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 tenth 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
After the turmoil in Kerube, Lawrence and his companions make for the Kingdom of Winfiel across the sea. Their destination is the great abbey of Brondel, said to hold the wolf bones they seek. Arriving in the kingdom, they hear tell that the abbey, normally prosperous due to its great wool trade, has fallen into a financial crisis. Worse, the most powerful economic force in the world-the Ruvik Alliance-is entering the kingdom with its eye upon the abbey’s land holdings…
Lawrence and Holo have made some detours on their journey to Yoitsu, but now they head entirely in the opposite direction, leaving the mainland to journey west across the sea to Winfiel. However, they’ve reason enough to go so far out of their way; according to Eve, the wolf bones they’ve heard rumors of are at the island kingdom’s great Abbey of Brondel. They go hoping to forge a way into the abbey using letters from Eve and Kieman. What they find is a stalemate between the local church authorities and the Ruvik Alliance, an economic force so powerful it makes the players in Kerube look like gnats.
Although the Rubik Alliance is larger than anything yet encountered in the series (with the exception of the Church), the source of tension is much easier to understand than the Kerube crisis. The root of the problem is a national trade imbalance. Simply put, the kingdom of Winfiel has been importing more than it is exporting, and Hasekura-sensei injects a bit of the economic bent that has been lacking from the series as of late. But after a brief lesson on the effects of a devalued currency, we launch into the consequences: a religious institution on the brink of financial ruin and a foreign conglomerate itching to gobble up the assets. Unlike the crises in Kerube and Lenos, this is a dilemma that truly has nothing to do with Holo and Lawrence, one they can easily walk away from. The only reason they get involved has nothing to do with money and everything to do with sentiment.
It’s been a while since Lawrence and Holo encountered another creature akin to Holo. What makes the great sheep of Brondel really interesting is that he is senior to Holo. Generally speaking, Holo’s the oldest and wisest person around, thus she always gets the last word. So it’s fun to see someone talking down to her. In addition, he is in a sense a glimpse into Holo’s future. While she is unsure whether her homeland still exists, the sheep lost his home centuries ago to the Moon-Hunting Bear and has had to create a new home and means of survival. It hasn’t been an easy path, and readers will hardly blame Holo for losing control when she learns how the sheep’s altered his diet.
The great sheep also calls out Lawrence and Holo’s relationship for what it is, which is nice because Holo is always so quick to belittle her traveling companion. Lawrence, for his part, is unusually candid about his feelings in this volume. Once it’s because of alcohol, and the second time is because conversing with the much younger Col forces him to be more direct with his speech than he normally is. In any case, these scenes are likely to delight Holo/Lawrence fans.
Sadly, there’s one moment between our odd couple that Hasekura-sensei makes as maddeningly vague as Lawrence’s parting scene with Eve in the previous volume. Perhaps he is leaving those details up to his readers’ imagination, but there are several other scenes, such as Lawrence’s conversation with Piasky, where dialogue tags and descriptions are sorely lacking. It’s unclear whether that failing is inherent in the original text or a translation shortcoming, but I also caught a number of typos including a misspelling of Lag Piasky’s name in an illustration caption.
This light novel includes the title page, three two-page spreads, and the table of contents printed in color as well as eight black-and-white illustrations, and a world map.
The economics aspect has been lacking in this series’ last few volumes, but it returns with our trio’s journey to Winfiel, a kingdom whose trade policies have caused the value of its currency to plummet. Add in a medieval-type conglomerate, a couple of uncharacteristically vulnerable moments on the part of both Holo and Lawrence, and an encounter with a supernatural sheep, and we have a truly engaging installment of Spice and Wolf.
First published at the Fandom Post.