Manga Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #10

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 tenth 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.)

Back cover blurb

The struggle for the legendary sea beast is underway, but how will it end? Drawn into the fight over the narwhal in Kerube, Lawrence finds himself in a dangerous position. Despite this, Holo continues to scold him and plead with him–but why?!

The Review

Volume 10 begins by finishing Lawrence’s secret conversation with Eve and follows up with a recap of the North/South Kerube conflict. The arrival of the narwhal has complicated the situation exponentially, especially when the under-the-table deals get added in. The diagrams in Chapter 56 provide a comprehensive picture of the players and stakes, much better than the description in the light novel; even so, I had to read that section a couple times carefully before I finally grasped Lawrence’s position in the negotiations and why his first instinct is to leave town.

In the midst of these developments, Holo and Lawrence let Col in on Holo’s secret. Since they’ve been careful to hide it from him, I expected the moment to be dramatic, but it’s actually rather anti-climatic. At any rate, the revelation brings down the last wall between Col and our lead couple, making him a fully trusted part of their team.

Kieman and the trade guild then start making their move. Lawrence plays along, but despite the enormous stakes and his misgivings, his actual actions in the negotiation amount to little more than glorified messenger boy. Koume-sensei, however, makes up for the lack of grand action with intimate moments with Holo. In one, the wisewolf reminisces on her past; in the other, she expresses uncertainty over the course she’s pushed Lawrence toward. She’s unusually vulnerable in both scenes, but considering how sharp her tongue usually is, having her show a softer side to her traveling merchant isn’t a bad change of pace.

Extras include a character profile, world map, story thus far summary, creators’ closing remarks, and a bonus mini manga that revisits Holo and Lawrence’s first meeting.

In Summary

Unlike other Spice and Wolf arcs, which illustrate different principles of economics, the Kerube conflict is more about pure deception. The situation makes clear that Lawrence is a minuscule fish in a giant pond, but the complicated details take a bit of effort to fully grasp. Fortunately, Koume-sensei intersperses Eve’s and Kieman’s scheming with simpler moments like Col’s delight at seeing Holo’s tail for the first time and rare moments of understanding between Lawrence and Holo.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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