don't live through experiences like he's had and then get over them. Author Miri Mikawa does a good job of reminding us of that fact through chapters from Challe's perspective.
Sugar Apple Fairy Tale still isn't perfect, and Mikawa isn't great at dealing with the whole slavery element that she's set up because Anne did buy Challe in volume one, even if she set him free. But the world is growing, and the story is taut throughout. Even if you've seen the show, picking up the books fills in many details that show us why this got an adaptation in the first place.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Story is tense across both volumes, characters have more going on that it at first appears.
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