Manga Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #9

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 ninth volume of the Spice and Wolf manga, and you can read on for the review. (For my reviews of previous Spice and Wolf releases, click here.)

The Review

Eve, whom we only caught a glimpse of in Volume 8, gets introduced in earnest in Volume 9, and she is, if nothing else, complicated. While shepherdess Norah and clergywoman Elsa were both interesting in their own right, their respective occupations weren’t too terribly unusual. Eve, however, is a merchant, which is such an anomaly for her gender that she dresses as a man to conduct business. On top of that, she’s former nobility. She’s no shrinking petunia though. She’s bold enough to literally sink a ship for profit and so successful she’s no shortage of people wanting to partner with her.

A complex personality indeed, and thanks to her, Lawrence gets to speak to the Jean Company regarding the strip mining book that could threaten Holo’s homeland. Of course, it’s not charity on Eve’s part. She’s involved in the Kerube dispute, acting as the Northerners’ “mercenary” in negotiations with the Southern moneylenders. While land and massive amounts of money are involved, this Spice and Wolf conflict is less an economics lesson and more a behind the scenes power struggle. Unfortunately, so many nuanced details are involved that the intrigue is difficult to follow, and I still haven’t figured out what Lawrence means when he laments to Holo that Eve is being used as a “scapegoat.”

However, everything changes when a ship just happens to catch a narwhal in the middle of the negotiations. The timing is extremely convenient, but at least it simplifies the town conflict to “the side that gets the narwhal wins.” As a result of this unexpected development, Eve finds herself needing Lawrence’s assistance and dangles the strip mining book as bait. Unfortunately, siding with her would put him at odds with his guild, a position no sane merchant would dare take. All in all, it’s a tricky situation for Kerube and Lawrence.

Fortunately, the waif Col offers some simplicity amid all the machinations and back room talk. He has yet to discover Holo’s wisewolf secret, and dialogues involving him are refreshingly straightforward. We even get the secret behind the copper coin manifests introduced in Volume 8, and Koume-sensei’s illustrations of Col’s explanation are a hundred times clearer than the all-text version in the light novel.

Extras include a world map, story thus far summary, and creators’ closing remarks.

In Summary

The search for the strip mining text embroils Lawrence in a citywide property financing dispute and a vixenish merchant’s scheme. Eve is an intriguing new addition to the cast, but it is difficult to discern the role she is playing in the Kerube marketplace conflict, which is less about economics and more about machinations driven by greed and power. Holo seems to tease Lawrence excessively regarding his interactions with the female merchant, but that aside, it is interesting to watch the maneuvers of a human woman who appears a match for even Holo’s wits.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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