How to Melt the Ice Queen’s Heart is the very definition of a “slow burn romance.” Light novel romcoms tend to be all about gimmicks and outlandish twists on familiar tropes, but this book is notable for their absence. It’s really a simple story about two teens with a similar disposition getting to know each other—the kind of sweet tale that feels completely believable and true to its characters, yet also lacks flavor in the context of fiction.
One of the problems I had with this novel is that it lacks a driving conflict. Conventional logic about romance narratives says that foils are necessary to create that kind of tension; most typically, this is achieved by giving the couple contrasting personalities. The protagonist Asahi is initially set up as a foil to the eponymous ice queen—his surname contains the Japanese character for “fire” and his first name means “sunrise”—but his personality is actually very similar to Fuyuka’s. Asahi may be more proactive in helping other people in a pinch, which is what motivates him to get involved in Fuyuka’s life to begin with, but they’re both very diligent people who act standoffish to others before they can open up.
If the main couple aren’t foils to each other, then an external conflict becomes necessary. Even a mellow romance needs some form of push and pull that prevents the couple from getting together. This novel, however, doesn’t have an external conflict either. There are hints that Fuyuka has family-related baggage, but nothing comes of it in this volume, at least. It doesn’t surprise me that this book is based on a web novel, because it’s very much the kind of story that’s paced for the long haul rather than for a bunkobon format. While I do know that there’s more to this story later, volume 1 does not present a strong hook. The later chapters in particular feel like they’re treading water, as the overall narrative halts at the “developing the relationship” stage.
Nevertheless, for all its structural imperfections, How to Melt the Ice Queen’s Heart still has its charms. Asahi and Fuyuka genuinely do feel like they would make a nice couple, and their hesitant courtship is both sweet and true to life. It quickly becomes obvious that Fuyuka’s so-called “ice queen” qualities are really more of a manifestation of her introversion and shyness. Her awkwardness makes it difficult for her to express her feelings, but she’s never actually mean or arrogant. It makes sense that she’d open up to Asahi, who helps her when she’s in obvious need but is otherwise polite and doesn’t pry into her personal life.
Asahi’s perspective is also very easy to understand. Although he insists both to himself and to his friends that he’s not interested in romance, his attraction to Fuyuka is clear. However, because he’s so concerned with being a good friend first and foremost, he ends up brushing off any talk of a relationship. For the moment, Fuyuka doesn’t seem bothered by his denials, but one can imagine that as the two of them get closer, she might end up feeling hurt by the insistence that they are “just friends.”
How to Melt the Ice Queen’s Heart is a sweet and down-to-earth boy-meets-girl story. There are no secondary heroines, no over-the-top romcom shenanigans, no supernatural trappings. This simplicity is refreshing in the current light novel landscape, even if the lack of conflict or tension for now makes it difficult to recommend as a novel in its own right. If you’re in the mood for a cute and comfy romance, this might be up your alley, but if you’re looking for a story with a little more plot, it might be better to look elsewhere—or at least wait until the second volume is out in English before making a call.