Light Novel Review: Spice and Wolf Vol. #14

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 released Volume 14 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

Thanks to the silversmith Fran, Lawrence now has a map of the North. But Lawrence’s gladness at the thought of finally being able to take Holo back to her home is short-lived, as upon revisiting Lenos he is embroiled in the strife surrounding a forbidden text. It is said that this mysterious book contains details of methods that threaten the land of Yoitsu itself. But in trying to get his hands on the book, Lawrence, who must return to the marketplace, finds himself running out of time to head for Yoitsu with Holo…Pressed into making a decision he may ultimately come to regret, which option will Lawrence choose?

The Review

If you’ve never read any of the books in the series, this would not be the best volume to start with. If you’ve been traveling with Holo and Lawrence for a while, Volume 14 feels like the beginning of the end of their story. There are numerous references to prior adventures, and it has a retrospective air even as journey’s end draws steadily into view. Most Spice and Wolf arcs have Holo and Lawrence going to a new place and meeting new people. Not only does Volume 14 take place in a location they’ve already visited, but we encounter Elsa, the deaconess of Tereo from Volume 4.

Thanks to Fran, Holo and Lawrence are on the verge of discovering the location of Yoitsu. They go to Lenos, the town where Lawrence got ensnared by Eve, to prepare for the final leg into the north, and Lawrence grows increasingly distraught at the prospect of separating from Holo. With as many twists and turns as they’ve taken, their travels have had the tone of an endless journey, and it seemed that they could stretch out their search for Yoitsu indefinitely. However, that’s not the case, and Lawrence finds himself torn by his responsibility to return to the southern villages by spring and his desire to remain with Holo.

That equation gets more complicated when Elsa’s travel companion, an avaricious bookseller named Le Roi, reveals the existence of a forbidden book of mining techniques, which, if it falls into the wrong hands, could mean the ruin of Holo’s homeland. When he discovers Lawrence has a stake in protecting the north lands, he offers a proposal that would both profit Lawrence and remove the threat to Yoitsu. The catch is that he must cut short his journey with Holo.

The story has constant business elements running throughout, from Lenos’ cash-strapped economy to money orders, but the most compelling aspect of Volume 14 is not the underhanded method Lawrence devises to attain the book but the impetus behind it. Lawrence’s feelings for Holo have been building throughout the series, and his agony over their impending separation is delicious. It gets even better when he discovers a member of Holo’s old pack is probably still alive. Much of Spice and Wolf has been Holo helping Lawrence get out of various scrapes so to see him take the initiative for her sake and succeed in a way that exceeds even her expectations is a delight.

Lawrence doesn’t just take the initiative in the business department. Between Holo’s teasing and her true wolf identity, he’s maintained a respectful distance from her. However, as he’s gotten better at understanding her and her cutting remarks, that distance has been closing, and Holo/Lawrence fans will be gratified with a couple of super warm and fuzzy moments.

This light novel includes the first four pages printed in color, world map, and seven black-and-white illustrations. I should also mention that while the text read more smoothly than other volumes, there are, as usual, lines of dialogue that seem muddled and other places where it is unclear who is speaking.

In Summary

Our travelers are drawing close to Yoitsu, but Lawrence isn’t ready to part from Holo. This arc contains a strong economics aspect with Lenos’ currency crisis and Le Roi’s book plot, but Lawrence’s suppressed desires are what make it really compelling. He may have been a mere traveling merchant before, but his time with Holo has affected him profoundly, in heart and mind, and this volume brilliantly demonstrates how much he’s changed.

First published at the Fandom Post.

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