Kusuriya no Hitorigoto


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There is a certain large country in the central plains of the mainland. In the imperial court of its emperor, there is a girl. Her name is Maomao, a pharmacist from the pleasure district, who is currently working as a maidservant in the inner palace. The girl, who surely can not be considered a beauty, is keeping a low-profile waiting for her contract to end. She is confident that she will not be “visited” by the emperor. During that, she learns about the short lives of the children of the emperor. Maomao, hearing that the two surviving children are critically ill, begins her investigation for the cause—.

Set in the middle ages of the East, the “Food Taster” girl continues to solve difficult cases in the imperial court one after another.

Associated Names
One entry per line
The Pharmacist's Monologue
약사의 혼잣말
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21 Reviews sorted by

Akemin rated it
July 15, 2017
Status: c160
I was hooked after reading the translations and went on to read the original on the syosetu website. A big thank you to the translator who introduced such a great novel! I have just caught up to the latest chapter so I though I would like to share some thoughts on this novel.

The story:

I really enjoy this mystery novel because it is not overly dramatic or tragic despite being mostly set in the imperial court. Although it does have a serious overtone, the author provides enough lighthearted moments that the... more>> story does not become heavy.

I also like how the mysteries are not complex but is done in such a way that it is intertwined and ultimately has a big impact on the overall story. I find it very satisfying when everything 'clicks' and finally makes sense. The author also explains the mysteries thoroughly so it is easy to understand. Readers who are worried about not understanding the mysteries can be reassured because all you have to do when Maomao finds something suspicious is to take note of it and wait for the author to explain it later.

The characters:

Maomao is hands down one of the best heroines I have ever seen. She is unfriendly, poker faced, but at the same time intelligent and brave. She is definitely not the usual heroine you see in novels, and that makes her a really fun and endearing character to view the world through. Despite her poor upbringing, she is confident and really can't care less about others who look down on her, and I find that to be really refreshing.

I also like how the side characters are given unique personalities and backstories. For example, the 4 consorts all have their turn at the spotlight, and even the Yabu doctor has his turn as well.

My favorite side character is probably Gaoshun because he is always the voice of reason and a dependable figure. And he always made me laugh when he literally transcends into godhood during certain parts of the story thanks to Jishin and Maomao...


I would say that the novel is more story oriented that romance oriented, but romance is definitely present. However, due to Maomao's personality and the environment she was brought up in, readers hoping for some light sweet and fluffy romance might be disappointed. This is not only applicable for Maomao but for other characters as well. The imperial court and the red-light district is not a place where romance blooms, and the author makes it very clear. Even when there is romance, there are also problems with differences in status.

I will be talking more about Maomao's love interest in the spoiler tag below, so if you don't want to be spoiled please skip!


The male lead and love interest of Maomao in this story is Jishin. And in case anyone is wondering, no, Jishin is not an eunuch and yes, he is someone very important.

There is no second male lead in this story so if you dislike seeing second male leads getting their heart broken, you can read this safely. However, the job of getting a heart broken falls onto Jishin instead... (www)

Jishin is definitely the most pitiable male lead I have seen thanks to Maomao's stubbornness and poker faced personality. She is able to react calmly to Jishin's advances, and even misunderstands his intentions which results in various funny situations. Despite this, Jishin does not give up and continues to pursue Maomao in a way that is 'sticky' but respectful. He also thinks highly of her capabilities and trusts her enough to the extent of trusting the people she trusts.

On the other hands, the Jishin from Maomao's point of view feels more like a troublesome boss who assigns her difficult tasks and likes to harass her.

So does Maomao have feelings for Jishin? - At this point (c160), I don't think so. Jishin still has a long way to go...


All in all, the romance is slow, but there's not way it won't pay off right? :D


The story is just reaching its peak and there are a lot more mysteries left to be solved so I am really looking forward to how it is going to end! I strongly recommend this to readers who like shoujo and romance, but wants a fresh breath of air. <<less
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Seryph3 rated it
November 18, 2017
Status: v6c29
KnH is a mystery novel at heart, driven by romance on the sidelines.

If you're looking for a deep and introspective story that has both serious and light-hearted moments, all in the right places, this might fit your bill. The characters are three dimensional. The mysteries in this story are foreshadowed. Even the jokes are foreshadowed. The planning of this story is meticulous. The clues are all there if you know where to look. When everything clicks, it is beautiful.

--- Of course, I might be biased, being the TLer. Set in... more>> a world reminiscent of Ancient China, we follow the story through a young woman who is imprisoned within the inner palace as a simple maidservant, who yearns for the freedom she once had, and yet lives as though she is not bound by her circumstances.

She is of lowly birth, the daughter of a high-class courtesan, raised in the what is essentially the backstreets of the capital. Because of that, she isn't fazed by much. She is smart. She is humble. She is true to herself. She lives as she sees fit, not held down by the chains of name, power, and wealth. Nor does she want any of those. She knows where she stands in this society. (Of course, unbeknownst to her, or us, there is more to her than that. This is a mystery novel after all.)

It is a refreshing perspective. A breath of fresh air from all the power struggles, the jealousy and resentment, all the scheming, factions and whatnot like what you would expect from a novel set within the inner palace/imperial court.
Not that it's not there, mind, but not from her. She's an observer that gets dragged into it from the sidelines. Curiosity killed the cat, didn't it?


Anyways, enough talk. I bid you guys to give this novel a try :D It'll be worth it, really. <<less
20 Likes · Like Permalink | Report
June 29, 2017
Status: c17
This is actually pretty good.

If you like a level-headed, smart, and rational MC then you might enjoy this one. It's also a nice change of pace that she's not participant of the in-fighting between consorts to gain King's favor as she's simply a maid. However, she can still be considered an important figure as she became a confidant of those in power/influence (ML being one of them) due to her knowledge.

Just my two cents since no one left a review here yet. Might add more as I read into it... more>> and see if there's any development with the male lead (it seemed like he's a eunuch but I'm suspicious about his identity). <<less
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Senethari rated it
June 30, 2017
Status: c18
Really enjoying this so far. Maybe because of the mixed backgrounds -Ancient Chinese harem setting, Japanese author- while all the trappings are there, we aren't beaten to death with all the usual tropes. (Admit it, as much as we love those stories with the sassy, brilliant woman in the harem and her romantic lead, the handsome, arrogant, domineering black-belly etc, it can get a little formulaic.)

So yeah, she's a pretty girl, and she's a medical genius, and there's a guy who's so gorgeous, it should be illegal, but... more>> their interactions are funny without being over-dramatic, and she gets along alright in the world of the palace without everything being a matter of schemes and oneupmanship.

I look forward to more translations with delight, especially since the MTL of japanese peppered with chinese terminology is about as readable as toddler babble or divinations using chicken entrails. <<less
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AC253 rated it
August 11, 2017
Status: --
My reviews may contain slight spoilers and references to the plot throughout, so please skim or skip if you want to read this with fresh eyes.

The translation. The characters. The setting. It's been a long while since I've found another novel I've absolutely fallen in love with and I'm far from upset.

I love politics and I love tension, but this time, these kind of aspects are used to create the atmosphere rather than being the main limelight of the story. Honestly, I have no complaints. This is more of a... more>> atmospheric story, and the problems are carefully explored and resolved, never being dragged out or rushed to solved. Taking place in ancient China, there's references to many aspects readers might fine themselves familiar with if they read CNs.

Unlike most ancient China stories (or any LNs, really) where the story rushes to the action and romance, this takes it's time to build a world that feels real. At times, it feels like I'm reading an actual novel instead of a LN. The characters are so down to earth and three dimensional. I absolutely love the MC. She has all the qualities I like down on paper: snarky, intelligent, cool, and calm, but after seeing so many LN butcher this character trope via OP MCs, I had my reservations. Luckily, the execution is nothing less of amazing. This applies to the rest of the cast as well proving that tropes work if they're written well.

There's the lingering hint of mysteries that carries throughout the story and little romance. It's subtle if you squint for it and works as a sub-plot rather than the main goal. Story and character driven, this is definitely up in my list of top-tier LNs. If it's not already obvious from my praises, I highly recommend this - though if you're currently interested in OP MCs or a romance based story, skip this. <<less
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CrowFX rated it
August 23, 2017
Status: v2c7
Maomao is a cute girl, nuff said.

Anyway, the setting of the novel has a huge influence from the Chinese novel tropes, but very surprisingly never abused them. In fact, it can be seen as a very shallow reference to popular Chinese trope but never delve deep other than just 'borrowing' the setting.

The MC is not a subject on the power struggle of the politics, but instead gradually becomes an object of desire by different parties as her skill gets (reluctantly) known. Considering Maomao's achievements are done by goodwill (she is... more>> not a goody-two-shoes mind you), and those in power struggle are not really evil (Just their circumstances causing them to face each other), it becomes obvious these people want Maomao's allegiance -slash- affection. While not distinctively shown, It's clearly seen there is a tension to get the 'ownership' of Maomao, leading to hilarious situations as they try to mark her as theirs.

The MC is cute, both in personality and appearance, though she tries to downplay the latter via makeup to get under the radar. As a reader, you would probably see her as that little sister you cannot leave alone because if you do, disasters and misunderstandings awaits. The MC knows her limit, but definitely does not pull back to push things to the limit. She is a bit unhinged as well, in a cute way, (I mean c'mon, she prefers to drink more poison since she thinks it's not enough to get deeper analysis). In modern settings, you would probably see her as that mad scientist little sister trope, only she is the MC.

Basically, she is a very, very lovable MC. The kind which you want to hug and sit on your lap, but she tries to get away because of her personality, which makes you want to hug her more. <<less
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Starvenus rated it
November 6, 2017
Status: v3c10
I have been searching for an ancient setting novel (be it fantasy, middle ages, or historical) where the MC didn't come from/experience our modern earth (be it past life, transported, transmigrated, reincarnated, and all that stuff).

Maomao, our female main character is a genuine person of her world. Her personality and knowledges come from years of her experiences growing up with her dad and her living environment.

The story is good, the mystery keeps you coming back for more, make you wondering and guessing especially our MC background story while she... more>> is unraveling the royal intrigues that's happening in the palace. Through these cases we can see glimpses of her own story too.

It's the first time I read a Japanese novel that uses a Chinese ancient setting. We see terms like Inner Palace, Consorts, Concubines, King, Royal Families, and all the other terminologies from chinese ancient setting. But the influence in the novel is just that. The author just uses that to make a story and personally I find it refreshing.

Maomao has a mind of a detective. She is sharp and thorough, always try to keep in mind; "don't just assume/guess but prove it".

It's quickly become one of my favorite novel for female main character.

I haven't got the chance to read the raw even though I'm itching to do because the novel is really good but from what I skim through mtl it's really hard to understand (maybe cause the author uses old languages like if you see 'thy' in English). <<less
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Fantasy-Magician rated it
June 30, 2017
Status: c24
This novel have different take on narrating the story of harem in alternative ancient China, and written by a Japanese, which is unusual enough so some of traditional term is mixed up with Japanese. Funnily enough, the author does show influence of typical Chinese web novel in describing one particularly attractive male, throwing flowery words the translator admit is giving her hard time to come up with variation of heavenly, celestial, immortal and so on. Yet not so much when describing female characters, so rather than cringe worthy quirk like... more>> in some Chinese novel it's more of a running gag.

Also, a warning for this translation project. According to current translator, unlike typical web novel the author occasionally use classical Japanese grammar, perhaps to match the setting of this story. So translating it to English is hard and the translator sometimes use awkward phrasing to match the original story. The raw text with online translator is also impossible to read due to this so no reading ahead ;_;

The main character is Mao-Mao, a pharmacist as the summary said. She is level headed, smart and snarky type of MC, and she is almost obsessed with being low key.

It gets to the point she use her make up skill to uglify herself. She is still average looking, but this is emphasized from her point of view and she described her face as neat.

The story is narrated mostly from her perspective so if you enjoy snarky monologue, this story is your cup of tea. I think what highlight this character the most is her curiosity, and yes... she is a pharmacist/doctor by trade but she is more of a researcher and a mad scientist at that as she even experiment of herself.

The 'possibly' Male lead is a mysterious character, but it's almost confirmed since he has the most interaction with her. Jishin is described by Maomao as a man so sinfully beautiful, it's a shame he is a guy *and since he can walk around in harem, she assume he is an eunuch* and in spite of his 'unclear' but obviously high rank seems to have too much spare time to bother her. Jishin seems to have a lot of interest in her quirky personality, talent and disgust for him. Yes... this guy is pleased Maomao is creeped out by his perfection, though it doesn't stop Maomao from doing dubious errand on his behalf

Like making aphrodisiac/love poison, and very enthusiastic at it in spite of not knowing what Jishin wanted it for.

SO IF this guy is indeed the male lead we can expect a strange romantic dynamic developing in this story.

Plot wise, it's a slow going as the MC act as problem solver all over the inner court. She is very knowledgeable, and doted on by her superior. Definitely not what you would expect in imperial harem kind of story, as Maomao in spite of being an odd ball isn't a domineering character at all. There's no clear direction of where is this story head for now, but it's pretty enjoyable as slice of life as it is. <<less
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vasiliassy rated it
December 25, 2017
Status: v3c33
The saddest ML love story ever in romantic novel thay I read.

ML is actually ... more>>

crown prince

so it doesn't suit MC taste and status. But fortunately ML is patient in chase MC heart. Otherwhise he is already give up...

Its because ML want to out from his actual status (want to free), he working hard in the background, but eventually fall into more big problem than he prediction so MC always help him.

Actually I really want to see if ML in the end become emperor or not. If yes then MC can become empress and can be called very dangerous Poison Empress lol and ML will be called beautiful poison flower Emperor. <<less
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Ritu rated it
July 24, 2017
Status: c33
The only reason I'm rating this a 4 is because I have to reread the chapters multiple times to understand the story. I don't think it's the fault of the translator as two translators have picked up this work and the story was still a little hard to comprehend at some points. From what I've heard the author used traditional Japanese (if that makes any sense) and its harder to translate to English. But kudos for the plot. I like the MC and every single character ! It's a... more>> really fun read and the plot is very unique. The story is not flowery at all as in it isn't your typical shoujo story. The romance is very little till the first arc too. I'm in love with every character. The characters are nicely developed and I might be in a little bit awe of the MC. She is cute in her own poisonous way. As the story proceeds mainly in her perspective, you get to experience her unique thought process and love her some more. <<less
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Elivi rated it
December 24, 2017
Status: v3c32
What to say? I am not really the type that is fond of "imperial court" story, so I was skeptical the first time I saw this Novel. However, that all changed on a bored day of mine, with nothing to do, I just open my novel bookmarks and "hey, why don't I give this a try." Damn boy, I was hooked in by the quirky main character, the way the story unfold as a mystery combined with cute moments, the side cast that stands out... In fact, this hooks me... more>> in so much to the point that I spent like 8 hours to blink read til the latest chapter.

The only small turn down for this novel would be the translation as there are some structure faults and a little bit hard to understand in the beginning. However, the translation quality only gets better chapter by chapter, and as of the time I write this review, the quality has, though not flawless, risen to the point that is more than acceptable.

So, good plots, quirky main character, nice side casts, cute, improving translator... What are you waiting for, just try it out! <<less
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MissZer0q rated it
May 18, 2018
Status: --
The best light novel that I have read so far~ Although the romance is slow (because female lead is oblivious) but that's what makes it super cute and all of the male lead's advances are super hilarious~ LOVE IT!!
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Niias rated it
April 5, 2018
Status: v4c13
This is my favorite novel. The mad scientist Maomao, the poor Jinshi, Gaoshun, and other are characters with their stories filled with interesting things. I hope the anime gets published soon and they don't change many things from the novel for the manga and anime.
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ReadR rated it
August 8, 2019
Status: v8c12
It is actually a mystery novel, and a pretty good one at that. There is minor romance in the sidelines, which happened once in awhile but when they do, it's really a gem. It's also probably the longest slowburn I've ever read.

The MC is a bit eccentric (described as a mad scientist) and a very logical woman. The second main character/possible love interest is an equally smart man who can be manipulative.

Actually, one thing that makes me really like this series is an abundant amount of smart, memorable characters. Nearly... more>> everyone, at least at one point, had a secret and executed a plan involving said secret (Not necessarily evil, though). Bonus point for some of those characters being women, which is quite rare in most fictions. <<less
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mariaphoebe rated it
August 7, 2019
Status: Completed
Really refreshing with an actually interesting MC. There is just a tad of romance here, so if you mainly came looking for it, you will be disappointed.
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Maple rated it
May 16, 2019
Status: v2c1
Damn this novel is really good and brilliant. I really like the main character because she's so fresh to read and the story's setting maybe cliche itself but the story is really something else.

Btw, this a selfish request but I'm hoping you can upload this novels to google drive I really want to add this on my collection for things to read while traveling and idling.

And thank you for translating this wonderful novel. I want to support the group for this. Keep it up.
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May 14, 2019
Status: --
Only found the manga version of this and it blew me away with its smart and practical (though eccentric) MC and realistic setting. In fact, all the characters are very well-done in terms of characterizations, motivations, reactions, etc. No one was a caricature of a personified stereotype or single-trait 2-dimensional person. Sure, some moments (mostly for slight comedic effects) were sensationalized in a cliched manner (like how people might go gaga over someone's beauty or how the MC goes gaga over questionable substances), but there really weren't any real mob... more>> or cannon-fodder characters.

I definitely recommend the manga for people to read.

So, I'm looking forward to reading the novel version of this even more, especially as the written version tends to be the best form of a work (in my opinion). <<less
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Kokinsurin rated it
May 9, 2019
Status: v7c20
I am absolutely at a loss for words. This was the best ever novel with mystery and romance set at a historical setting story I

have ever read.

    • The female lead is not weak. She is strong willed but not the kind that is a door mat and helps everyone. (not sure I got the expression right) but in other words she knows what's she's doing
    • The male lead is amazing as well
    • The development though slow is plenty steadier than any other story I've read.
The romance is of course slow (if it was fast it would not make sense anyway) but every one of those rare moments are nicely written making you want more.

But sometimes you might be lost a bit, it's just a bit complex;the mysteries but if it wasn't where s the fun in it. (

) / who knows that you might find some tidbits you've missed (I did find some and I'm happy that I re read it)

Overall this was an amazing experience my sincerest thank you

to the translator for translating this amazingly and thank you for taking your time to read my review.

So... Go on

go read it. Otherwise you're missing out!! (



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Ughzug rated it
March 3, 2019
Status: v3
This is fairly decent story with well developed characters. Although the poison experiment aspect is really forced plot. That being said I'm wondering why it has a Seinen tag here on NU. This seems like something Josei and it feels very misleading to tag it otherwise.
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Edgewise rated it
February 11, 2019
Status: --
Very good. I think the female lead is a bit too clairvoyant in some cases, but overall the story is fun, engaging, and has a great mix of detective/romance/intrigue/humor going on.
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