Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #09

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 ninth 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

The capture of a narwhal and the ensuing power struggle between the northern and southern districts of Kerube has Lawrence caught in the middle! Backed into a corner by his own trade guild, can the merchant find a way to extricate himself from this delicate situation? And what of the wolf bone from Holo’s pack? Can the Wisewolf of Yoitsu manage to keep her rage and frustration in check?

The Review

Volume 9 is billed as the second part of a two-part story, but it is actually the culmination of events laid out in Volumes 5, 6, and 8. So if you aren’t familiar with those previous three installments, you’ll get lost in Volume 9 fast. Even if you have read them, the content of this volume is rather daunting. Volume 8 laid the groundwork for a massive conflict over a rare narwhal, and in Volume 9, that battle plays out with schemers wheeling and dealing in the shadows, plotting double-, triple-, and quadruple-crossings.

While the conflict is interesting, it is so complex that it bogs the pace of the story. Hasekura-sensei sets Lawrence up as a small fry trying to maneuver among the sharks of Eve and his guild leader Kieman. The plot requires an understanding of the power struggle over the narwhal, then the backroom deal Eve and Kieman are trying to broker, then the different ways everyone’s trying to swindle one another, and finally, the great ploy that upsets everything. Because the story unfolds through Lawrence’s eyes, the information we get is limited and mixed up with Lawrence’s conjecture and confusion. There were several passages I had to reread to understand what was going on. Hasekura-sensei’s underuse of dialogue tags in group scenes didn’t help. (Interestingly, one of the color illustrations attributes a quote to Col that actually belongs to Lawrence.)

However, if you’re willing to stick through the story’s sometimes tedious twists and turns, you’ll be rewarded by a brilliant and very clearly explained conclusion that also solves the mystery of the coin puzzle introduced in Volume 6. On top of that, poor Lawrence, who’s tossed around like a pawn throughout the majority of this arc, gets his hero moment.

Though Eve, Kieman, and the narwhal dominate in the battle within Kerube, we do get a couple character building moments with Holo and Col. As it turns out, Holo’s not unfamiliar with the narwhal, and her connection to the creature reputed to bring immortality sheds light on how she regards her traveling companions. And a conversation away from Holo shows how a child raised in the pagan mountains views a journey with a wisewolf.

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, a summary of Town of Strife I, and a world map.

In Summary

Hasekura-sensei brings the Kerube’s power struggle to its dramatic conclusion. The search for the ancient wolf bones fades to the background as Lawrence finds himself caught between the schemes of Eve and Kieman. Unfortunately, these masterminds are so crafty that their plans are difficult to follow. Spice and Wolf Volume 9 is a dense read for a light novel, but if you make it to the end, you’ll be gratified by a conclusion that sheds light on the events of three earlier volumes.

First published at the Fandom Post.


3 responses to “Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #09

  1. hi, can u tell me about the coin puzzle at volume 9?

    im not 100% sure about the trick due to the revealing at the end of the chapter…
    lawrence said something about as long as it is round you can stack them into the space…

    i originally thought that it just a matter of shifting the coin position in a different way thus resulting more space…

    or is it because reynolds make a fake coin from metal that was mined and resulting 2 extra box?

    can u shed some light please…

    • oh, if u want to keep it a secret u can contact me via email


    • sure, no prob, although honestly this is the sort of thing that would be easier to explain with a picture than with words (too bad Ayakura’s illustrations don’t show it).

      reynolds didn’t make fake coins, it was all due to packing the boxes 2 different ways and playing with the accounting books to hide the difference.

      if you think of the top of a coin being north, one way of packing the coins would have the stacks of coins touching on their north, south, east and west points. However, you can also pack the coins such that they’re offset and they touch instead at their NE, NW, SE, and SW points. both would result in a snugly packed box (ie, it wouldn’t rattle around if you move it).

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