Apothecarius Argentum Volume 2
by Tomomi Yamashita
The shojo fantasy about a princess and her poisonous healer continues in a surprising fashion. (I reviewed volume 1 last year.) Instead of developing their romance explicitly, the story chooses instead to develop and deepen her character, making her more mature and appealing.
Much of this development is accomplished through flashback. Young Soda, who wants to be Argent’s apprentice, reminds the older healer of his childhood days with Princess Primula. Argent doesn’t want anyone around him, since he’s poison to the touch, and he fears hurting someone he cares about. Soda’s also a funny stand-in for the reader, constantly telling Argent he’s obviously in love with the princess regardless of his protestations.
In the first story, the healer sees a sick grandmother who has an unexpected cause for her illness. I was surprised to see the subject tackled so brutally, but it’s significant in inspiring Primula’s actions in the rest of the book. 16-year-old Primula has a lot of insight in helping Soda understand and convince Argent that he’d be a help, not a hindrance.
Later, she runs away to visit her land undercover and learn more about her people. In between the search for the princess and seeing her handle a more ordinary life, we learn more about Argent’s history and motivations. There are more surprises in the story of the princess’s lonely childhood and her life growing up. Palace politics play a greater role, and we see the life and character of Primula’s nanny, the woman who raised her.
The characters are lovely and emotive without being too exaggerated, and the feeling of the book suits its vaguely medieval setting. The kingdom becomes more real as a location as we learn more about the king’s foes and the politics involved. We’re not always told what we should think, which I found refreshing. I also enjoy the many metaphors involving food and eating.
This series is really growing on me. It’s a shame the volumes aren’t that easy to find — probably because I wasn’t smart enough to be following the story as it was coming out. A doctor has provided more information on the poisons used in this volume.