Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #05

Spice and Wolf is a wildly popular light novel series that has spawned off an anime, an Internet radio show, and a manga series. While its European medieval setting is typical of high fantasy, this series has  a unique bent to it. Rather than swordfights and magic, the plot focuses on economics, trade, and peddling in a way that skillfully blends adventure and romance.

Yen Press has recently released the fifth volume of this series, and you can read on for the review. (You can also click here for my review of volume 4).

Back Cover Blurb

Lawrence and Holo take a respite from their travels north, but a true businessman never rests! It isn’t long before an opportunity for profit in the town of Lenos presents itself to Lawrence; one that could fulfill his dreams of owning his own establishment. But as always the promise of great reward carries with it great risk – and risk is never greater than when one plans to use a werewolf as collateral!

The Review

The adventures of Lawrence and Holo continue with their arrival in the fur trading town of Lenos. As always, Holo is on the prowl for clues of her homeland, and while they do find records about her origins (including a story specifically about Holo), the focus is less “which way” and “how to get there” and more on their growing anxiety at the thought of parting at journey’s end. Unfortunately, the emotional tension plays out as cryptic conversations interspersed with Lawrence’s thoughts, which are so confused they don’t actually provide much clarification. Fans of Lawrence/Holo will find the ultimate resolution sweet, but trying to interpret the meaning behind certain conversations felt like work.

Spice and Wolf would not be complete without some business finagling, and this particular arc centers on a trade war resulting from the canceled military campaign that nearly bankrupted Lawrence. Of course, politics and the Church have a hand in the economic maelstrom, but this time, Lawrence doesn’t interact much with the clergy. Instead, Hasekura-sensei introduces Eve, a female merchant, and those who like female characters tough, clever, and mysterious will find her fascinating.

Unfortunately, the actual particulars of Lawrence’s latest moneymaking scheme are, like his conversations with Holo, difficult to follow. Figuring out all the players in the trade war took some mental effort as did understanding the multiple steps of Eve’s proposal and the rationale behind them. In addition, during Lawrence’s investigation of Eve, there were a few places where he’d get a piece of information and draw a conclusion that seemed to skip a few steps of logic. As much as I love Hasekura-sensei’s characters, I felt a bit exhausted at the end of this journey.

This light novel includes the title page, three two-page spreads, and the table of contents printed in color as well as eight black-and-white illustrations. It also comes with a dust jacket that doesn’t match but mimics the cover illustration. (Ayakura’s cover illustration depicts Holo in peasant clothes, and the dust cover features a Holo cosplayer.)

In Summary

This arc is a more difficult read than previous installments of Spice and Wolf, both because of the complex business deal featured and the clumsy portrayal of the emotional awkwardness between Lawrence and Holo. Still, romantics who stick it through will be rewarded by a bit of Holo/Lawrence fluffiness at the end.

First published at the Fandom Post.


2 responses to “Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #05

  1. Pingback: Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #06 | Keeping It In Canon …mostly

  2. I think you may have misunderstood one aspect of this series, which was particularly present in this volume: the ambiguity of much of the conversations between these two. In short, that ambiguity is not a bug, it’s a feature!

    Consider how far apart this (potential) couple are–they’re different species. Not only that, but they’re both creatures who have both been alone for most of their lives. Given those facts, it’s amazing they can communicate at all. Add to this the fact that Holo is partially “playing” Lawrence to get herself back to her town of origin, and opaque conversation is just about guaranteed. If there is going to be a movement of the two toward mutual love then it’s bound to be a huge struggle for both of them, and their conversation would reflect that.

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