Taking Too Long: A Review and Critique of Daughter of the Emperor

I remember finding Daughter of the Emperor about a year ago and reading late into the night to catch up on the 80+ (maybe even 100+ at that point) chapters that were already out. I loved it then–but now its been a year and I’m growing impatient. Let’s jump into why:

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The story begins much like other reincarnated-as-a-princess stories of the isekai genre–in childhood. Daughter of the Emperor is probably the only series to spend as this much time focusing on the growing stage of our main character, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The story seems to be about Ariadna Lereg Ilestri Pre Agrigent (Aria or Ria for short) and the relationship she has with her tyrannical father, Caitel. Despite focusing on the comedic interactions Aria has with Caitel, the story reveals a lot of interesting context and seeds of information that seem vital to the progression of the story. The first seed we get is that Caitel has had other children before Aria, all of whom he killed.

What readers later find out is that Caitel has no plans to leave an official heir to the empire, so part of him letting Aria live has to do with her being born a woman with no right to inherit the throne. His feelings about an heir may or may not have changed as the story has progressed, but this is how we open. After the initial introduction of this murderous fact, the topic is briefly touched on several more times throughout the first 50 chapters but seems to have since gone to the wayside as a plot point.

With the introduction of Zayland (Aria’s cousin whose mother is trying to pass off as Aria’s half-brother) just past Chapter 100, one might think the topic would resurface, especially since Caitel is well-known for killing heirs with the country’s leadership/councils finding little fault in his actions. (Even if they did find fault, he’d just kill them so “world leaders” or a council advising against him doing so means nothing in this story.) However, that is not the case.

Instead, Zayland seems to be the introduction of an even newer plot point as regardless of what Zayland’s mother says, Caitel believes Zayland to be his nephew, not his son. Despite Caitel’s anger, he does little to remove the boy or his mother from political power or the estate. Instead, Caitel chooses to move them into a secluded area of the palace until he can come to some decision–but we already know the decision, don’t we? Caitel plans to kill them–he’s just waiting to see if he can use them to lure out his brother first–a brother who had supposedly died when Caitel led the rebellion that made him Emperor. However, as soon as Aria and her father make up from their fight over the Zayland and Aria meeting, we get nothing. In fact, Zayland seems forgotten and, instead, our focus is drawn to Aria gushing more about how she’s surrounded by cute boys who are too rowdy. My biggest criticism of this series is that exact situation happening over and over again in the work. The story sets up a lot of really great plot seeds to follow and develop the characters and their relationships as well as make for an exciting story then ignores them for whole seasons at a time, leaving them without a pay-off or conclusion until you basically forget they exist in the work at all. There are lots of examples of this outside of the Zayland arc and the talk of Caitel’s other children before Aria that have been dropped until further notice. 

For example, early in the story, like chapter 5/6, Caitel executes a concubine, Segista/Faylene for making baby-Aria cry. Later in the work, we meet Layla, Segista’s sister, who will appear several more times as the story progresses. We don’t know much about her, but given her entrance and the few words shared between her and Aria over the years that follow, it’s clear that the author(s) are setting up for her to play a more significant part in the story as time goes on. When, though? And what is Layla’s aim in getting close to the daughter of Caitel, even subtly? Is she out for revenge, or does she hope to groom a rebellion? How much longer will we have to wait for this story? 

Let’s give another example, like the hints about Aria’s mother. Aria’s mother is a total mystery, but we have some indication that she might be more than just a deceased figure. It’s not because Caitel loved her that she appears to have some importance as one might think, rather it is because she might have witches blood or a special kind of magic that Caitel has not considered. Retouching on this plot point seed later in the work is the presentation of Ahin Richerun Genbosch, whose people and particularly those like him have physical reactions (such as marks appearing on their body) when touched by someone with blood like Aria’s mother which is mentioned sometime past Chapter 119. Yet despite being given this hint by another character in the work, or finding out about Ahin, Aria seems totally uninterested in pursuing the idea, choosing instead to focus on how cute Ahin is. 

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There are still more examples, like with Asasi who we spend perhaps the most time examining from Aria’s point of view. As we discover, Asasi’s mind is scared from the wars and battles Caitel has put him through, acting as a case study for what is likely to be a set up on how the wars have also scarred the country, but this is something we may never get the chance to see given the pace of the story. Particularly with this plot point, Aria never really gets the full picture, only hints of it, for her own good maybe but that excuse won’t work as she grows up and is shaped into a leader. Moreover, the story tries to paint Aria as some healing figure, but thus far she seems to only pause symptoms not heal anything–such as preventing Caitel from killing only while she’s in his presence and only acts as a distraction until he forgets what made him angry enough to kill in the first place, or relieving Asasi’s anxiety but only while she’s there. 

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Chapter 160 is perhaps the most frustrating to me, and its the latest chapter we have. I find it frustrating because once again, we are seeing the Kingdom of Praezia (Layla’s country) representatives with little to no reasoning on what sort of part they play. Praezia is probably the largest Kingdom compared to Agrigent (Aria’s country), but I’m getting that from context clues. However, Praezia is firmly under Agrigent/Caitel’s thumb, but how might this change? Well, we’ll probably not find out for another 100+ chapters since Aria was too busy thinking about Hazel, the new (or possibly just the heir) king/emperor of Praezia, to consider what was happening in the meeting between the kingdoms that was so important the welcoming reception was skipped so they could immediately jump into the discussion.

My issue, what I’m critiquing here, of this series, is that these plot points seeded into the story are often ignored or touched on too few times in the sum of 160 chapters currently available on TappyToons. When we do see plot development, it is quickly intercepted by Aria’s distracted nature or 20+ fillers of just Aria gushing over Asasi or playing around. While she was a child, I could maybe see the pause on these setups, waiting until she’s older to really jump into the potential politics of Agrigent or issues within the palace itself–but its hard to make that defense feel reasonable when it goes on for over 100+ chapters without much development beyond an introduction and no real close to any story arc since we’re really just following her grow up physically. It’s also hard to feel like the defense is justified when you remember that this is an adult in a child’s body, so there is no real reason for her not to be interested in these more adult themes. It’s even more important to the story now that we’ve fast-forwarded into the future with a teen+ Aria. We should be seeing this political plot moving forward or at least see a re-introduction of an adult Zayland now that we’re progressing forward in time with some reflection of this subplot developed. We should see Layla and what has transpired. We should see something beyond “my playmates grew up but are still my playmates.”

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Just to note here, I like this story. I like it a lot, which is why I continue to read it and why I even bothered to write this post even though I expect that it won’t garner much attention. TappyToons declares this series as a Comedy/Fantasy and had the story remained an examination of Caitel’s growth as a father and Aria’s effect on him then I may not have written this post. However, the story has gone past the point of comedy. (In fact–it never really seemed like a comedy in the first place given how early we are introduced to the serious life and death fight Aria seems to have at the beginning of her life and Caitel’s flippant attitude towards murder and execution.) The story is filled with potential and obvious set up for development into the politics of Agrigent and the characters we’ve been introduced to thus far only to be slowed to the point of amnesia of the points listed to focus on shorter subplots (if you can call them that), like playing tag and breaking a glass statue, “how will we tell Caitel?” sort of breaks which are really just filler. 

Once again, I like this story, rather the potential it has–I wouldn’t have followed it for a year and made notes on all these plot points if I didn’t, but I’m really growing impatient by how little the story of this work has actually progressed. If it’s a romantic reverse-harem story, make it that and stop seeding political unrest with Praezia. If it’s a father-daughter comedy, make it that and integrate boys interest into something Caitel needs to learn about when raising a daughter. But please stop jerking other readers and me around with the potential for so much more that will probably be forgotten by the time it’s actually brought up again. 

I think the perfect conclusion to this ranting critique is a response I had when Aria tells the readers in Chapter 160 that she likes her trivial life: “No kidding.”

If you want to read it, the series can be found on TappyToon.com. 

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