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 eleventh 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
As with the first Side Colors volume, Side Colors II departs once more from Lawrence and Holo’s travels north, taking the reader off the beaten path to explore three exquisite side stories. Remember, it’s not so much about the destination, as it is the journey…
Like the first Side Colors volume, Spice and Wolf Volume 11: Side Colors II is a collection of short stories set in the Spice and Wolf world: The Wolf and the Golden Promise, The Wolf and the Verdant Detour, and The Black Wolf’s Cradle.
Those who prefer Holo and Lawrence’s interactions without to the presence of the youngster Col will likely enjoy the first two stories. Hasekura-sensei doesn’t specify when The Wolf and the Golden Promise takes place, but it is during the period when they are still using Lawrence’s horse and cart. While traveling through a remote area, Lawrence and Holo stumble upon Jisahz, a colony village with fat chickens, tasty ale, and no means of getting their goods to market. It’s a golden opportunity for a traveling merchant, thus the business bent in this story is Lawrence’s efforts to establish a new trade relationship. At first, he manages handily on his own, quickly gaining respect by settling a long-time dispute between two colonists. This rather irritates Holo, but I was glad to see it. Holo so often goes on and on about Lawrence’s inexperience and foolishness it’s nice to see him do well on his own once in a while. However, being a Spice and Wolf story, another problem arises, which only Holo’s wisdom can resolve. While I can’t say Holo’s solution made much sense to me, it works for the village settlers, turning this into yet another instance where Lawrence’s and Holo’s combined efforts result in profit.
The Wolf and the Verdant Detour is a much shorter work. The 17-page story is little more than banter between Lawrence and Holo as Lawrence takes a detour that makes him look like the stereotypical lost male who refuses to ask for directions. To me, it feels more like a fanfiction than a full-fledged story.
The third, longest, and most interesting story, The Black Wolf’s Cradle, doesn’t feature Holo at all. Instead, it tells of Eve’s initiation into trade. Eve, whom I consider more of a fox than a black wolf, isn’t a character I’m fond of, but the story does offer insight into how a sentimental girl of noble birth turns into a woman bold enough to sink a ship to frustrate her competition. The text does drag in places where it emphasizes Eve’s ignorance a bit overmuch, and when she signs her first contract, a seemingly no-risk deal with a perfect gentleman, you know it’s too good to be true. However, the story’s final conclusion was a complete surprise. I still don’t like Eve much, but I understand her more now.
This light novel includes the title page, four illustrations, and the table of contents printed in color as well as eight black-and-white illustrations. I should note that two of the black-and-white illustrations are placed within the wrong stories.
Hasekura-sensei presents an interesting variety in Side Stories II. The Wolf and the Golden Promise offers a compressed version of Holo and Lawrence’s usual business ventures. The Wolf and the Verdant Detour lacks an economics bent and seems aimed towards those who enjoy Holo and Lawrence’s travel banter. As for The Black Wolf’s Cradle, that story delves into the ill-fated deal that turns Fleur Bolan into the resolute and ruthless Eve. In his closing notes, Hasekura-sensei mentions writing a side story on Norah, and considering how well he executed Eve’s story, I look forward to what he does with the shy shepherdess.
First published at the Fandom Post.