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 eighth volume of this series, and you can read on for the review. (You can also click here for my reviews of previous Spice and Wolf releases).
Back Cover Blurb
Hearing rumors of a “leg bone of the wolf” being used as an artifact of the Church to showcase its power, Lawrence and Holo head to the site to gather more information. Holo can’t just turn away from what might be a relic of her own kind, after all. Of course, upon arrival, the travelers find that the town is the center of a giant trade dispute! Seems that Col will be getting a lesson in microeconomics!
After last volume’s side stories, Hasekura-sensei returns to the journey of Holo, Lawrence, and Col. He also brings back the character that sent Holo raging down the river route: Eve. The way in which Eve returns to the narrative, however, is somewhat surprising.
Given the depth of Eve’s betrayal in Lenos plus the injuries she dealt Lawrence (which he still bears at the beginning of Volume 8), I expected their capture of the vixen merchant to be the climax of this arc. Instead, the reunion of Eve, Holo, and Lawrence takes place in the prologue (although it is so vaguely worded that I didn’t realize those were the characters involved until I got into Chapter 1). And while Holo is sufficiently angry to want to tear Eve apart, Lawrence restrains the wisewolf from doing so and seems to bear no grudge against Eve. In fact, he displays only a merchant’s admiration for her skill. Holo has berated Lawrence before about his softheartedness, but his lack of resentment makes him seem soft in the head.
But there is a reason for even Holo to keep Eve intact, and that is because she is their key to getting to the bottom of the wolf bone rumors. Interestingly, Eve, who’d seemed like a minor merchant in Lenos, turns out to be a far more prominent and powerful force. In the process of searching for the wolf bones, Lawrence and Holo discover a great deal more about Eve, and she dominates the pages even in scenes where she’s not physically present.
As the investigation goes on, the story becomes more about political and religious intrigue than economics, although a territorial dispute over the marketplace is part of it. The plot is complex, involving fallout from the canceled northern campaign that figured in the early volumes; Col’s papers and the wolf bones mentioned in Volume 6; and a new element thrown in mid-volume. Following the plot is made more difficult by Hasekura-sensei’s tendency to write scenes where only the characters understand what’s happening and insert a lengthy explanation later.
Fortunately, Hasekura-sensei breaks up the complicated stuff with lighter moments, mostly involving Col. In addition to comic relief, Col serves as a refreshingly innocent counterpoint to our hard-driving merchant and scheming wisewolf. Also, because he’s essentially Lawrence’s informal apprentice, readers get clearer explanations when he’s present. Despite his ignorance of merchant matters, the boy brings his own knowledge to the table, and we finally get the secret behind the copper coin boxes of Volume 6.
As the subtitle “Town of Strife I” indicates, this is the first of a two book story. As Hasekura-sensei states in the Afterword, the story was meant to be a single volume, but it bloated out of his control. Given the complex situation he’s forcing his characters into, he will need those extra pages to come to a final resolution. And although many parts of Volume 8 left me scratching my head, it ends with a very clear and dramatic cliffhanger.
This light novel includes the title page, three two-page spreads, and the table of contents printed in color as well as five black-and-white illustrations.
Hasekura-sensei returns to Holo, Lawrence, and Col as they pursue rumors of ancient wolf bones and re-encounter Eve, the cunning merchant who betrayed Lawrence in Lenos. This arc is less about trade and more about intrigue in a politically and religiously divided town so you won’t come away with an economics lesson. However, you may be entertained by Kerube’s power struggle if you have the patience for Hasekura-sensei’s roundabout storytelling style.
First published at the Fandom Post.