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. 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 sixth volume of this series, and you can read on for the review. (You can also click here for my reviews of previous volumes).
Back Cover Blurb
As Holo and Lawrence begin the final leg of their journey, Lawrence decides to accompany Holo to her ancient home of Yoitsu, if only to forestall their parting just a bit longer. Boarding a ship from the port of Lenos (much to the chagrin of the wisewolf, who is none too fond of water!), the pair’s fate becomes entangled with that of a boy named Col, whose tale of his circumstances – combined with the gossip of the sailors – leads to a shocking revelation about Holo’s homeland!
Volume 6 is very much a transitional novel in this series. Previous volumes contained standalone business type stories under the larger arc of Holo’s journey home. So when Volume 5 ended with Lawrence swindled by Eve, I anticipated Holo and Lawrence cutting their losses and moving on to a new location and venture. Instead, Volume 6 continues the fur scheme with the two going after Lawrence’s former business partner, and even by the end of this book, the matter of Eve remains to be resolved.
This installment is also transitional in that this is the first time Lawrence and Holo have deliberately detoured from their search for Yoitsu. Up till now, they’ve been traveling steadily north, but having gotten so close to Holo’s homeland, something new has to arise for their journey together to continue. That change comes in the form of a new mission they seize upon after hearing rumors of suspicious Church activities and in the shift in Lawrence and Holo’s relationship.
I should note that Yen Press makes a critical (in my opinion) bit of rewording in Lawrence’s dialogue. In Volume 5′s epilogue, Lawrence kisses Holo’s cheek and says, “I like you,” which felt rather wishy-washy. But in Volume 6, that phrase (which comes up in a moment of reflection) gets translated as, “I love you.” That changes Lawrence’s confession into something much stronger and passionate, which is definitely necessary as the two engage in a not-exactly-lovers’-quarrel in Volume 6. As to the source of the quarrel, it is not surprisingly Lawrence’s fault, and like a new boyfriend blundering through his first relationship, he spends half the book trying to figure out why Holo is mad at him.
Another thing that sets the story apart from the others in the series is that the economics element isn’t as strong. There’s a kind of accounting mystery and some talk about coinage, but it’s more along the lines of a scammer’s tricks than business strategy. Plus, Lawrence isn’t directly involved in this scheme; he’s just trying to puzzle it together to while away the time as he and Holo travel downriver. The really annoying thing is that Hasekura-sensei doesn’t reveal the secret behind the extra chests of copper at the end. (And no, I haven’t been able to figure it out on my own.)
What Hasekura-sensei does give us is a new character in the cast. Originally from the north, the boy Col has his own mission, but he’s the type that’s book smart and street stupid. Lawrence and Holo come across him when he’s at the end of his rope, and when his plight arouses their sympathy, we get to see a hitherto unseen gentler side of Holo. Lawrence, for his part, has fun playing “master” to his “apprentice.” Also, Col, despite his desire to study Church law, has pagan roots and provides an interesting new perspective on the Spice and Wolf world.
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.)
Hasekura-sensei mentions in the afterword that this volume “had fewer economic elements,” which I found to be the case. There is a bit of an accounting mystery, but our traveling duo’s lives and funds aren’t directly impacted by that scheme so the story lacks the energy and urgency other volumes have. Still, fans of the series will want to pick up this volume as Lawrence and Holo become entangled with the waif Col, and from the looks of it, he’s going to be a regular in the series.
First published at the Fandom Post.