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 15 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 Myuri mercenary band–a troop named for one of Holo’s old comrades. In order to find them, Lawrence and Holo make for Lesko, a town dominated by the copper-trading Debau Company. Rumors of the Debau Company’s schemes to both open more mines and seize control of the northern lands swirl, along with rumors that they’re concentrating military power in the town in preparation. But when Lawrence and Holo arrive in Lesko, they discover a surprisingly cheerful and peaceful place. What is really happening? Find out as the final act of Holo the Wisewolf and Lawrence the traveling merchant’s long journey draws close to its end!
The Coin of the Sun is the final arc in Lawrence and Holo’s journey, and Hasekura-sensei pulls out all the stops. As wonderful as this series is, some parts have dragged, others have been confusing, and some installments have been weak on the economic front. However, Volume 15, which is the first of two parts, comes up strong all around, from the emotional tension between Holo and Lawrence to the sea change about to hit the Northlands.
Hasekura-sensei has set us up for certain expectations, and he uses those expectations to take his readers by surprise. For instance, over the last few volumes, our travelers have been hearing rumors that paint the Debau Company as the worst of organizations, ready to war and ruin the Northlands. So Holo and Lawrence head to Lesko as if it’s a march into enemy territory. But instead of a military stronghold, they find an unwalled trading center. Then there’s the tantalizing thread of a mercenary company with Holo’s packmate’s name. I’d expected it to lead to one of two scenarios, but Hasekura sensei delivers a third outcome, which has a profound effect on Holo and offers Lawrence the opportunity to be her emotional support.
The blossoming of Lawrence and Holo’s relationship is the best part of this volume for me. Over the journey, Lawrence has matured and his affections for Holo grown. Holo, on the other hand, invariably teases or scolds the poor merchant. In this volume, however, the circumstances in Lesko make her unusually vulnerable, and all the emotional walls come crashing down. Given past Lawrence’s frustrations with his companion (especially the recent slap in Lenos), this new level of intimacy between the two made my heart skip a beat, and Holo/Lawrence fans will be thrilled to see the two dreaming of a future together.
That dream, however, is not mere fantasy but actual stone and timber reality. This is one of the big surprises of this volume. The contrast between the diabolical rumors swirling around the Debau company and the commercial paradise that is Lesko is an engaging mystery, and Hasekura-sensei manages to connect the mining company’s scheme to Lawrence’s personal dream of going into business for himself. So when Lawrence uncovers Debau’s ultimate motive, it’s a doubly sweet moment for the traveling merchant. While the explanation is somewhat lengthy, it’s not difficult to understand, unlike the narwhal episode in Kerube.
This light novel includes the first four pages of illustrations printed in color, world map, and seven black-and-white illustrations. There are, as usual, lines of dialogue where it is unclear who is speaking as well as a number of misspellings and punctuation errors in the text.
With Yoitsu drawing near, Spice and Wolf has a lot of loose ends that need to be addressed, from the Debau Company’s rumored aggression in the north to the mercenary band bearing the name of one of Holo’s comrades. Hasekura-sensei handles it masterfully, captivating our attention with Debau’s outrageous maneuvers and tugging our heartstrings with yet another reminder of Holo’s lost world and the future Lawrence holds out to her. After skillfully wrapping everything up, he concludes with a bomb that leads in to the second part of this arc. This volume of Spice and Wolf is the best I’ve read yet, and I look forward to Part 2 with great anticipation.
First published at the Fandom Post.